Massive tornado outbreak kills 202; 100-year flood coming on Mississippi River

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:49 PM GMT on April 28, 2011

Share this Blog
6
+

A stunning tornado outbreak of incredible violence has left at least 202 dead across the Eastern U.S.; injuries probably number over a thousand, with 600 injured in the town of Tuscaloosa alone. The tornadoes carved huge swaths of damage, completely flattening large sections of many towns, and damage from the storms is likely to be the greatest in history for any tornado outbreak. Hardest hit was Alabama, with at least 149 dead; at least 36 were killed in neighboring Mississippi. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged 160 preliminary reports of tornadoes between 8am EDT yesterday and 8am EDT today. At least 11 of these tornadoes were killer tornadoes; deaths occurred in six states. Damage from some of these storms appeared to be at least EF-4, and it is likely that there were multiple violent EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes. The death toll makes the April 27 - 28 outbreak the third deadliest tornado outbreak of the past 50 years, behind the April 3 - 4, 1974 Super Outbreak (315 killed) and the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak (256 killed.)


Figure 1. Damage in Birmingham, Alabama from last night's tornado. Image posted to twitter.


Figure 2. Damage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama from last night's tornado. Image posted to twitter, photographer unknown.


Figure 3. Radar reflectivity image of the Tuscaloosa, Alabama tornado.

The 3-day total of preliminary tornado reports from this outbreak is 278, close to the 323 preliminary tornado reports logged during the massive April 14 - 16 tornado outbreak. That outbreak has 155 confirmed tornadoes so far, making it the largest April tornado outbreak on record. It is unprecedented to have two such massive tornado outbreaks occur so close together. 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).


Figure 4. Satellite image of last night's storm at 8:15pm EDT April 27, 2011. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Tornado outbreak winding down today
Tornado warnings continue to be issued this morning along the cold front now pushing towards the Atlantic coast, and a tornado was reported at 7:35am EDT in McBee, South Carolina. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed a large swath of the coast, from Florida to Vermont, in their "Slight Risk" region for severe weather. The high instability and high wind shear that triggered so many killer tornadoes yesterday is gone, and we should see only a few weak tornadoes today. No severe storms are predicted for Friday. Saturday has a slight risk of severe weather over Oklahoma and Texas.


Figure 5. Severe weather threat for Thursday, April 28, 2011.


Figure 6. Remarkable video of the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama yesterday. Fast forward to minute four to see the worst of the storm.


Figure 8. Tornado near Empire, Alabama, moving rapidly down a hill.

Unprecedented flooding predicted on Ohio and Mississippi Rivers
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 9. The latest River Flood Outlook from NOAA shows major flooding is occurring over many of the nation's major rivers.

Record 100+ year flood expected on Mississippi River
Snow melt from this winter's record snow pack across the Upper Mississippi River has formed a pulse of flood waters that is moving downstream on the Mississippi, and is currently located in Iowa. When this floodwater pulse moves south of Cairo, Illinois over the next two weeks, it will join with the record water flow coming out of the Ohio River, and create the highest flood heights ever recorded on the Mississippi, according to the latest forecasts from the National Weather Service. Along a 400-mile stretch of the Mississippi, from Cairo to Natchez, Mississippi the Mississippi is expected to experience the highest flood heights since records began 100 or more years ago, at 5 of the 10 gauges on the river along this stretch. The records are predicted to begin to fall on May 3 at New Madrid, and progress downstream to Natchez by May 20. Areas that are not protected by levees can expect extensive damage from the flooding, and it is possible that the Army Corps of Engineers will have to intentionally dynamite a levee at Birds Point and New Madrid, Missouri to protect the town of Cairo from flooding.

The Mississippi River at New Madrid, MO, about 40 miles downstream of the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, is currently at 44', the 3rd highest flood in history. The river is predicted to crest on Tuesday very near the all-time record height of 48 feet. The NWS warns that at this height, "Large amounts of property damage can be expected. Evacuation of many homes and businesses becomes necessary." Previous record heights at this location:

(1) 48.00 ft on 02/03/1937
(2) 44.60 ft on 04/09/1913
(3) 43.60 ft on 04/04/1975
(4) 43.50 ft on 02/16/1950
(5) 42.94 ft on 03/17/1997

The timing of the floods crests will depend upon a complex mix a factors, including how much rain falls over the next month, the possible influence of southerly winds holding up the floodwater pulses, the potential opening of flood control structures and reduction of flows from flood control reservoirs, and potential levee failures (no levee has failed on the Lower Mississippi south of the Ohio River junction since 1950, however.) The Mississippi River is expected to crest at 17 feet at New Orleans on May 22, three feet below the top of the levees. This would likely require opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway 28 miles upstream from New Orleans, to relieve pressure on the city's levees. Opening the spillway drains 250,000 cubic feet per second of flow into Lake Pontchartrain.

Helping out tornado victims
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.

Related post: Are tornadoes getting stronger and more frequent? The answer is--we don't know.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 302 - 252

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17Blog Index

Quoting Neapolitan:
Reuters says 284.

Wow.

A simple graphic:

Click for larger image:

Appropriate tropical weather-related image.

Even if you cut the preliminary counts by 50% based on SPC's new storm reporting structure, you are still WAY ahead of the curve.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5875
Quoting sunlinepr:
Seems like it's going to be a long Tornado season... more lows on the way....




I thought the low over the great lakes was huge.. look at the one south of Alaska, it's bigger! 0_0
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
flsky, are you still here. you got mail.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
Quoting MrMixon:




Ah, but RitaEvac is talking about emotions, not logic. These are two very different things, right? Sometimes humans have to play illogical tricks on themselves to maintain emotional health.

I'm not necessarily defending the emotional benefits of "doom-casting" - just pointing out how emotional reactions often defy logic (and I think that's OK).


Yes! You're on top of your game.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
Because if you think of the most worst case scenerio, things are always better when something bad happens, because it always could of been worse.


Quoting flsky:

Convoluted logic


Ah, but RitaEvac is talking about emotions, not logic. These are two very different things, right? Sometimes humans have to play illogical tricks on themselves to maintain emotional health.

I'm not necessarily defending the emotional benefits of "doom-casting" - just pointing out how emotional reactions often defy logic (and I think that's OK).
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
297. Jax82
Quoting Dropsonde:
Surveys begin to trickle in. Here is the first one from Memphis. There will be more violent ratings seen in coming days.



...PRELIMINARY EF-4 TORNADO IN MONROE COUNTY MISSISSIPPI...

SMITHVILLE TORNADO

* COUNTY/COUNTIES: MONROE

* LOCATION/TIME OF EVENT: DAMAGE AT SMITHVILLE 344 PM CDT

* BEGINNING POINT: UNKNOWN

* ENDING POINT: UNKNOWN

* RATING: EF-4

* ESTIMATED PEAK WIND: 190 MPH

* PATH LENGTH: UNKNOWN

* MAXIMUM WIDTH: 1/2 MILE

* FATALITIES: 13...5 STILL MISSING

* INJURIES: 40

* SUMMARY OF DAMAGES: DOZENS NEWLY CONSTRUCTED TWO STORY FULLY BRICK HOMES LEVELED. TREES DEBARKED. PROFESSIONAL BUILDINGS DESTROYED.


Yikes, thats scary. Its like having a Cat 5 hurricane hit you with 30 minutes warning.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Thankgod such parameters dont come together that often...Just unreal damage my thoughts and prayers are with these folks.

UNBELIEVABLE DAMAGE PHOTOS
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Reuters says 284.

Wow.

A simple graphic:

Click for larger image:

Appropriate tropical weather-related image.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13473
Another fatality has been confirmed all the way up in Rabun County, GA. This is a very remote area and not a lot of reports have been coming out of there.

Keep in mind that the Rabun County damage was from the same cell that tracked through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham- and 350 miles from where the cell first dropped a tornado!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting presslord:


Worse yet...What if my ex-wife finds me on Facebook?!?!?!
ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Surveys begin to trickle in. Here is the first one from Memphis. There will be more violent ratings seen in coming days.



...PRELIMINARY EF-4 TORNADO IN MONROE COUNTY MISSISSIPPI...

SMITHVILLE TORNADO

* COUNTY/COUNTIES: MONROE

* LOCATION/TIME OF EVENT: DAMAGE AT SMITHVILLE 344 PM CDT

* BEGINNING POINT: UNKNOWN

* ENDING POINT: UNKNOWN

* RATING: EF-4

* ESTIMATED PEAK WIND: 190 MPH

* PATH LENGTH: UNKNOWN

* MAXIMUM WIDTH: 1/2 MILE

* FATALITIES: 13...5 STILL MISSING

* INJURIES: 40

* SUMMARY OF DAMAGES: DOZENS NEWLY CONSTRUCTED TWO STORY FULLY BRICK HOMES LEVELED. TREES DEBARKED. PROFESSIONAL BUILDINGS DESTROYED.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Wikipedia is now calling it 2011 Super outbreak
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114781
Quoting FLdewey:
Big earthquake hits I move to the Conch republic...
Come on DOWN!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
"Except for the sirens, it had an eerie quiet this morning," said Brian Wilhite, an internist at Tuscaloosa's Druid City Hospital. "It looks like an atomic bomb went off in a straight line. It's probably close to a mile wide."

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PakaSurvivor:
presslord - Can't speak of the DC FEMA Types or their reputation since they came under Homeland Security, but I can vouch that in the years I rolled out to support their field agents, they did everything possible and more to meet the locals needs. Including the often use request of "Oh by the way, if you a couple extra (insert item here)we sure could use them". And yes, within several day those extra things would arrive. Even to the small island of Guam after Typoon Paka. I rolled out to support FEMA for many years around the US.



I should have been more clear...it is PRECISELY the DC FEMA types to which I was referring...in almost every way, local is better in these situations...and I agree that FEMA ground troops are good folks
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
In the DeKalb County, Alabama town of Rainsville, 25 bodies were recovered near a trailer park, said Police Chief Charles Centers. Many people are unaccounted for, Centers said, and authorities haven't even been able to reach all the affected areas yet, because some roads are impassable. Patrol cars are running out of fuel, and buildings including a school, homes and several businesses have been damaged or destroyed.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Should be called the "2011 April Outbreak"
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
presslord - Can't speak of the DC FEMA Types or their reputation since they came under Homeland Security, but I can vouch that in the years I rolled out to support their field agents, they did everything possible and more to meet the locals needs. Including the often use request of "Oh by the way, if you a couple extra (insert item here)we sure could use them". And yes, within several day those extra things would arrive. Even to the small island of Guam after Typoon Paka. I rolled out to support FEMA for many years around the US.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Heat Index topped at 131 today . I hope we will soon see some rain
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Seems like it's going to be a long Tornado season... more lows on the way....



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
280. auburn (Mod)
Quoting RitaEvac:


WTF, he is part of Portlight.Org?!


He is also Human and has a sense of humor.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
How many more people are they gonna find? 272 now
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:


WTF, he is part of Portlight.Org?!


Huh?!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RandomText:
While we're scheming worst case scenarios:

What if this year is like 2005, only all of the hurricanes make U.S. mainland landfalls at peak intensity?


What if Wilma 2.0 hits New York city and people can't evacuate because there's a line of tornadic super cells to the west blocking the escape route?

What if a freak pacific cat 5 somehow hits California against all odds, and parks just on shore, dumping several feet of rain in the mountains of California?


Uh... I think I see the four horsemen coming over the hill right now...

Quoting presslord:


Worse yet...What if my ex-wife finds me on Facebook?!?!?!
The DOOMcon forecast DEFINITELY doesn't go that high.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5875
275. IKE
Per CNN...."President Barack Obama calls the loss of life from storms in the Southeast "heartbreaking"; death toll hits 272."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RandomText:
While we're scheming worst case scenarios:

What if this year is like 2005, only all of the hurricanes make U.S. mainland landfalls at peak intensity?


What if Wilma 2.0 hits New York city and people can't evacuate because there's a line of tornadic super cells to the west blocking the escape route?

What if a freak pacific cat 5 somehow hits California against all odds, and parks just on shore, dumping several feet of rain in the mountains of California?



Worse yet...What if my ex-wife finds me on Facebook?!?!?!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RandomText:
While we're scheming worst case scenarios:

What if this year is like 2005, only all of the hurricanes make U.S. mainland landfalls at peak intensity?


What if Wilma 2.0 hits New York city and people can't evacuate because there's a line of tornadic super cells to the west blocking the escape route?

What if a freak pacific cat 5 somehow hits California against all odds, and parks just on shore, dumping several feet of rain in the mountains of California?



I don't think DOOMCON goes that high does it?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
270, nah
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
271. flsky
Severe thunderstorm warnings now in northern FL.
Member Since: October 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1916
269. flsky
Quoting RitaEvac:
Because if you think of the most worst case scenerio, things are always better when something bad happens, because it always could of been worse.

Convoluted logic
Member Since: October 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1916
have we found out what the rateing where
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114781
267. auburn (Mod)

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
Squawk!


Rita!! LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Because if you think of the most worst case scenerio, things are always better when something bad happens, because it always could of been worse.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting P451:


Incomprehensible numbers yet I read it ranks 3rd in tornado outbreak fatalities.

Insane day of weather. It was modeled and predicted many days in advance.


At 263 it's the 2nd highest in fatalities from a tornadic outbreak, they're still finding people and the final number will most likely be 300+.
Member Since: July 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 227
Quoting RitaEvac:
Hurricane wouldn't do it, but the affects from it would cause gas to spiral outta control, which in a way buries us into the ground. Earthquake would do us in after that like you said.


Why do I get the feeling that you really like the disaster movies?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting P451:


I don't think a hurricane does it.

My fear is the long anticipated and overdue major west coast earthquake that could potentially strike directly under or next to LA or SF or SEA. If you get an 8.0 to 9.0 in any of those cities we're screwed. Yet something is worse than that: The New Madrid region having an 8.0 would destroy this nation. It would sever all those major gas lines that supply the NE US with natural gas. With how many homes and businesses tapped exclusively into those lines you're pretty much destroying the heating and cooking capacity for a hundred million citizens.



Very good point. The resulting economic effects would likely be a hundred fold. Especially when you also consider all the poorly built structures in both St. Louis and Memphis that would not even be able to withstand a moderate quake.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hurricane wouldn't do it, but the affects from it would cause gas to spiral outta control, which in a way buries us into the ground. Earthquake would do us in after that like you said.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:


I'm talking about those major events this year if they happen. not spread out over those 3 years
I have been thinking the same thing. A lot of insurance companies are going to have a problem, especially if(probably) they had invested in long term mortgages. So the money isn't in the pipeline fast enough to help those insured. Usually a disaster helps kick start an economic up turn just by the nature of people having to replace what they lost. However, if those people do not get paid for their loss, there is no rebuilding. And I can see the lawsuits now. You have a policy limit of 300,000 on your home, but now a days it is only worth 150,000.00, but it is going to take 200,000 to make you whole. The insurance company is going to pay as little as possible. The only win in the situation will be lawyers and adjusters.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:


I'm talking about those major events this year if they happen. not spread out over those 3 years
I understood you. Now would be a bad time for sure R.E...bbl
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
I was wondering what the economy was going to do back in the early 90,s. Hugo and then the Loma-Prieta earthquake, Hurricanes Bob and Andrew. The 93 Flood and blizzard...Those events alone affected the economy..Hard to imagine what might happen next.


Luckily those events occured when our economy was booming, so the hit was no where near where it could be now. Though when things get very difficult in some of the most dire situations, it will almost always bring out the best in people to help one another. Even from the ones in which you may not expect it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
In defense of FEMA, however...they do conference calls and press releases better than anyone I've ever seen...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
I was wondering what the economy was going to do back in the early 90,s. Hugo and then the Loma-Prieta earthquake, Hurricanes Bob and Andrew. The 93 Flood and blizzard...Those events alone affected the economy..Hard to imagine what might happen next.


I'm talking about those major events this year if they happen. not spread out over those 3 years
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 302 - 252

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17Blog Index

Top of Page

About

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

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy
80 °F
Partly Cloudy