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 emcf30:
*** 13 FATAL, 40 INJ *** DOZENS OF NEWLY CONSTRUCTED TWO STORY FULLY BRICK HOMES LEVELED. TREES DEBARKED. PROFESSIONAL BUILDINGS DESTROYED. ESTIMATED WINDS 190 MPH. 1/2 (MEG)

Smithville, MS Rated as EF4 by NWS



is that fianl or are they still looking in too it
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115235
Quoting emcf30:






Smithville, Ms

Ladies and Gentlemen...

That path is likely from an EF5. Houses leveled, nothing left but a slab.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5883
*** 13 FATAL, 40 INJ *** DOZENS OF NEWLY CONSTRUCTED TWO STORY FULLY BRICK HOMES LEVELED. TREES DEBARKED. PROFESSIONAL BUILDINGS DESTROYED. ESTIMATED WINDS 190 MPH. 1/2 (MEG)

Smithville, MS Rated as EF4 by NWS
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we now have 5 Confirmed EF4



Smithville area wish was a strong EF4 with winds of 190mph may need too be upgrade too EF5 Rating is preliminary what evere that means



Ringgold, GA area was a EF4 with winds of 175 mph


Apison area was a EF4 winds not sure at this time


Tanner area was a EF 4 may be upgrade too EF 5 winds not sure at this time

11 deaths – Catastrophic damage in the area with many well-constructed houses flattened or blown away and hundreds of others damaged or destroyed. A large cargo container was thrown over 600 yards (560 m). Many people were injured. Survey incomplete - may have been EF5.


Phil Campbell was a EF 4 may be upgrade too EF5 winds not sure yet

7 deaths – 12 houses were flattened and over 75 others were damaged or destroyed by a violent tornado. At least 30 others were injured, some seriously. Survey incomplete, may have been stronger elsewhere along the path.



plzs note that i got the info on Wikipedia and this reporting it back here on my blog am olny puting things down on what i no for sure
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115235
Quoting mossyhead:
But if everyone in the path of the tornado tried to get out, then you would have a big traffic jam.


Yeah, I think the only thing we can do to prevent a disaster like this happening again is to change building codes......
Member Since: July 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 227






Smithville, Ms
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Quoting idzrvit:
Not sure if this has been posted here. Take a look at the aerial footage of the damage in Alabama. Look at the bridge at 6:33! Total destruction.Link

tornado vs. railroad bridge


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Roughly 300 million people in the US now (actually a bit more) versus about 200 million people in 1974. Rough estimate would be that 50% more land is in use than before.
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Quoting pipelines:


I think the answer is pretty simple. Human density has increased therefore the likely hood of a tornado of this magnitude entering a highly populated area significantly increases. The other issue is the "sit and hide" mentality we have with tornados. Building codes will not support EF3 damage in their current state, until that changes and building codes are made to protect people from EF4+ damage, that sit and wait mentality is a death sentence if you're in the path of a monster.

We knew this thing was heading towards us in Birmingham a good 30 minutes out, we even watched it tear up Tuscaloosa on live television and our local mets were nearly screaming at us that this was a monster. So people did what they have been trained to do, they sat and hid. I personally got up and drove south instead.
But if everyone in the path of the tornado tried to get out, then you would have a big traffic jam.
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Quoting Ossqss:
Doing a kinda analysis on Land use and urban sprawl, with respect to the current outbreak, as compared to the 1974 out break. Hard to find stuff from then. Any help out there? Just tryin to understand what makes this stuff happen, on the "under the radar" side of weather...... Our radar systems have certainly improved, along with the watchers..... the various oscillation factors are where I end up short.....


I think the answer is pretty simple. Human density has increased therefore the likely hood of a tornado of this magnitude entering a highly populated area significantly increases. The other issue is the "sit and hide" mentality we have with tornados. Building codes will not support EF3 damage in their current state, until that changes and building codes are made to protect people from EF4+ damage, that sit and wait mentality is a death sentence if you're in the path of a monster.

We knew this thing was heading towards us in Birmingham a good 30 minutes out, we even watched it tear up Tuscaloosa on live television and our local mets were nearly screaming at us that this was a monster. So people did what they have been trained to do, they sat and hid. I personally got up and drove south instead.
Member Since: July 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 227
Did anyone see the Fox News report they had this afternoon where the showed a whole small town wiped clean. They were in a trailer park nothing was in site with exception of a little diner were people hid in the cooler and the fire hydrants were sucked out of the ground, just lying there. The also showed a subdivision that all was left was the slabs. No debris on the street. If anyone knows the name of the town could you please advise. like to find some pics of that area. Thanks
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Doing a kinda analysis on Land use and urban sprawl, with respect to the current outbreak, as compared to the 1974 out break. Hard to find stuff from then. Any help out there? Just tryin to understand what makes this stuff happen, on the "under the radar" side of weather...... Our radar systems have certainly improved, along with the watchers..... the various oscillation factors are where I end up short.....
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yea I stand corrected my apologies
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Quoting WDEmobmet:



I believe those numbers there indicate how many tornadoes where reported from each state, not the number of fatalities.


That is the number of fatalities. Saw the same chart on a ABC News channel website
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@nasahqphoto
NASA HQ PHOTO
Lightning Storms pass by Space Shuttle Endeavour. See the pic!
http://flic.kr/p/9CMo6M

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Kind of makes you wonder what will become of those numbers once we've had enough time to reach all those areas that are going unnoticed right now...
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Quoting IFuSAYso:


recovery has not even began yet.


That's the scary part....they haven't even begun looking for the dead...
Member Since: July 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 227
Quoting IFuSAYso:


recovery has not even began yet.


Still in search and rescue. It was stated in a press conference that recovery wont begin til late tomorrow or sat.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
Many thanks from the Portlight Family for the kind donations that will be helping 5 families that we've been connected with.

Also many thanx to all those who spread the word yesterday and also to everyone who rolled info during and since yesterdays deadly outbreak.

The wunderground,,where sharing is caring.


If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.
Dalai Lama


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yes Neo very sad, have alot of friends and family from that area.
Fly over video is just un real
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Regarding the post about earth quakes -- I agree. I also looked around this morning and thought about the hurricanes that we deal with.

Other than Hurricane katrina -- we rarely see that many people die, and we know when they are coming.

My heart goes out to those who are in the damaged areas.
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Quoting pipelines:
I'm pulling from a local news source for the Alabama numbers, our governer is making it very clear that every single listed fatality has been listed by a medical examiner, and not before. I'm scared how high it's going to get....


recovery has not even began yet.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
I'm pulling from a local news source for the Alabama numbers, our governer is making it very clear that every single listed fatality has been listed by a medical examiner, and not before. I'm scared how high it's going to get....
Member Since: July 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 227
Quoting IFuSAYso:
accuweather has the total at 280 atm.


The statement is "at least 280".
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
or maybe im wrong Greta cant seem to get here graphics right
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Just watched the news -- those numbers are the known fatalities as of this evening.
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accuweather has the total at 280 atm.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
Quoting WDEmobmet:



I believe those numbers there indicate how many tornadoes where reported from each state, not the number of fatalities.

No, those are definitely fatalities.

Very sad.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13551
The List is # of fatalities by State as the Number of Tornadoes was mentioned above in Dr. Masters entry.

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.

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Quoting pipelines:
The most up to date list of fatalities I could find

Fatalities by state
Alabama: 204

Tennessee: 34

Mississippi: 32

Georgia: 14

Arkansas: 12

Virginia: 11

Kentucky: 1


Total: 308

Local news says they are bringing out the cadaver dogs tomorrow. This is the deadlist severe weather event in our history.



I believe those numbers there indicate how many tornadoes where reported from each state, not the number of fatalities.
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Quoting RandomText:
Jesus...

Brick apartment buildings with fire walls obliterated to the ground.

Incredible.


fire walls are no more than double 5/8" gypsum board, shear walls are reinforced structures with plywood/osb for lateral movement.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
The most up to date list of fatalities I could find

Fatalities by state
Alabama: 204

Tennessee: 34

Mississippi: 32

Georgia: 14

Arkansas: 12

Virginia: 11

Kentucky: 1


Total: 308

Local news says they are bringing out the cadaver dogs tomorrow. This is the deadlist severe weather event in our history.
Member Since: July 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 227
Quoting jasonweatherman2010:
here we go again!!


Please explain for the oblivious!
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Tornado moves sign 100 miles!
Link
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Decent line of storms across CFL with the cold front passing...
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Reuters reporting at least 295 deaths. By the time the counting is done, this is likely to eclipse 1974 and 1965 for fatalities. That would make this the most fatal tornado outbreak in at least 50 years.

Reuters

The devastation is heartbreaking.

WTO
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Not sure if this has been posted here. Take a look at the aerial footage of the damage in Alabama. Look at the bridge at 6:33! Total destruction.Link
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Aerial view of Tuscaloosa damage.


That looks like an F5.
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Quoting P451:
Fukushima Disaster

Discovery Channel

TONIGHT - 10PM (in 48 minutes)



Just a heads up for those interested.


im not sure but, this might stream for those that don't have cable like me...

Link
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Quoting RandomText:


The scale is limitless, but the earth does not have enough energy or mass to generate a quake larger than about 12.0, even in the worst possible situation.

A 12.0 magnitude earthquake would fault the earth clean in half along a plane through the core, and would be 33000 times stronger than the Japan earthquake.

Any scale could theoretically be unlimited, but you still have the real world limitations of the amount of energy available.

For example, the Integrated Kinetic Energy scale for hurricanes currently stops at a 6, but that's probably because nobody actually expects a 6.1 or greater to ever be possible. However, if the expectatiosn are wrong, you can just as easily give a storm a 6.1 or God forbid even a 7.0 if it's ever necessary.
Correct about the earthquake and the kinetic energy thing. But I was talking about the SS hurricane scale and EF tornado scale. No hurricane or tornado will ever reach cat 6 or EF6. Unless they change/update the scale. Meanwhile, earthquakes can reach upwards of 10.0 magnitude.

That was the point I was trying to make.
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Quoting WthrBearSF:
I walked out of my house here in San Francisco early this morning, and was filled with gratitude for the fact that except for the occasional earthquake, life here is rather predictable and safe. It's not lost on me today how very fortunate I am.


I truly hope that life in San Francisco stays safe with no major earthquakes in the near future. Remember, Houston is still upset that L.A. is getting a space shuttle while the NASA's Johnson Space Center, heart of space exploration in this country for 50-years, doesn't get a thing.

I know it may sound crass... but if the BIG one ever does hit L.A. or San Francisco, Houston will be happy to help with search & rescue, rebuilding, etc... in exchange for our space shuttle back.
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507. beell
Quoting Jedkins01:


Hell I wouldn't want to be in anything during an E-F5. Not even a M1-Abrams tank would make me feel safe. I'm just glad we haven't gotten any of those in Florida. We are sort of a tornado alley accept for the fact that like 99% of tornadoes here are E-F0 to E-F1 lol.

2 F-4 tornadoes have tracked by my area since 1950. As far as I know they are the state's only tornadoes that strong.


You might be ok in a 60 or 70 ton Abrams!


Image Credit: NWS-Norman, OK

May 3rd, Moore, OK EF-5
An 18-ton railroad car in this area was
carried 3/4 of a mile, leaving gouge marks every 50 to 100 yards.
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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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