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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wait nope they fizzled :/
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#95
What a difference in SST's
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Here's a nice multi-output quartet of last night's big one:

Click for larger image:

Appropriate tropical weather-related image.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13805
97. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Minnemike:
has anyone on here been using the 'interactive tornado map' feature when viewing in classic WU? none of the storms listed have the info or radar loops available... has it been this way for a while or just glitchy today? i haven't tried using the feature since new WU rolled out, which i also do not use..


Since New WU rolled out the whole tornado page has been reworked. Each tornado has reports, pictures, radar & links to youtube videos of it. Pretty awesome. Old WU like all the other many past versions of WU is no longer being updated with really cool new weather tools.

The hurricane history pages has all sorts of links to footage, radar, sat passes & stuff too.

Looks like there were 2 tornadoes pretty near each other. Perhaps that's the root of the radar dispute..
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First severe storm warning is in PA give a round of applause people.
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SST's April 25th, 2011.


SST's April 25th, 2010.
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DOOMCON Status: Green.
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Quoting KeysieLife:


Speaking of Reed...Where's REEDZONE, we need a REAL map in here!



Still under evaluation. It will probably same general area as yesterday. He caught some good storms near Jacksonville Ar. Had to drop the Dominator once as tornado went over him.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957
Quoting FLdewey:
All I know is "debris ball" is an early front runner for most overused weather term for 2011. Cantore broke his previous record last night... tonight looks no better.


I believe Cantore is referring to the term backwards...sudden updrafts and such.
Member Since: September 10, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 409
Everything is about to blow up showers starting to pop up in Louisiana. Bad days ahead sheesh.
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If it's the usual blob of 850mb vorticity, it's not that likely to drift north at this time of year, but rather west.

Rasta, if u want to get the doc's attention with something like that - i.e. a change to blog info. - you might do better to wundermail it to him. Especially when the blog lights up after about May 15, ur posts would just get lost in the shuffle.

What I remember from last night was 2-3 different pple calling that tornado before it hit Vilonia, with graphics and all. Should be relatively easy to differentiate...

EDIT: I see somebody did pull some graphics....
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22736
Quoting FLdewey:
DOOMCON? Interesting term.


Does us no good without the "chart" and a Reedzone map!
Member Since: September 10, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 409
Quoting KeysieLife:


DJ! Is there a preliminary DOOMCON forecast for the upcoming season?

400000.

That is how many posts predicting DOOM there will be between now and the end of the season.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Looks like that boundary in Central Arkansas is moving North!



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Quoting DestinJeff:


If Forbes gets to keep TOR:CON, then I see no reason the blog can't still have DOOMCON.


DJ! Is there a preliminary DOOMCON forecast for the upcoming season?
Member Since: September 10, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 409
Quoting alfabob:


Yea I noticed some low level winds aiding in development from that yesterday, didn't realize it was attributed to la nina though.


Yes, the ridge definitely helps to pump in that rich gulf moisture. The ridge also is guilty of causing the major flooding in the center part of the country. Storm systems have to go over the same area repeatedly since it is difficult to make the ridge move. The storm systems also have to slow down. Some of them are strong enough to break down the ridge (like today's system will eventually be), but the ridge comes right back after the storm moves out into the Atlantic.
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But, I can see how Steve would be correct after the information you posted, beell.
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Day getting off to a quick start.



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Quoting emcf30:


Reed Timmer: Meteorologist and Extreme Storm Chaser
My idol Jim Leonard in Little Rock.

Thats not good having those two together in the same city


Speaking of Reed...Where's REEDZONE, we need a REAL map in here!
Member Since: September 10, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 409
Quoting beell:


I would have to agree with RastaSteve:

I believe this is the warning for the Vilonia storm @ 7:41 PM posted by MichaelSTL on my blog last night.

117. MichaelSTL 12:43 AM GMT on April 26, 2011
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE LITTLE ROCK AR
741 PM CDT MON APR 25 2011

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR SOUTH CENTRAL CLEBURNE...
SOUTHWESTERN WHITE...EAST CENTRAL FAULKNER AND EXTREME NORTHWESTERN
LONOKE COUNTIES UNTIL 800 PM CDT...

..TORNADO EMERGENCY FOR ROMANCE

AT 738 PM CDT...STORM SPOTTERS AND NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
METEOROLOGISTS WERE TRACKING A CONFIRMED TORNADO WITH REPORTS OF
DAMAGE. THIS POTENTIALLY DEADLY TORNADO WAS LOCATED 3 MILES
SOUTHEAST OF MT VERNON...OR 16 MILES NORTH OF CABOT...MOVING
NORTHEAST AT 50 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IN OR NEAR THE PATH OF THIS TORNADO INCLUDE...
SEARCY... VILONIA... ROSE BUD...
MT VERNON... HIGGINSON... GRAVEL HILL...
ENOLA... CROSBY... SIDON...
ROMANCE... OTTO... LETONA...
JOY... FLOYD... EL PASO...
CENTER HILL... ARMSTRONG SPRINGS... ALBION...

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TO REPEAT...A VIOLENT...WEDGE TORNADO IS ON THE GROUND. THIS IS AN
EXCEPTIONALLY DANGEROUS SITUATION. THIS STORM IS PRODUCING A LIFE
THREATENING...CONFIRMED TORNADO CAPABLE OF SIGNIFICANT DESTRUCTION!
TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY!

Here is a velocity screen grab of the Vilonia Tornado also posted by MichaelSTL yesterday evening @ 7:35PM. Unsure of the exact time of the capture but it's obvious it was before that time. Vilonia is just to the NE of the strong couplet signature and probably only minutes away from rolling into town.



Here is a reflectivity capture of a hook echo associated with the comma head of an intense bow echo. This is the same as the one Doc M posted. Time is 8:38CDT. Location is well south of Vilonia.

Photobucket


It's just hard to tell. I went back and reviewed the radar archive and I could see a supercell that moved through Vilonia (the one Steve is referring to) and then it merged with the squall line after it went through Vilonia.
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Quoting MrMixon:


Just tested it - it's working for me. I believe they just revamped the wundermap late last week (a separate roll-out from the site-wide upgrade). What browser are you using?

EDIT: Ack, wasn't reading your post carefully. I'm using the www.* version rather than the classic.* version of the site, so maybe that's the difference?
just tested in new WU version, and all works well... so it must be buggy for the classic users :(
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Quoting PcolaDan:


So does this constitute a double negative? ;)


Indeed!
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Reed Timmer: Meteorologist and Extreme Storm Chaser
My idol Jim Leonard in Little Rock.

Thats not good having those two together in the same city
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957
Quoting alfabob:
Recent tornado outbreaks are most likely due to the combination of the remaining arctic air-mass pressing down over CONUS and large amounts of tropical moisture coming in from the gulf and pacific. These two are the ingredients to severe weather; and as you can see one of them is quickly running out. Only way this could relate to the upcoming hurricane season is moisture amounts and temperatures.



Also, in La Nina years, you typically have a stubborn subtropical high that sits off the SE Coastline. We certainly have that this year. Last year, we crashed into a La Nina so fast that the atmosphere did not have time to respond in typical La Nina fashion. Considering we are in our second season of La Nina, it has had time to get itself "right" in the atmosphere and we thus have a persistent SW Atlantic ridge and major tornado outbreaks.
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Quoting Minnemike:
has anyone on here been using the 'interactive tornado map' feature when viewing in classic WU? none of the storms listed have the info or radar loops available... has it been this way for a while or just glitchy today? i haven't tried using the feature since new WU rolled out, which i also do not use..


Just tested it - it's working for me. I believe they just revamped the wundermap late last week (a separate roll-out from the site-wide upgrade). What browser are you using?

EDIT: Ack, wasn't reading your post carefully. I'm using the www.* version rather than the classic.* version of the site, so maybe that's the difference?
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Quoting RastaSteve:


No it's not that squall line was behind the supercell. That supercell was by itself (individual storm) that caused the tornado. Look at weather.com as they actually have more reliable information than here right now. No offense but Doc just threw this post together without getting the correct information. That storm hit about 30 minutes after the tornado hit people.


I would have to agree with RastaSteve:

I believe this is the warning for the Vilonia storm @ 7:41 PM posted by MichaelSTL on my blog last night.

117. MichaelSTL 12:43 AM GMT on April 26, 2011
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE LITTLE ROCK AR
741 PM CDT MON APR 25 2011

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR SOUTH CENTRAL CLEBURNE...
SOUTHWESTERN WHITE...EAST CENTRAL FAULKNER AND EXTREME NORTHWESTERN
LONOKE COUNTIES UNTIL 800 PM CDT...

..TORNADO EMERGENCY FOR ROMANCE

AT 738 PM CDT...STORM SPOTTERS AND NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
METEOROLOGISTS WERE TRACKING A CONFIRMED TORNADO WITH REPORTS OF
DAMAGE. THIS POTENTIALLY DEADLY TORNADO WAS LOCATED 3 MILES
SOUTHEAST OF MT VERNON...OR 16 MILES NORTH OF CABOT...MOVING
NORTHEAST AT 50 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IN OR NEAR THE PATH OF THIS TORNADO INCLUDE...
SEARCY... VILONIA... ROSE BUD...
MT VERNON... HIGGINSON... GRAVEL HILL...
ENOLA... CROSBY... SIDON...
ROMANCE... OTTO... LETONA...
JOY... FLOYD... EL PASO...
CENTER HILL... ARMSTRONG SPRINGS... ALBION...

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TO REPEAT...A VIOLENT...WEDGE TORNADO IS ON THE GROUND. THIS IS AN
EXCEPTIONALLY DANGEROUS SITUATION. THIS STORM IS PRODUCING A LIFE
THREATENING...CONFIRMED TORNADO CAPABLE OF SIGNIFICANT DESTRUCTION!
TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY!

Here is a velocity screen grab of the Vilonia Tornado also posted by MichaelSTL yesterday evening @ 7:35PM. Unsure of the exact time of the capture but it's obvious it was before that time. Vilonia is just to the NE of the strong couplet signature and probably only minutes away from rolling into town.



Here is a reflectivity capture I grabbed of a hook echo associated with the comma head of an intense bow echo. This is the same as the one Doc M posted. Time is 8:38CDT. Location is well edit-changed south to east of Vilonia and at least an hour later.

Photobucket
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Lol...once again, the loop Doc showed is after the tornado went through. The supercell that caused the tornado most likely joined the line as they got close. Happens all the time. Saying that Dr. Masters posted inaccurate information is inaccurate.


So does this constitute a double negative? ;)
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Quoting DestinJeff:


If Forbes gets to keep TOR:CON, then I see no reason the blog can't still have DOOMCON.


Agreed. LOL. Hope all is well, Jeff! If you're in Destin, I imagine all is certainly well.
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thanks emcf30 . thats some cool footage


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has anyone on here been using the 'interactive tornado map' feature when viewing in classic WU? none of the storms listed have the info or radar loops available... has it been this way for a while or just glitchy today? i haven't tried using the feature since new WU rolled out, which i also do not use..
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Quoting RastaSteve:


No it's not that squall line was behind the supercell. That supercell was by itself (individual storm) that caused the tornado. Look at weather.com as they actually have more reliable information than here right now. No offense but Doc just threw this post together without getting the correct information. That storm hit about 30 minutes after the tornado hit people.


Lol...once again, the loop Doc showed is after the tornado went through. The supercell that caused the tornado most likely joined the line as they got close. Happens all the time. Saying that Dr. Masters posted inaccurate information is inaccurate.
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Newspaper here states (through AP), that the NWS has forecast the Mississippi River at Vicksburg will crest at 52.5 ft on May 13, the highest level since 1937 (topped out at 53.2).

Monday's level was 39.2 (and reached 43.3 on Mar 31).

Precautions are being taken now.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


La Nina seasons normally have a substantial amount of tornadoes. Also, La Nina seasons are obviously known for increased hurricane activity. Therefore, it would seem that the tornado season and hurricane season are connected. However, it's just mainly more to do with La Nina's effects on the atmosphere.

That was my thinking.
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Video streaming by Ustream

Tornado as it went into Vilonia
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957
Forbes's Tor:Con invention is really not impressing me. He adjusts it every time the SPC adjusts their forecast. I said to myself earlier that 7 out of 10 in a high risk area is pretty low. Sure enough, he changed it a few minutes later. It sounds like something else invented by TWC to scare people. Makes you think of "Defcon" and some national security alert. Posting the SPC's percentage numbers would get the job done.
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Quoting RastaSteve:


Nope. Your wrong! It was a supercell out ahead of that squall line. Here ya go. Again people look at the link!

http://okcstormwatcher.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/v ilonia-arkansas-and-little-rock-air-force-base-rak ed-by-major-tornado/
not to split hairs here, but can you provide the specific info you're locating that points out the difference in storms? it seems to me by the frames the Doc's loop begins, it had already passed Vilonia, so that's why i'm considering it could be the same storm, even if after the hook that appears in your link. if a different storm, help us out be explaining instead of linking the same page a 3rd time...

edit: i see explanation above as i typed this one. link not clear, but will look into further trying weather.com... remain calm ;)
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How you can help:Link
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Quoting WDEmobmet:
Will some one please post the link that shows the location of the storm chasers and their live feed. I have misplaced the link. Thanks in advanced


Link

Link
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957

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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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