Tornadoes, floods, and fires assault the nation

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:43 PM GMT on April 26, 2011

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A 1/2 mile-wide tornado smashed through Vilonia, Arkansas last night, killing four and destroying 50 - 80 houses. Vilonia is a small town of 3,800 north of Little Rock. The storm system responsible produced 38 suspected tornadoes yesterday, and also dumped 10 - 15 inches of rain over portions of Arkansas and southern Missouri. Flash flooding from the heavy rains killed four people in Arkansas last night. The heavy rains have also resulted in overtopping of the Black River levee near Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and over 500 homes have been evacuated in the town due to fears that the levee might fail. Poplar Bluff has received 12.86" of rain over the past three days, as of 11am EDT this morning. The greatest rain gauge-measured precipitation from the storm occurred in Springdale, Arkansas, where 17.09" inches has fallen.


Figure 1. Animation of a supercell thunderstorm 45 minutes after it produced the Viloni, Arkansas tornado at 7:25 pm CDT.


Figure 2. Radar-estimated precipitation from last night's storms.

Dangerous tornado outbreak expected today
Yesterday's tornado outbreak was merely a warm-up for today's onslaught, as NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has issued their highest level of severe weather potential, a "High Risk" forecast, for Northeast Texas and Southern Arkansas. This is just the second time this year that SPC has issued a "High Risk" forecast--the other was for the devastating North Carolina tornado outbreak of April 16, which generated 52 tornadoes that killed 26 people. Severe thunderstorms have already rumbled across Louisiana and Mississippi this morning, but today's main action is expected to erupt late this afternoon and early this evening in the "high risk" area. The tornado and severe weather outbreak will continue on Wednesday, when severe weather is expected to be concentrated in Tennessee and Kentucky, with a "moderate risk" of tornadoes. Preliminary tornado reports for the year 2011 show that this year is probably the busiest tornado season on record for this point in the season.


Figure 3. Severe weather threat for Tuesday, April 26, 2011.


Figure 4.
Chaser video of the Viloni, Arkansas tornado of April 25, 2011.

Extremely critical fire danger in Texas and New Mexico today
Spring storms commonly bring high winds to the Midwest this time of year, but today's storm will bring exceptionally high winds--and no precipitation--to the drought-stricken regions of West Texas and eastern New Mexico. As a result, an "extremely critical" fire weather day has been declared by the National Weather Service for the region, where high temperatures, low humidities, and powerful winds gusting to 60 mph will occur. The 24,000 acre Last Chance fire burning 33 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico near the Texas border is a particular concern, since it is currently 0% contained and is threatening many structures. This fire is expected to rage out of control today, thanks to humidities near 5%, temperatures in the low 90s, sustained winds near 40 mph, and gusts to 60 mph.


Figure 5. Fire weather forecast for today from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

2011 sets record for most acreage burned for April
According to the Interagency Fire Center, wildfires in 2011 have already burned nearly 2.3 million acres in the U.S. This is the greatest acreage on record so early in the year, and is more area than burned all of last year. The largest U.S. acreage to burn since 1960 was the 9.9 million acres that burned in 2007, so we area already 25% of the way to the all-time record fire year--with summer still more than a month away. Last night, a line of thunderstorms brought heavy rains of 2 - 3 inches from Dallas southeastwards through Louisiana, providing precious rains to a portion of Texas that was under their worst drought since 1925. However, the portion of Texas that has seen the worst wildfires (the black spots in the image below), received no rain.


Figure 6. Perimeters of the major wildfires in Texas during 2011 as of April 25. Image credit: GEOMAC Wildland Fire Support.

For those who want to lend a helping hand to those impacted by the widespread destruction this month's severe weather has brought, stop by the portlight.org blog.

Jeff Masters

Lambert St. Louis Tornado Damage (WindyCityBob)
Taken after the good friday tornado at Lambert Field St.Louis, MO
Lambert St. Louis Tornado Damage
Super fat rainbow! (murphymom)
I watched as an anvil formed and as it apprached my house, it rained a bit and passed over, I thought to myself, that looks like there will be a rainbow with it, and voila!
Super fat rainbow!

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New PDS Watch:



WWUS40 KWNS 262004
WWP7

TORNADO WATCH PROBABILITIES FOR WT 0217
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0304 PM CDT TUE APR 26 2011

WT 0217 PDS
PROBABILITY TABLE:
PROB OF 2 OR MORE TORNADOES : 80%
PROB OF 1 OR MORE STRONG /F2-F5/ TORNADOES : 60%
PROB OF 10 OR MORE SEVERE WIND EVENTS : 90%
PROB OF 1 OR MORE WIND EVENTS >= 65 KNOTS : 80%
PROB OF 10 OR MORE SEVERE HAIL EVENTS : 90%
PROB OF 1 OR MORE HAIL EVENTS >= 2 INCHES : 60%
PROB OF 6 OR MORE COMBINED SEVERE HAIL/WIND EVENTS : >95%

&&
ATTRIBUTE TABLE:
MAX HAIL /INCHES/ : 2.5
MAX WIND GUSTS SURFACE /KNOTS/ : 60
MAX TOPS /X 100 FEET/ : 500
MEAN STORM MOTION VECTOR /DEGREES AND KNOTS/ : 24035
PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION : YES

&&
FOR A COMPLETE GEOGRAPHICAL DEPICTION OF THE WATCH AND
WATCH EXPIRATION INFORMATION SEE WOUS64 FOR WOU7.

$$
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Quoting Ameister12:

I'll defiantly keep an eye on the weather. You really should too. Greg Forbes has the highest chance of severe storms for central Tennessee.
For tomorrow already.?..Link?
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HRRR is quite aggressive with storm development my way!



Looks exactly like what the SPC was mentioning in their latest MD.
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Quoting hydrus:
You guys definitely have to watch out..I hope for the best, and prepare for the worst..A practice I acquired from living in Fl for decades.

I'll defiantly keep an eye on the weather. You really should too. Greg Forbes has the highest chance of severe storms for central Tennessee.
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MESOSCALE DISCUSSION 0592
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0301 PM CDT TUE APR 26 2011

AREAS AFFECTED...EAST-CENTRAL/SOUTH-CENTRAL TX AND TX HILL COUNTRY

CONCERNING...SEVERE POTENTIAL...WATCH POSSIBLE

VALID 262001Z - 262130Z

MONITORING DEVELOPMENTAL TRENDS FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF A TORNADO
WATCH ACROSS PORTIONS OF SOUTH-CENTRAL/EAST-CENTRAL TX AND THE TX
HILL COUNTRY.

VISIBLE SATELLITE IMAGERY REFLECTS AN INCREASING/DEEPENING CU FIELD
IN VICINITY OF A SOUTH-CENTRAL TX/HILL COUNTRY DRYLINE. THE EXACT
COVERAGE OF EVENTUAL DEEP CONVECTION IS A BIT UNCERTAIN WITH
SOUTHWARD EXTENT GIVEN THE PRESENCE OF A STRONG EML...BUT AT LEAST
MODEST HEIGHT FALLS/UPPER FORCING IS EXPECTED TO GRAZE THE REGION.
ALONG THESE LINES...AN ASSORTMENT OF NUMERICAL GUIDANCE...SUCH AS
THE 12Z ECMWF AND VARIOUS 15Z SREF MEMBERSHIP...IMPLY THE
POSSIBILITY OF AT LEAST ISOLATED DEEP CONVECTIVE DEVELOPMENT AS FAR
SOUTH AS THE AUSTIN-SAN ANTONIO AREAS AND ADJACENT HILL COUNTRY.
WHERE SURFACE BASED DEVELOPMENT DOES OCCUR...VERY STEEP LAPSE RATES
AND STRONG INSTABILITY /3000-4000 J PER KG MLCAPE/ COUPLED WITH
STRONG/VEERING WIND PROFILES WILL BE MORE THAN ADEQUATE FOR
SUPERCELLS CAPABLE OF LARGE HAIL AND SOME TORNADOES.

..GUYER.. 04/26/2011


ATTN...WFO...HGX...FWD...CRP...EWX...

LAT...LON 30809503 28359780 29039910 29889884 30529815 30599688
31399533 30809503
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Looking at the Dallas radar, is it a sign of storm rotation when the radar is confused about the direction of a storm?

For example, the storm is clearly moving NorthEast, but the Storm Track shows storm C0 going very rapidly NorthWest.
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Quoting ILwthrfan:
Wow! Anyone have a bad feeling about SE Dallas?






I hope not...relatives in Garland...DOH!
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People in and around Dallas need to start preparing immediately for this one!



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Quoting 1900hurricane:
The Texas A&M Chase Team is is on their way north to catch the storm development. Sadly I cannot be with them because of an exam this evening.
I hope they stay safe. It does look bad.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53548
Quoting Neapolitan:

I think the gentleman from the Red Cross is saying that they've received a year's worth of rain in just the past week or so...


I figured it was something like that. Taking the quote as written suggested a super-biblical weather pattern for Columbia...
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The Texas A&M Chase Team is is on their way north to catch the storm development. Sadly I cannot be with them because of an exam this evening.
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Quoting Ameister12:

SW Ohio.
You guys definitely have to watch out..I hope for the best, and prepare for the worst..A practice I acquired from living in Fl for decades.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Back online... lucky me, light traffic today due to most schools being closed... lol

@ SFL residents... what do u think our chances are of getting an early start to rainy season?

I'm thinking like 1st week in May as opposed to last week in May...


Rainy season or not, I sure wish during the crazy downpours in FL people would quit turning on their hazard flashers...ARG!
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Quoting ILwthrfan:
Wow! Anyone have a bad feeling about SE Dallas?






I just told my brother who works in that general vicinity to turn on his weather radio and be ready.
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Quoting Ameister12:

Is it tornado warned?


No Tornado warning yet, but its only a matter of time. This storm is organizing VERY quickly.

There is a severe thunderstorm warning. I'd say LARGE hail is good bet to start off with this and it will only get worse as it evolves.
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Quoting Jedkins01:


I'm not trying to be negative and forecasting doom, but I suspect the SPC will upgrade your area to a high risk tomorrow. It don't look good...
I am worried..We have been getting nailed with severe weather here regularly. We have been in the moderate risk area three times since January 1. This will be the second or third high risk I have seen here..I am losing track now. I hope it stays at moderate.
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WOW, EHI 12 plus in 3 hr forecast. Scary
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
Quoting ILwthrfan:
Wow! Anyone have a bad feeling about SE Dallas?





Is it tornado warned?
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Quoting ILwthrfan:
Wow! Anyone have a bad feeling about Dallas?


img style="max-width: 501px; width:
That supercell looks like it went through Waxahachie, TX
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Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
Wow! Anyone have a bad feeling about SE Dallas?




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Quoting hydrus:
Where are you located?...I am in middle TN.

SW Ohio.
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Quoting VAstorms:


Here in Santa Fe, we have had 1.1 inches of moisture since the year began. We have had off and on snow and rain for the last 3 days but didn't amount to more than .1 inch. The mountain above us got 14 inches of snow though so that may help long-term drought conditions here. Damn La Niña.


Hoping it gets better for ya!
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Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
Quoting sammywammybamy:
Grothar.... I got your Back.
Sammy, did u see my post?

It's overcast here now, but we got no more rain :(
Our forecast is still saying 70%, but I'm gonna believe it when I see it now...
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Quoting emcf30:

Thats the key to the set up


Pretty much everything it ripe for a brutal tornado outbreak. Its almost something you would expect to see in fiction...
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Reed Timmer: Meteorologist and Extreme Storm Chaser
Targeting new storm developing in Van Zandt Co., TX. Looks like this sup will track toward Texarkana right long the warm front. 0-1 km EHIs 7+ in this corridor. Strong tornadoes likely.

This my be the pre-cursor

Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:





Praying for some real precip!


Here in Santa Fe, we have had 1.1 inches of moisture since the year began. We have had off and on snow and rain for the last 3 days but didn't amount to more than .1 inch. The mountain above us got 14 inches of snow though so that may help long-term drought conditions here. Damn La Niña.
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Quoting hydrus:
These people have been absolutely pounded with severe weather. They cannot get a break..Tomorrow,s outlook will bring some relief to the hardest hit areas, but it looks like a huge mess for others that are trying to clean up from past severe weather systems. The outlook for Wednesday Link covers a very large region of the U.S., and will likely be upgraded from moderate to high risk. Especially if cloud cover and cold air from today,s outbreak clears the out in quick fashion...


I'm not trying to be negative and forecasting doom, but I suspect the SPC will upgrade your area to a high risk tomorrow. It don't look good...
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I would like to say to all bloggers out there, re: idle banter comments esp. made to GROTHAR....

PLease STop! There is a time for everything, and since we are definitely not into the season yet, I for one can see a genuine place for the occasional idle banter... doesn't hurt anyone, and, in the case of a week like this on the plains, may actually save someone's sanity.

Also those afraid of non-English comments, don't forget that wunderground is an INTERNATIONAL community, especially during the highest parts of the TC season... [I mean both hemispheres here] and a certain respect should be given to the fact that not all persons being impacted by a TC speak English. There is such a simple tool as google translator now which can help with getting info, imperfect though it is.

Let's be a bit more tolerant in the harder times when wx is genuinely threatening, but also when things are a bit lighter and blog traffic is slow / low....

Edit: Hmmm.... maybe that traffic made me grouchier than I thought I was.....
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Quoting Ameister12:
*Gulp* I'm next.
Where are you located?...I am in middle TN.
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Quoting Jedkins01:
Threat of powerful tornadoes tonight into tomorrow is absolutely staggering. Just wait till the disturbance in north Texas drops into east Texas and Arkansas, when it hits that moisture it will be like throwing a match into a swimming pool full of jet fuel.

Thats the key to the set up
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
Quoting MississippiWx:


It's almost the rainy season for Florida. You will more than make up for lost rain...



Sadly, that hasn't been the case for the last several years.

Used to be, we could count on it. No longer....
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Threat of powerful tornadoes tonight into tomorrow is absolutely staggering. Just wait till the disturbance in north Texas drops into east Texas and Arkansas, when it hits that moisture it will be like throwing a match into a swimming pool full of jet fuel.
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*Gulp* I'm next.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53548
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
well if tornado season got ya bummed out wait till ya see what the hurricane season has in store

Yeah. I can't wait... *Insert sarcasm*

Mother Nature has been really grumpy this year.
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As the jet streak dives into the base of the trough, it will lead to very strong divergence over Arkansas. This will help provide sufficient lift for the development of severe thunderstorms by the late afternoon and early evening.

The initial wave that affected the region Monday evening should be well out of the area by Tuesday morning. This will help the airmass to quickly recover and become primed once again for severe thunderstorms including strong tornadoes, large hail, and damaging winds.

Shear looks very supportive for the development of supercells, initially. Bulk shears are expected around 50-60 knots (threshold for supercells is >40 knots). Furthermore, shear vectors will be nearly perpendicular to the frontal boundary. This allows storms to be more discrete because the downdrafts and updrafts are better separated from other storms. In addition, low-level shear will rapidly ramp up during the evening hours (similar to Monday evening). 0-1km helicites will quickly become >200m2/s2 in response to a strengthening low-level jet. Also, surface winds will begin to back out of the Southeast in response to the developing surface low. Hodographs are showing a very pronounced looping pattern, which signifies strong directional shear. Furthermore, these ingredients for shear are all conducive for significant tornadoes.

Instability and moisture will also be very sufficient for severe thunderstorms, aided by a strengthening low-level jet during the evening hours. As stronger forcing over spreads the area during the overnight hours, the storms will congeal into a squall line with the threat for embedded tornadoes, damaging straight line winds, and large hail.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
well if tornado season got ya bummed out wait till ya see what the hurricane season has in store
These people have been absolutely pounded with severe weather. They cannot get a break..Tomorrow,s outlook will bring some relief to the hardest hit areas, but it looks like a huge mess for others that are trying to clean up from past severe weather systems. The outlook for Wednesday Link covers a very large region of the U.S., and will likely be upgraded from moderate to high risk. Especially if cloud cover and cold air from today,s outbreak clears the out in quick fashion...
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Back online... lucky me, light traffic today due to most schools being closed... lol

@ SFL residents... what do u think our chances are of getting an early start to rainy season?

I'm thinking like 1st week in May as opposed to last week in May...
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Quoting emcf30:
AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION...UPDATED FOR AVIATION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PEACHTREE CITY GA
138 PM EDT TUE APR 26 2011

.UPDATE...
/ISSUED AT 1242 PM EDT TUE APR 26 2011/
QUICK UPDATE TO TWEAK CURRENT TRENDS AND UPDATE FCST TIMING FOR
TONIGHT THRU THURSDAY. 12Z MODEL RUNS STILL INDICATE SIGNIFICANT
SEVERE WEATHER MOSTLY FOR WED NIGHT. SIG TOR PARAMETER /STP/
VALUES ARE THE HIGHEST I PERSONALLY HAVE EVER SEEN FROM THE GFS OR
NAM WITH VALUES OF 15 TO 20 PROGGED FOR ERN MS/NRN AL/CENTRAL TN 18

TO 21Z WED. RECALL THAT STP COMBINES MLCAPE..0 TO 1 KM SHEAR AND
LCL. VALUES GREATER THAN 1.0 INDICATE TORNADOES ARE POSSIBLE AND
VALUES GREATER THAN 3.0 INDICATE TORNADOES LIKELY. THESE ARE OFF
THE CHART GUYS. THE HIGHEST OBSERVED VALUES OF STP I HAVE SEEN ARE
14 FOR THE APR 2010 YAZOO CITY OUTBREAK AND 16 FOR THE MAY 10 2010
CENTRAL OK OUTBREAK. WE CAN TAKE SOME COMFORT FOR GA THAT STP IS
PROGGED TO DROP SOME BY THE TIME THE STORMS GET TO NW GA AROUND
00Z BUT...UNFORTUNATELY... WERE STILL TALKING ABOUT VALUES OF 8 TO
11 IN NORTH GA AND EVEN 6 TO 10 IN MIDDLE GEORGIA AFTER MIDNIGHT.
WE REALLY NEED TO BE PREPARED FOR THIS. MORE ON THE REST OF THE
FCST AROUND 4PM.

SNELSON

This is another alarming discussion for tomorrow.


Well that's not what I wanted to read.
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Quoting caneswatch:


Agreed.

There's a cluster of clouds to the NNW.


Quoting Grothar:


Hey, PSL. I saw a cloud the other day in Ft. Lauderdale. We are now at an 8" rain deficit.

Broward is now the driest county in Florida.




Praying for some real precip!
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
Storms look like they may want to be getting started along the Balconies Escarpment.



Looks like the beginnings of a supercell. If it moves north fast enough to interact with the warm front, that could add extra rotation to the storm.
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Quoting Grothar:


A blogger sent me a very demeaning WU mail telling me I should not engage in idle banter on the blog. Just because I answered what state I lived in. I have been so embarrassed, I haven't been on since. Old people get their feelings hurt very easily.
So what was the answer? Vegetative? Or plain-old state of antiquity?

I'm sure someone out there could have a problem with each and every comment. So what? Going away and not coming back due to that WUmail is like a cop never pulling anyone over so as to avoid accusations of profiling based on age, race, color, creed, religion, disability, gender, ethnic or national origin, etc. Not a reasonable solution.

edit: oh, and I'll gladly take a WUmail from the comment-cop. Please?
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AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION...UPDATED FOR AVIATION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PEACHTREE CITY GA
138 PM EDT TUE APR 26 2011

.UPDATE...
/ISSUED AT 1242 PM EDT TUE APR 26 2011/
QUICK UPDATE TO TWEAK CURRENT TRENDS AND UPDATE FCST TIMING FOR
TONIGHT THRU THURSDAY. 12Z MODEL RUNS STILL INDICATE SIGNIFICANT
SEVERE WEATHER MOSTLY FOR WED NIGHT. SIG TOR PARAMETER /STP/
VALUES ARE THE HIGHEST I PERSONALLY HAVE EVER SEEN FROM THE GFS OR
NAM WITH VALUES OF 15 TO 20 PROGGED FOR ERN MS/NRN AL/CENTRAL TN 18

TO 21Z WED. RECALL THAT STP COMBINES MLCAPE..0 TO 1 KM SHEAR AND
LCL. VALUES GREATER THAN 1.0 INDICATE TORNADOES ARE POSSIBLE AND
VALUES GREATER THAN 3.0 INDICATE TORNADOES LIKELY. THESE ARE OFF
THE CHART GUYS. THE HIGHEST OBSERVED VALUES OF STP I HAVE SEEN ARE
14 FOR THE APR 2010 YAZOO CITY OUTBREAK AND 16 FOR THE MAY 10 2010
CENTRAL OK OUTBREAK. WE CAN TAKE SOME COMFORT FOR GA THAT STP IS
PROGGED TO DROP SOME BY THE TIME THE STORMS GET TO NW GA AROUND
00Z BUT...UNFORTUNATELY... WERE STILL TALKING ABOUT VALUES OF 8 TO
11 IN NORTH GA AND EVEN 6 TO 10 IN MIDDLE GEORGIA AFTER MIDNIGHT.
WE REALLY NEED TO BE PREPARED FOR THIS. MORE ON THE REST OF THE
FCST AROUND 4PM.

SNELSON

This is another alarming discussion for tomorrow.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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