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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Quoting cat5hurricane:

Why the long response regarding Japan!?? LOL

Glad you're concerned for those areas. Until then, I'll continue making comments regarding the storm just like you. It's called a weather blog where we are allowed to share ideas regarding the storm. Why the hell would anyone put the safety of their own lives based on my comments on this!? LOL.

You got to be kidding me man. Take it easy. At the moment, that cell is nothing more than a huge disorganized blob with no strong rotation. While something can get going any minute in this type of unstable environment, I don't see anything right now. The overcast skies today may really be a blessing for some of these folks escaping the high end EF category tornadoes folks in MO saw a few days ago.


hey, I have a serious passion about weather, so I'm taking this very seriously, nothing personal, and yes I know its a weather blog where everyone has freedom to comment and say what they choose.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6895
that's tunica, mississippi, not tennessee ya bonehead
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25514
wunderground Radar Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Radar Products Offered

The Weather Underground maintains a NOAAPORT satellite dish which continuously ingests the Level III NEXRAD radar data directly from the National Weather Service Doppler radars. Included in the Level III NEXRAD data are the following products, all updated every 6 minutes if the radar is in Precipitation Mode or every 10 minutes if the radar is in Clear Air Mode:

* Base Reflectivity
* Composite Reflectivity
* Base Radial Velocity
* Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity
* Vertically Integrated Liquid Water (VIL)
* Echo Tops
* Storm Total Precipitation
* 1 Hour Running Total Precipitation
* Velocity Azimuth Display (VAD) Wind Profile

Base Reflectivity

This is a display of echo intensity (reflectivity) measured in dBZ. The base reflectivity images in Precipitation Mode are available at four radar "tilt" angles, 0.5°, 1.45°, 2.40°, and 3.35° (these tilt angles are slightly higher when the radar is operated in Clear Air Mode). A tilt angle of 0.5° means that the radar's antenna is tilted 0.5° above the horizon. Viewing multiple tilt angles can help one detect precipitation, evaluate storm structure, locate atmospheric boundaries, and determine hail potential.

The maximum range of the "short range" base reflectivity product is 124 nautical miles (about 143 miles) from the radar location. This view will not display echoes that are more distant than 124 nm, even though precipitation may be occurring at greater distances.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125715
450. aquak9
11:07 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
then helena arkansas on into...tunica? gonna be for sure in tunica...tennessee

how high can VIL go?
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25514
448. TomTaylor
11:07 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Quoting aquak9:
that's west memphis municipal airport, on the ground.

How high can VIL go? (will repeat until answered sensibly)
not sure but I've seen it in the 90s before
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
446. Jedkins01
11:05 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
There now may be a rain wrapped tornado headed towards Memphis still, strong inbound and outbound winds surrounded by heavy convection. Rain wrapped tornadoes can be pretty common in situations like these. The PWAT is high so there is a lot of tropical moisture to work with. These storms are heavy and tropical like, meaning rain wrapped tornadoes could be a higher risk.
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445. Patrap
11:05 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Evaluation of RadVil, a Radar-Based Very Short-Term Rainfall Forecasting Model
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125715
443. aquak9
11:05 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
next up, Dewitt to Marvell, arkansas, almost to the ground, about 7 miles south of Dewitt, nice curve sig
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25514
440. Jedkins01
11:01 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Just calling like a see it. Take a look at the new frame at 22:50:32. I'd be surprised if any more rotation develops out of this particular cell, as it's profile seems disrupted. Might still get some good hail out of it though, so it's still a very dangerous storm.


Its one thing if the cell becomes disorganized, but it has nothing to do with convection south of it or getting disrupted over the river. The powerful tornado in Arkansas last night for example, was between multiple cells. Thunderstorms do what they want to do, its all about atmospheric property, not personal preference.

Just because some people believe God needed to judge Japan, then Japan gets hit by an earthquake/Tsunami does not mean by any means they were right and Japan was a judgment from God. That's just ignorance about science and hate towards Japan.

I hope you get my point that if the storm does not bring a tornado into Memphis, it isn't because of ideas not based in any actual accuracy. I'm not trying to be rude but I don't want people in cities thinking they are safe by reading comments like that, or think they are safe because they are across a large river. That's how folklore gets started. I'm concerned for these areas...
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6895
439. aquak9
11:00 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
that's west memphis municipal airport, on the ground.

How high can VIL go? (will repeat until answered sensibly)
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25514
436. oddspeed
10:57 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Memphis batten down the hatches
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435. xcool
10:57 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
430. aquak9
10:53 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
A VIL of 81, southeast of dallas...

How high can VIL go?
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25514
429. Jedkins01
10:52 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Quoting cat5hurricane:

I have noticed that. It's a very nasty hook with some high DBZ's. Luckily, it likely won't survive as it makes it's way into the Greater Memphis Metropolitan Region.


Tornadoes don't believe in folklore unfortunately.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6895
427. Jedkins01
10:50 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Probably won't survive it's trek over the river. The strong rotation within the cell likely to be disrupted by the crap that is forming south of it.


Please don't talk about sill folklore, this is a serious serious situation you shouldn't be joking around. A tornado may be headed into the Memphis area.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6895
426. TaylorSelseth
10:47 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Quoting Ameister12:
Tornado warned storm heading right for Memphis.


SH**! I've got a cousin there.
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424. TomTaylor
10:45 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Well here we go for round two, stay safe out there people.

In international weather:

Latest IR image over W Africa



Last 5 days of precip in Columbia (Keep in mind this is a satellite estimate, so there are probably localized rain measurements of around double what this image shows)


Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
420. Jedkins01
10:37 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
I'm very much worried about the cell headed towards the Memphis area, it has a classic mesocyclone hook on it which could already contain a tornado. In fact a strong tornado could develop out of that.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6895
419. aquak9
10:37 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
whoa, melagoo. Blast from the past.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25514
417. hurricaneeye
10:34 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Member Since: October 22, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 90
416. hurricaneeye
10:31 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Some more rain for Colombia. A real emergency going on for several days now

Member Since: October 22, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 90
415. Melagoo
10:30 PM GMT on April 26, 2011


WoW! This is incredible!
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 19 Comments: 1530
411. GBguy88
10:22 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Anyone see the storm headed toward Memphis? Tornado warned, and looks to be forming a nasty hook.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 482
410. Minnemike
10:22 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
brett adair/eric parker are on an intense looking beast in Arkansas
http://chase.tornadovideos.net/pages/full_screen
Member Since: July 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1320
408. MississippiWx
10:14 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Quoting DestinJeff:


it is an entity created by blog members. such comments are like a bat-signal in the sky, or against a shower curtain.


LOL. Hooray for hurricane season coming.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10157
406. PcolaDan
10:14 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Quoting DestinJeff:


that was intentional.

forgot the SF


Yes I know, and the re ported too. Was just extrapolating the subject. ;)
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404. hydrus
10:11 PM GMT on April 26, 2011
Tomorrow,s map..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606

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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.