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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501. flsky
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.

Just a quick "thank you" to all of you who shared your wealth of knowledge and resources over the past few days. It's much appreciated. Stay safe out there.

Second that
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500. flsky
Any chance the Yucatan and FL storms will hook up and create something surprising?
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...EF4 TORNADO IN CATOOSA COUNTY...

A NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE STORM SURVEY TEAM DETERMINED THAT AN EF4
TORNADO WITH WINDS OF 175 MPH OCCURRED IN CATOOSA COUNTY. IT TOUCHED
DOWN APPROXIMATELY 810 PM EDT WEDNESDAY EVENING ALONG DAVIS RIDGE
ROAD...TRAVELING THROUGH RINGGOLD TO COHUTTA AND INTO TENNESSEE. THE
PATH LENGTH WAS 13 MILES WITH A WIDTH OF ONE THIRD OF A MILE. SEVEN
FATALITIES AND 30 INJURIES OCCURRED WITH THIS TORNADO. 75 TO 100
HOMES WERE DAMAGED OR DESTROYED. THE WORST DAMAGE WAS LOCATED ON
CHEROKEE VALLEY ROAD WHERE 12 HOMES WERE OBLITERATED
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114750
photos of tornado tracks from space

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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.

Just a quick "thank you" to all of you who shared your wealth of knowledge and resources over the past few days. It's much appreciated. Stay safe out there.
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Reuters now says 295.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13461
Quoting Tazmanian:
Ringgold, Georgia nado is now being called EF 4 from what i am seeing from Wikipedia all so we now have 3 Confirmed EF4


Wiki says the Birmingham twister was a EF5.

EDIT: guess not, said earlier this day it was.
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Ringgold, Georgia nado is now being called EF 4 from what i am seeing from Wikipedia all so we now have 3 Confirmed EF4
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114750
from the University of Alabama web site:

Current Conditions: Classes and Normal Operations Suspended; Update on Final Exams and Commencement
4:45 p.m., Thursday, April 28

The University encourages all students who can safely return home to do so. If you are preparing to leave campus, please refer to the Alabama Department of Transportation's emergency road closures web site to plan the safest route to your destination: http://aldotgis.dot.state.al.us/RoadClosures/Defau lt.aspx. Information about airport shuttles is available by calling 348-RIDE.

Residence halls will close for the semester as scheduled on May 7. Students whose homes have been damaged can go to the Rec Center for immediate housing. This is only for students whose homes have been damaged, not for those whose electricity is out. Call 348-RIDE and Crimson Ride will pick up the students and take them to the Rec Center.

Power outages continue to be widespread across campus, and Mayor Maddox has requested that water use be restricted as much as possible.
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Quoting presslord:


I may put on the dress, wig and rack for the occassion...just sit there and picture it...


OOOh please no.

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Mathew 18:9 KJV

How does one pluck out ones mind's eye. Please not the lobotomy hook!
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I know that they were talking earlier in the year about ending the project known as Vortex2. If they needed any reasoning as to why they should continue to keep this project going, I think what happened yesterday in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi should speak loud enough. Just like we have increased research surrounding the cone of error as its called for hurricane season, we need to continue to increase the warn time for those in tornadic areas. Lets not allow the large numbers of deaths that we are seeing from this span of tornadoes go without something coming from it.

To all those that are out there helping the families whose lives have been forever changed, and to those on here pledging to do just that, thank you and god speed.
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490. IKE
Cam Newton top pick in the draft.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting RitaEvac:
EF-5 would probably topple the Statue of Liberty


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.
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I read an article where it said. This may be the strongest and on land longer than any tornado in history. There was one that was similar to this one in 1925, but didnt run over such a populated area.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
An EF10 tornado or, heck, a Cat 10 hurricane are theoretically possible in much the same way that an MM 12.0 earthquake is possible: it could happen, but the amount of energy required to create such a monster is impossible without outside help. (In the case of a 12.0 earthquake, that would be the strike of a large asteroid, which would obviously be so devastating in and of itself as to make the 12.0 quake the least of your problems.)
Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe you are wrong.

Unlike the Saffir-Simpson Scale and Enhanced Fujita scale, the richter scale for earthquake's is a limitless scale. Meaning we could see a 10.0 on the Richter scale, or even a 20 or 30, but you will never see an EF6 or Cat 6 hurricane, unless the expand the scale.

Regarding the possible addition of a 6th category to the Saffir-Simpson Scale:

"According to Robert Simpson, there is no reason for a Category 6 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale because it is designed to measure the potential damage of a hurricane to manmade structures. If the wind speed of the hurricane is above 155 mph (249 km/h), then the damage to a building will be "serious no matter how well it's engineered".[3]"

Link
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485. IKE
Hang in there sweet home Alabama....and the SE USA......

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Du-CWASm20





Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Well, I gotta run... back later.
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Quoting presslord:


I may put on the dress, wig and rack for the occasion...just sit there and picture it...
All right, that hurt..... good thing I wasn't drinking coffee, just eating... I would have had 2nd degree burns... lol

So it would be one etc etc gentleman, and.... you.... lol
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Quoting pipelines:


I've seen plenty of video on the local news here of foundations covered in debris with no walls left. You forget, it went through a highly populated area, you aren't going to see clean slates because of the huge amount of debris in the air falling everywhere.
Exactly, when an F5 hits a country side, the few houses hit will be wiped clean. However, in a higher populated area, its more like heaps of debris. Nuclear bombs will wipe a country side clean, but blow one up in a city and you have a heaping mess of burning debris and rubble.
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So lucky that the weekend will be beautiful.It pays off when you have such a crappy week.....
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Skye, is the launch still going forward?


Just to clarify - the hail & most of the nasty lightning missed LC39A. NASA delayed the retraction of the RSS to 8:30 pm though, with no impacts to launch tomorrow. We're go at the moment.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
So I guess there will be two "handsome, intelligent, clever, knowledgeable extremely well spoken" guests.....

lol


I may put on the dress, wig and rack for the occassion...just sit there and picture it...
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ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh


looks like we may not find out today



Link
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114750
Quoting CharlestonTigress:
my good friend's storm siren just went off in Louisville and she's off to the basement with her kids...any news from that region?

I can't find anything severe. Flooding maybe?



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Quoting presslord:
At 8:15pm tonight on the Barometer Bob Show...there will be a handsome, intelligent, clever, knowledgeable extremely well spoken guest........I will also be a guest...
So I guess there will be two "handsome, intelligent, clever, knowledgeable extremely well spoken" guests.....

lol
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Quoting Skyepony:
Nasty cell with possible 3.25" hail headed at the shuttle on the pad...


BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MELBOURNE FL
648 PM EDT THU APR 28 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MELBOURNE HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
NORTHERN BREVARD COUNTY IN FLORIDA

* UNTIL 730 PM EDT.

* AT 643 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED
A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING
WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60 MPH. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR TITUSVILLE
AIRPORT...AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 25 MPH.

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE...BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO...
MIMS...KENNEDY SPACE CENTER...MERRITT ISLAND WILDLIFE REFUGE...
KLONDIKE BEACH AND PLAYALINDA BEACH
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my good friend's storm siren just went off in Louisville and she's off to the basement with her kids...any news from that region?
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LinkF5 tornado very similar damage look.
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At 8:15pm tonight on the Barometer Bob Show...there will be a handsome, intelligent, clever, knowledgeable extremely well spoken guest........I will also be a guest...
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Skye, is the launch still going forward?


i would say not at the present moment
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Quoting BahaHurican:
I know tornadoes can be bad, but I admit I am just stunned by the extent and sheer volume of the damage from yesterday's storms....
i know i picked it i saw the storms init time i knew it was going to be strong but had no idea this strong i watch and warned and tracked for 3 days from texas all way alabama we knew it was coming we just did not know how strong it would be that jet and upper low and warm gulf have all played a part in dev this outbreak and i hope its a long time before we see those conditions again iam hoping april goes out on a quiet note and we get a weak first week of may so cleanup can be done and help for the homeless can be fully used cause if more weather comes and it will that means only more misery for those that are trying to put there lives back together
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Quoting BahaHurican:
That sounds more realistic. I've been seeing comments like Tuscaloosa is leveled, which didn't seem right given that's a town of almost 100,000 pple. They couldn't ALL have been working in the path of a 1 1/2 mile tornado.... It sounds bad enough as it is, without inadvertent hyperbole...



Yeah, as bad as it is the media still finds a way to exagerate things.... a tornado would have to be 20 miles wide to level an entire city like Tuscaloosa.
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Skye, is the launch still going forward?
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Aerial view of Tuscaloosa damage.

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464. Skyepony (Mod)
Nasty cell with possible 3.25" hail headed at the shuttle on the pad...
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I know tornadoes can be bad, but I admit I am just stunned by the extent and sheer volume of the damage from yesterday's storms....
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Quoting pipelines:


That isn't true, I know of a few people that live there that received very little damage to their houses. The city is much larger then a couple square miles, the reports must have meant every house in the direct path were no longer standing.
That sounds more realistic. I've been seeing comments like Tuscaloosa is leveled, which didn't seem right given that's a town of almost 100,000 pple. They couldn't ALL have been working in the path of a 1 1/2 mile tornado.... It sounds bad enough as it is, without inadvertent hyperbole...

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fluc·tu·ate 
1: to shift back and forth uncertainly . 2: to ebb and flow in waves .
3. to change continually; shift back and forth; vary irregularly:
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460. IKE
Not sure why the link button won't work for me on Firefox, but here's ABC 33/40 with met James Spann and a partial download of the actual on-air professional job he and a fellow met did as the massive tornado was approaching Tuscaloosa......copy and paste.....

http://www.abc3340.com/video?autoStart=true&t opVideoCatNo=default&clipId=5794984&flvUri =&partnerclipid=

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting BahaHurican:
Two separate reports I've seen today say only one house still standing in Pleasant Grove - a concrete-walled one. Now I don't know if this means the walls are all still up, but that's pretty amazing. I'm trying to remember anywhere in the ATL where a cat 5 came ashore and houses were not completely leveled in the area of highest winds.


That isn't true, I know of a few people that live there that received very little damage to their houses. The city is much larger then a couple square miles, the reports must have meant every house in the direct path were no longer standing.
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all the tornados yesterday ranged from ef3 ef5 the naders fluctuated from ef3 to ef5 during the lifetime of the storms
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Two separate reports I've seen today say only one house still standing in Pleasant Grove - a concrete-walled one. Now I don't know if this means the walls are all still up, but that's pretty amazing. I'm trying to remember anywhere in the ATL where a cat 5 came ashore and houses were not completely leveled in the area of highest winds.
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for reference on that 1998 tornado Link
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455. IKE
I admit...I've watched the 7 minute YOUTUBE download of the Tuscaloosa tornado at least 15 times today.

That is an absolutely incredible filming.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Storm Possiblity Delays RSS Retract
Thu, 28 Apr 2011 04:38:38 PM CST


In anticipation of a storm that is predicted to pass over NASA Kennedy Space Center this evening, technicians at Launch Pad 39A will delay the opening of the rotating service structure (RSS) away from space shuttle Endeavour until approximately 8:30 p.m. EDT. Teams currently have begun support work that normally occurs following the RSS move, which allows the countdown to continue as planned to support Friday's 3:47 p.m. launch.


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Quoting SouthDadeFish:
I'm not forgetting that fact. That just made it all the worse. All I'm saying is from the pictures I've seen I haven't seen footage like that, but then again I'm sure there is a ton of stuff out there that I haven't seen. Plus, they aren't letting the media into the worst hit places yet. The fact that this has a real chance to pass the 1974 tornado outbreak in terms of fatalities is sickening.


I've had the local news on all day in my store (I live in Birmingham) and they've shown footage of the hardest hit areas I haven't seen on the internet yet. Also according to my friend who lives in Pleasant Grove, there's not a single wall left standing on her house, luckly she wasn't home. She was also in Pleasant Grove when the 1998 F5 tornado hit Oak Grove (town 5 miles to Pleasant Grove's S/W) and I saw that damage myself, she said this was worse.
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ABC News now says 292 deaths.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13461

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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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