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

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

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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

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Quoting Ameister12:
Damage in Ringgold, Ga, with a preliminary rating of EF4.

This looks like EF5 damage to me. You can see some of the remains of the houses with nothing on it, just the concrete slab


Last evening I kept the video that follows ten miles of the Tuscaloosa tornado's path on one monitor while I "flew" the path in Google Earth on another. Try it yourself and you will see that there are many structures in Google Earth that are nothing but barren slabs in the video. It wasn't an EF4 the entire time--it may have even been an EF3 at some points--but in my opinion there is clear evidence of EF5 damage scattered along the route.

Then again, what do I know? ;-)
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Quoting Jax82:
Earthquakes, Tsunami's, Super Tornado Outbreaks, 100yr Floods, Snowstorms, Fires, Nuclear Meltdowns, $4 gasoline, Middle East uprising. The only thing left is Major Hurricane Hits U.S. to add to this catastrophic year we're having. :-\
Let's not go there. Thinking about that ridiculous death toll is bad enough. :(
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699. IKE

Quoting BahaHurican:
Let's not go there. $5.00 used to be the roof.
I think it would go to $6+ a gallon here if that happened. Living in very shaky times with the economy.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting Jedkins01:
Scratch that... Sadly, although it looks and sounds like we are going to get a huge thunderstorm with all this lighting just offshore to my west. The storms continue to collapse before moving onshore. If you look at storm total history, as well as long range loops, the line deceivingly looks like it would bring lots of heavy activity right into the Tampa Bay area, but instead the line just continues to collapse rapidly right before moving onshore.


Don't you just hate storms the completely tease you?

In fact even the NWS has been fooled too, they have continued to issue weather statements for strong storms that will move into West Central Florida. Accept they haven't and continue to fall apart right before the shore line for whatever reason.
An inversion set up over central florida early last night, hampering the storms as they moved off the warm waters.
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Quoting IKE:

Imagine a major cane this summer in the western GOM? Gas prices would hit the roof.
Let's not go there. $5.00 used to be the roof.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:

Lot of rugged terrain over there where you stay?
Yeah, you have to have real power to climb the steep 80 ft mountain ridge on the north side of New Providence....

Really, though, it's the ridiculous roads here... I am ashamed to admit my nationality sometimes when I ride on the main street of the island; the world famous Bay St is rifted like an earthquake zone....
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694. IKE

Quoting Neapolitan:
The sad death toll has reached 313. The 1974 Super Outbreak killed 319 (officially), so it seems fairly certain it will drop to second place. Obviously forecasting wasn't as good back then, so people were caught unaware. But today's denser population and the fact that some of the tornadoes tore through heavily-populated urban areas seems to be an unhappy equalizer...
Terrible.

................................................. .................................

R U kidding me?

Crowds await their first kiss
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
693. Jax82
Earthquakes, Tsunami's, Super Tornado Outbreaks, 100yr Floods, Snowstorms, Fires, Nuclear Meltdowns, $4 gasoline, Middle East uprising. The only thing left is Major Hurricane Hits U.S. to add to this catastrophic year we're having. :-\
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
692. IKE

Quoting BahaHurican:
Hey, I'm sure there's some sarcasm in there somewhere... either that or Ike is a sucker for young love... lol
lol.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting aquak9:
Shen- I want some of the New-Ike-Meds, too.

baja- ewwww!!! fruitcake??
Yeah, best way to have it is fresh right out of the oven.... lol, and it's a rich, dark, cake made with applesauce, so it's moist and flavorful.... none of that flaky pastry filled with "fat"... lol

[trying hard to convince myself that cake for breakfast is a GOOD thing.... lol]
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690. IKE

Quoting BahaHurican:
We are up to 5.70 a gallon here. The most recent rate hike [last week - happy Easter] added almost $4.00 to a fill-up for me. And I have a tiny car by comparison with the SUVs and F150 type trucks Bahamians seem to favor. One guy I was talking to yesterday says it costs him well over $100 to fill his truck....
Imagine a major cane this summer in the western GOM? Gas prices would hit the roof.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
The sad death toll has reached 313. The 1974 Super Outbreak killed 319 (officially), so it seems fairly certain it will drop to second place. Obviously forecasting wasn't as good back then, so people were caught unaware. But today's denser population and the fact that some of the tornadoes tore through heavily-populated urban areas seems to be an unhappy equalizer...
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Quoting aquak9:
who is this blogger pretending to be Ike? That's not the Ike I know and love...
Hey, I'm sure there's some sarcasm in there somewhere... either that or Ike is a sucker for young love... lol
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Good morning everyone! TGIF whoo hooo!
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Quoting IKE:
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The average price of a gallon of gasoline reached
the $3.90 mark Friday, after climbing 2 cents overnight, according to a
survey by motorist group AAA.

................................................. ..................................................

Price here at my location went up to $3.89.9 a gallon yesterday. I had half a tank in my car when I filled up yesterday and it cost an even $30 to fill it up.
We are up to 5.70 a gallon here. The most recent rate hike [last week - happy Easter] added almost $4.00 to a fill-up for me. And I have a tiny car by comparison with the SUVs and F150 type trucks Bahamians seem to favor. One guy I was talking to yesterday says it costs him well over $100 to fill his truck....
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684. IKE
Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
We will take him back if you are willing to pay a reasonable sum. If you are IKE what is your new med. I may need some.
I'm mellowing with age.

32 days...
16 hours...
39 minutes...and it starts.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Shen- I want some of the New-Ike-Meds, too.

baja- ewwww!!! fruitcake??
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 166 Comments: 25940
682. IKE
I don't think the US will be as fortunate with hurricanes in 2011. Won't be long now and it starts. Eastern PAC starts in 2 1/2 weeks.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting aquak9:
who is this blogger pretending to be Ike? That's not the Ike I know and love...
We will take him back if you are willing to pay a reasonable sum. If you are IKE what is your new med. I may need some.
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
Quoting KoritheMan:

Considering you just confused "cycle" with "cyclone", I think this is a most opportune time. ;)
Actually I meant cyclone....as in tornadoes and hurricanes are both cyclones???? But yeah, I wasn't feelin' no pain at that point... lol

Quoting aquak9:
Even with the imminent sunrise, it's seems like another dark day. 0.41" in the rain gauge.

Please let this severe weather be over.

Hot coffee to my friends.
Mornin', aquak9... I did get your coffee, only about 1 hr later... got up this morning to wash some clothes while the sun shines... I am living in hopes of some p.m. showers, but I'm not holding my breath... lol

Quoting emcf30:


At the edge of the path of the killer tornado sits the medical center. Could you image if it would have been a few hundred yards over.
I know the broadcasters who took that live video on their local news programme were VERY worried at the time that the centre had been hit. It would have been yet another infrastructural snafu on top of the loss of other key infrastructural elements, even IF there had been no loss of life [not likely].

Quoting aquak9:
Friday Pie-day- doesn't some warm apple pie sound good? I think we could all use some.

Keeper- don't know how I feel about the new avatar- guess its better than the swirling thing you had a while back.

Just coffee...and KrispyKreme.
LOL, well I had fruitcake with my coffee this a.m..... my mom didn't bake any at Christmas, then decided she would use her soaked fruit this week... nothing like waking to the scent of freshly baked fruit cake... hmmm....

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679. IKE

Quoting cat5hurricane:

I did an entire Blog entry about it with live coverage streamed and everything!
I didn't watch it...but at least some good news. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming of gloom and doom on planet Earth.



Quoting aquak9:
who is this blogger pretending to be Ike? That's not the Ike I know and love...
You didn't pick up on the sarcasm? I just don't see why that's something that all 3 networks...CNN..MSNBC and FOX...would cover....but what do I know?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
who is this blogger pretending to be Ike? That's not the Ike I know and love...
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 166 Comments: 25940
674. IKE
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The average price of a gallon of gasoline reached
the $3.90 mark Friday, after climbing 2 cents overnight, according to a
survey by motorist group AAA.

................................................. ..................................................

Price here at my location went up to $3.89.9 a gallon yesterday. I had half a tank in my car when I filled up yesterday and it cost an even $30 to fill it up.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting IFuSAYso:



No IA as of yet.

Link


Yes there is IA

Federal Aid Programs For State Of Alabama Disaster Recovery
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At least it stayed dry for them - there were worries that there'd be rain on and off all day.

Certainly a good advert for tourism, not including how much it already has generated.
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Quoting aquak9:
Friday Pie-day- doesn't some warm apple pie sound good? I think we could all use some.

Keeper- don't know how I feel about the new avatar- guess its better than the swirling thing you had a while back.

Just coffee...and KrispyKreme.


Dutch apple with old fashion vanilla ice cream.
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lol
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669. IKE
Britain gets new royal couple

Just Married!


WOOHOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting IFuSAYso:
Alabama has been upgraded from Emergency Declaration to Major Disaster.

Link



No IA as of yet.

Link
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Alabama has been upgraded from Emergency Declaration to Major Disaster.

Link
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Friday Pie-day- doesn't some warm apple pie sound good? I think we could all use some.

Keeper- don't know how I feel about the new avatar- guess its better than the swirling thing you had a while back.

Just coffee...and KrispyKreme.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 166 Comments: 25940
Damage in Ringgold, Ga, with a preliminary rating of EF4.

This looks like EF5 damage to me. You can see some of the remains of the houses with nothing on it, just the concrete slab
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So much for getting any updates this morning from the major news outlets
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663. IKE

Quoting cat5hurricane:

IKE, looking like many of the same areas hit by the flash flooding.
Agree.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting cat5hurricane:

As long as the valium is not going in there, Aqua. LOL

Good morning.


Or the Nyquil
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657. IKE
5 day QPF....


Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858


At the edge of the path of the killer tornado sits the medical center. Could you image if it would have been a few hundred yards over.
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Quoting aquak9:
@aqua: I know it's early, but--do you have anything stronger than coffee?

I quit four years ago- coffee's gonna hafta do the trick.

Coffee black thick strong like molasses. No foo-foo sweetums for me.
how are ya this am coffee on the table
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53846
Before the GreatTohokuEarthquake, there were 3square-kilometres of land below(average)sea-level on the Sendai plain. Now there are 16square-kilometres.
Before, there were 32square-kilometers of land below the full-tide level but above sea-level. Now there are 56 square-kilometers.
Before, there were 83square-kilometers of land below the highest high-tide level ever measured on the SendaiBay coastline. Now there are 111square-kilometres.

Near the epicenter of the March11th earthquake, the seabed surged by as much as 7metres(~23feet) and shifted ~50metres(~168feet) southeastward.

India's environmental ministry rejects construction of 4 new coastal nuclear reactors pending review of new safety measures taking into account the FukushimaDaiichi catastrophe.
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KSC tanking coverage of Endeavour has begun..
Link
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@aqua: I know it's early, but--do you have anything stronger than coffee?

I quit four years ago- coffee's gonna hafta do the trick.

Coffee black thick strong like molasses. No foo-foo sweetums for me.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 166 Comments: 25940

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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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