Tornadoes, floods, and fires continue to pound U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:13 PM GMT on April 27, 2011

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The nation's unprecedented April tornado-fest continued full force last night, with NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logging 57 tornado reports, 295 cases of damaging thunderstorm winds, and 254 reports of large hail. The 2-day tornado count from this latest huge April tornado outbreak is already 102. With another "high risk" forecast for tornadoes today, the tornado total for this week's outbreak may rival the April 14 - 16 tornado outbreak (155 confirmed tornadoes) as the greatest April tornado outbreak in history. It is unprecedented to have two such massive tornado outbreaks occur so close together, and the April preliminary tornado count of 654 is truly stunning. Even adjusting this number downwards 15% (the typical over-count in preliminary tornado reports) yields a probable April tornado total of 550. This easily crushes the previous April tornado record of 267, set in 1974. An average April has "only" 163 tornadoes, so we are already 300% over average for the month, and may approach 400% after today's outbreak. According to a list of tornado outbreaks maintained by Wikipedia, only two other tornado outbreaks have had as many as 150 twisters--the May 2004 outbreak (385), and the May 2003 outbreak (401). One positive note--there has only been one violent EF-4 or stronger tornado this year, despite the fact we've already had about 2/3 of the 1200 tornadoes one typically gets for the entire year. Over the past 20 years, we've averaged 7 violent EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes per year, so we should have had 4 or 5 of these most dangerous of tornadoes so far this year.


Figure 1. Satellite image of last night's storm at 8pm EDT April 26, 2011. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Fortunately, no one was killed in last night's tornado frenzy, but four twisters caused injuries, with 7 injuries in Hesterman, Mississippi, and 3 in Beekman, Louisiana. Over 100 homes were damaged when a tornado struck Edom, Texas, approximately 75 miles East of Dallas. One woman was injured when her mobile home was destroyed. The only killer tornado of the current outbreak occurred on Monday night at 7:30 pm CDT when a 1/2 mile-wide EF-2 tornado struck the small town of Vilonia, Arkansas. Four people died in the town, where 50 - 80 buildings were destroyed. Tornado warnings were issued 30 minutes before the storm hit, contributing to the relatively low loss of life.


Figure 2. Storm chaser video of a tornado yesterday in Ben Wheeler, Texas.

Another very dangerous tornado outbreak expected today
The busiest April in history for tornadoes continues full-force today, as NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has issued their highest level of severe weather potential, a "High Risk" forecast, for Northern Alabama, Southern Tennessee, and adjoining portions of Georgia and Mississippi. This is the second day in a row, and third time this year, that SPC has issued a "High Risk" forecast. The devastating North Carolina tornado outbreak of April 16, which generated 52 confirmed tornadoes that killed 24 people in North Carolina and 2 people in Virginia, was the other "high risk" day. Numerous tornado warnings have already been issued in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Ohio, and Alabama this morning, but today's main action is expected to erupt late this afternoon as the cold front from a low pressure system currently over Arkansas moves eastwards over the "high risk" area. Strong daytime heating in a very moist, unstable airmass will allow a tremendous amount of energy to build up ahead of the front. The arrival of the cold front will force the warm, moist air upwards, allowing the pent-up energy to burst out and fuel supercell thunderstorms.

Related post: Are tornadoes getting stronger and more frequent?


Figure 3. Severe weather threat for Wednesday, April 27, 2011.

Unprecedented flooding predicted on Ohio River
This week's storm system, in combination with heavy rains earlier this month, have pushed the Ohio River and Mississippi River to near-record levels near their confluence. The Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois is expected to crest at 60.5 feet on May 1. This would exceed 100-year flood stage, and be the highest flood in history, besting the 59.5' mark of 1937. Heavy rains of 10 - 15 inches have inundated the region over the past few days, and one levee breach at Black River levee near Poplar Bluff, Missouri, has resulted in the evacuation of over 500 homes. Poplar Bluff has received 15.45" of rain since Friday morning. The greatest rain gauge-measured precipitation from the storm occurred in Springdale, Arkansas, where 19.70" inches has fallen since Friday morning.


Figure 4. The latest River Flood Outlook from NOAA shows major flooding is occurring over many of the nation's major rivers.

Extraordinary intentional levee breach of Mississippi River halted by lawsuit
In a sign of just how extreme this flooding situation is, yesterday the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for flood control efforts on the Mississippi River, announced plans to intentionally destroy a levee protecting the west bank of the Mississippi River in Southwest Missouri. The destruction of the levee is intended to relieve pressure on the levees at Cairo, Illinois, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Cairo is currently under a voluntary evacuation order. The levee to be destroyed, located at Birds Point, is called a "fuse-plug" levee, and was designed to be destroyed in the event of a record flood. The levee protects 132,000 acres of prime farmland along the New Madrid Spillway, which is designed to take 550,000 cubic feet per second of water flow out of the Mississippi and redirect it down a 3 - 10 mile wide, 36 - 56 mile long path along the west side of the Mississippi. An 11-mile long section of the levee upstream at Birds Point, and 5-mile long stretch at the downstream end, are set two feet lower than the surrounding levees and filled with holes to accommodate dynamite. These levees will be destroyed if the Army Corps has its way, but a lawsuit by the state of Missouri is currently blocking the way. The Army Corps has now agreed to wait until Saturday to decide whether or not to blow the levee. The Army Corps' website has an unofficial damage estimate of $100 million for destroying the levees and flooding the New Madrid Spillway. At least 100 people live in the spillway and have been evacuated, and it would likely take many years for the farms to recover after flooding. The levees have been blown and the spillway opened only once before, back during the record flood of 1937.

Midwest deluge enhanced by near-record Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures
The deluge of rain that caused this flood found its genesis in a flow of warm, humid air coming from the Gulf of Mexico. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs )in the Gulf of Mexico are currently close to 1 °C above average. Only two Aprils since the 1800s (2002 and 1991) have had April SSTs more than 1 °C above average, so current SSTs are among the highest on record. These warm ocean temperatures helped set record high air temperatures in many locations in Texas yesterday, including Galveston (84°F, a tie with 1898), Del Rio (104°F, old record 103° in 1984), San Angelo (97°F, old record 96° in 1994). Record highs were also set on Monday in Baton Rouge and Shreveport in Louisiana, and in Austin, Mineral Wells, and Cotulla la Salle in Texas. Since this week's storm brought plenty of cloud cover that kept temperatures from setting record highs in many locations, a more telling statistic of how warm this air mass was is the huge number of record high minimum temperature records that were set over the past two days. For example, the minimum temperature reached only 79°F in Brownsville, TX Monday morning, beating the previous record high minimum of 77°F set in 2006. In Texas, Austin, Houston, Port Arthur, Cotulla la Salle, Victoria, College Station, Victoria, Corpus Christi, McAllen, and Brownsville all set record high minimums on Monday, as did New Orleans, Lafayette, Monroe, Shreveport, and Alexandria in Louisiana, as well as Jackson and Tupelo in Mississippi. Since record amounts of water vapor can evaporate into air heated to record warm levels, it is not a surprise that incredible rains and unprecedented floods are resulting from this month's near-record warm SSTs in the Gulf of Mexico.


Figure 5. Departure of sea surface temperature from average for April 25, 2001. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS.

Fierce winds fan Texas, New Mexico fires
Fierce winds fanned raging fires across eastern New Mexico and Western Texas yesterday, thanks to a powerful flow of air feeding into the Midwestern storm system. Temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s combined with humidities less than 10% combined to make yesterday a nightmare fire day for firefighters attempting to control the worst springtime fires in the history of the region. At 3:53 pm MDT yesterday in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the temperature was 87°F, winds were 38 mph gusting to 46, and the humidity was 8%--a perfect storm for extreme fire weather. In Fort Stockton, Texas near the huge Rock House fire, the temperature was 91°F, winds were 35 mph gusting to 44, visibility was reduced to 5 miles due to haze and smoke, and the humidity was 5% at 5:53pm CDT. 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. The fire weather forecast for today is better then yesterday, with winds not expected to blow nearly as strong.


Figure 6. Major wildfires and smoke plumes as visualized using our wundermap with the "fire" layer turned on.

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

Rare Sight (Freakofnature1)
I haven't seen a storm like this in quite some time. Still no rain in Seguin, Tx. Pic taken in Seguin storm near Martindale.
Rare Sight
Mississippi @ Burlington (BURGuy)
Seating along the shore
Mississippi @ Burlington
Base of Anvil Cloud 4/26/11 (HuskerMama)
Taken within minutes after the storm cell had passed directly overhead.
Base of Anvil Cloud 4/26/11
Southern Lightning (WeatherRose)
This is a shot of a lightning strike associated with some severe storms moving through this evening in Southaven, MS.
Southern Lightning

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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
finally a break. Anyone know when the models are predicting the next front to come thru?
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Is this settling down some as it approaches Atlanta? Or not?
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Quoting IFuSAYso:


Nothing persona, I don't donate to groups that have not been vetted. You should get vetted to give a warm fuzzy.Link


Yep, I checked your Member Since date, because anyone that has been here any length of time knows Portlight and all the TREMENDOUS work they have done when others wouldn't or couldn't. They are beyond vetted.
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Quoting TomTaylor:

dang, so close to breaking that nearly 100 year record.

Warning box is still up on the NWS map tho



It's passing over top of Rabun Bald right now, 2nd highest mountain in Georgia at 4696 feet. Then its on to even higher mountains in NC.
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Quoting RandomText:
Ah crap.

Nevermind.

The warning box is back again.

Sad...

It's a quad-state cell anyway, with 4 states continues tornado warnings, whether or not it's the same actual tornado.


This thing's more stubborn than a tough tropical storm under extreme shear.
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Quoting presslord:


ROFLMAO !! we're more vetted than you can imagine


Easy there, big guy. Don't go hurting yourself...:)


What Press said, IFu.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
1167. emcf30
Quoting hydrus:
what a day.


Like I said, it sucks and i am afraid in the AM, we are going to hear numbers and see damage that will blow our minds. What were are listening to in Ga is happening in dozens of communities what we cannot hear due to feeds being down. You said it WHAT A DAY
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
1166. beell
Quoting presslord:


ROFLMAO !! we're more vetted than you can imagine


Roger that, Press!
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Quoting 7080734:
How long was the Tri-State?


219 miles.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
Quoting IFuSAYso:


Nothing persona, I don't donate to groups that have not been vetted. You should get vetted to give a warm fuzzy.Link


ROFLMAO !! we're more vetted than you can imagine
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1163. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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1162. skook
Link


Atlanta live news
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1161. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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Quoting RandomText:
It looks like the warning was just dropped on the beast just as it hit the Georgia/N. Carolina line.

HOpefully it will stay dead...

dang, so close to breaking that nearly 100 year record.

Warning box is still up on the NWS map tho

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1159. hydrus
Quoting emcf30:


You may not want to here this, and alot of people dont understand, but during Triage you go by a color system Green walking wounded, yellow non ambulatory patients, red serious / critical, black deceased. ,If you have more patients on the scene than you have qualified emergency personnel you have to use your resources and apply to those that have a better chance of survival.Alot of time you have to write off some of the red patients. It sucks and I have had to do it on more than one occasion.
what a day.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20935
1157. Patrap
We are a 501c3 Non Profit and very much "vetted".

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
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127804
1156. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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1155. emcf30
Quoting hydrus:
Some of those bodies still may have a weak pulse...Its better to make sure they past before writing them off.


You may not want to here this, and alot of people dont understand, but during Triage you go by a color system Green walking wounded, yellow non ambulatory patients, red serious / critical, black deceased. ,If you have more patients on the scene than you have qualified emergency personnel you have to use your resources and apply to those that have a better chance of survival.Alot of time you have to write off some of the red patients. It sucks and I have had to do it on more than one occasion.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
Quoting RandomText:
1138:

Yes, that is the same cell as Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Gadsden, and Rome, and it has been tornadic since it formed in Mississippi.

Ok that's what I thought. This is incredible.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:
It seems those sirens haven't had a chance to turn off in Knoxville. They've been red all evening:

TORNADO WARNING
TNC009-093-105-123-155-280315-
/O.NEW.KMRX.TO.W.0078.110428T0249Z-110428T0315Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MORRISTOWN TN
1049 PM EDT WED APR 27 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MORRISTOWN HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
BLOUNT COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE...
KNOX COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE...
LOUDON COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE...
MONROE COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE...
SEVIER COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE...

* UNTIL 1115 PM EDT

* AT 1042 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO 6 MILES NORTH OF
MADISONVILLE. DOPPLER RADAR SHOWED THIS TORNADO MOVING NORTHEAST AT
50 MPH.


I used to live in Knoxville and they DO NOT have tornado sirens
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Quoting brla61:
Are they in the path for any of the tornadoes?
Looks to me like the worst should stay west of them, but make sure she's vigilant.
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1149. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127804
TWC Breaking
#Tornado warning for Coweta, S. Fulton, Fayette, Heard Co., GA. Psbl #tornado SW of Newnan, GA.
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Here's a guy who (mostly) kept quiet and (mostly) held the camera steady:

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Quoting TomTaylor:
Do correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the Tuscaloosa Tornado from earlier.




It is the same storm cell, but it may not be the same tornado vortex for the entire track.
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Hi guys - been a while. I'm just checking on things on the South. Thank you Dr. Masters. This is so much better than reading a news article! By the way, the pictures are amazing!
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1143. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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Quoting FirstCoastMan:
how do u post a video on here?

Every Youtube video has some buttons underneath them.

Like/Add to/Share/Embed

Click on Embed
The embeded code will appear... with a copule of checkmark boxes
Before copying it --click on Use old embed code and select the size you want to embed... I usually use the 480x390
Select the size by clicking on it; that will update the embed code
Finally, select the embeded code, copy and paste to the blog (directly)
Hope this helps...
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Quoting RandomText:
Anyone got a link to the Catoosa feed?


Yeah.
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1139. brla61
Prayers of protection for all in the path of this storm. Prayers of comfort and restoration for all affected by this storm.

Thanks for all the info from everyone. My mom is on the phone right now with family in Hartwell,Ga. Are they in the path for any of the tornadoes?
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Quoting RandomText:
HOnestly, barring an actual on-the-ground trail, it's going to be impossible to tell if that's actually the same tornado.

The radar coverage in this area is very poor.

It looks like the next frame or two on radar it will cross into N. Carolina.
Do correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the Tuscaloosa Tornado from earlier.



Storm L0 on the Greenville radar
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1137. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)


quad state status achieved
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1136. hydrus
Quoting IFuSAYso:


I was a fire fighter with the City of Pendleton, OR until the all call for help during the 2004 hurricane season (4 hurricanes). The officer already determined doa.
I understand...I was in Charlotte County in 04...bad times to say the least.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20935
1135. 7080734
How long was the Tri-State?
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


I can't imagine...

I was PO'd tonight because the AC failed today in the house, 90 degrees today, and won't be fixed till tomorrow. Thermostat sits at 84 right now.

Not PO'd any more...

we have beds to sleep in, clothes to change into, family to talk to, love ones to cuddle. Unfortunately, for many in the towns and cities, they have nothing left. Say a prayer before going to sleep tonight, that GOD gives them strength to pick up the pieces of there now shattered life and to continue walking along the path of life, and to give anyone else that needs a hand to get back on there feet.
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It's hard to say whether it was the same tornado the entire time, but the Tuscaloosa cell has been tornadic for almost 350 miles now.
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The now Quad-State tornadic storm is just going to go off the East Coast, hit the Gulf Stream, and then turn into a hurricane.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10200
1131. hydrus
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20935


Clayton, GA area, Rabun Gap, Franklin, NC and Highlands, NC need to hunker down NOW!
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Catoosa live feed
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1128. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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It ain't just that video that's sick... just sayin'...

I don't think I've got that kinda nerve, pple. That took a live, raw one that I just don't got....
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Quoting hydrus:
Some of those bodies still may have a weak pulse...Its better to make sure they past before writing them off.


I was a fire fighter with the City of Pendleton, OR until the all call for help during the 2004 hurricane season (4 hurricanes). The officer already determined doa.
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Quoting shoreacres:
Ally - you must be listening to the Catoosa feed. It's terrible - and twitter's full of people reporting truly unbelievable damage and injuries there.


Listening to that feed too. You can hear people in the background intermittently who are in despair. Very difficult to hear.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10200

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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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