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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402. stillwaiting
9:17 PM GMT on April 28, 2011
local met just said he talked with the nws in alabama and they stated theirs no doubt that theirs f-5 damage in their state!!
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
401. RitaEvac
9:15 PM GMT on April 28, 2011
or if pipelines start uprooting and blowing up and hurling fire balls of gas filled pipelines 50 miles away.....you may want a higher scale?? ah...nevermind. Crazy thinking
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9680
Well Jeff, if a tornado has 900 mph winds and chunks of the earth start pulling up in deep holes and caverns in the earth....well nevermind....
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9680
Quoting cat5hurricane:
I'm sure there's been winds associated with tornadoes that have exceeded EF5 ratings several times. But the scale isn't based around wind speed, it's based on the amount of damage caused by those violent winds.

In other words, complete obliteration would look no different at 300mph winds than it would be at 250mph winds.
Quoting TampaTom:
Under the old Fujita scale... an F6 or higher is theoretically possible.. but, come on.



As Dr. Simpson told me once in an interview - "How much worse do you need a Category 5 to be?"

EXACTLY. Its kinda like a state trooper writing you a ticket for doing 110 in a 65, instead of 120 in a 65. Either way you're doomed.
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Jumped 10 more to 283
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9680
If you are a victim standing in front of your subdivision, your house, and are lucky to be alive and and there is nothing but piles of ruble as far as you can see. They can tell you it is a EF3 or EF5. It does not matter, gone is gone. But for us weather freaks, we want to know. It is going to take some time to review all the areas.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957
Death toll nears 200 in Alabama

The death toll is at least 283 people in six states
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9680
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Might be reading into that one a bit too much...


Yeaaaah, I'm thinking that too. Armageddon had a white president, anyway. People think too politically these days. We are all humans and that's what matters. Anyway, back to the weather.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
repost


292. Dropsonde 12:44 PM PDT on April 28, 2011 Hide this comment.
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: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
Under the old Fujita scale... an F6 or higher is theoretically possible.. but, come on.



As Dr. Simpson told me once in an interview - "How much worse do you need a Category 5 to be?"
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More than 1,100 people treated at hospitals
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9680
390. skook
Link


Video from the air in bama. Amazing force of nature!
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the 1st rateing i see we had 190mph wish is a strong EF4 nado

what dos this part mean

13 deaths – Dozens of newly constructed two-story, brick homes were leveled and trees were debarked. Five people are reported as missing. Rating is preliminary
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
EF-5 would probably topple the Statue of Liberty
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9680
Quoting RandomText:



Well, if an EF6 did exist.

I know EF6 doesn't exist, but the debate has happened before with the Moore tornado, and Jim Cantore's response to that is, "There has never been an EF6 tornado."


But the argument is sound that a "category" should be roughly the same size as previous categories, and by that logic, some storms technically do qualify as a higher ranking.


And in the case of hurricanes, we already have the dvorak system which has no theoretical upper bound. A t-7 is a category 5, and yet several storms have been ranked higher than that. Monica had a T number estimate which was above t-8, for example.



And yes, i can think of a few things that "eventually" higher wind speeds would make a difference.

"Eventually" higher winds would start destroying megalithic structures such as dams, concrete football stadiums and mega-monuments like the Statue of Liberty.
When a tornado destroys a reinforced-concrete dam, we are going to have MUCH bigger things to worry about, IMO.
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maybe an ef-6 would be like in that movie armageddon. have you ever noticed the mocies about the end of the world by huge natural disaster always have a black president. thats weird. and somehow offensive.
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Speed trag. from all these tornados and the creeper from the flooding on the way. Portlight needs some cash.

Hope the weather clears for the final space shuttle launch tomorrow!
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i say this is at lest EF5 right here


Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
Quoting TampaSpin:
The end of that run looks a lot like the winter pattern we had earlier this year..
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I thought the scale went up to like EF13 or something like that. But that EF5 was the highest that was likely physically possible.

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Quoting RitaEvac:
It's 48 degrees where Doc is, that's ridiculous. Galveston hit 95 yesterday breaking an all time monthly record, being the hottest ever in the month of April.
The previous record it broke was 86 degrees in 1933.
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Cacos, I have to drive through that on my way home now. Wish me luck.
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Quoting kwgirl:
Well good night all. Everyone stay safe.



good night?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
It's 48 degrees where Doc is, that's ridiculous. Galveston hit 95 yesterday breaking an all time monthly record, being the hottest ever in the month of April.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9680
Well good night all. Everyone stay safe.
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Quoting RandomText:


LOL.

EF6.

You'd need a volcanic steam event or meteor impact to get enough energy to make a tornado that powerful.


Everyone wants to think they are something special, that they've been through worse than anyone else, etc.


I hear yah
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Really awful and unfortunate at what happened.A unnel cloud was reported close to the D.C area yeterday.But it's nothing at all compared to what happened in the south.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17629
Quoting jeffs713:

Yeah, but I honestly think its rating will be mostly EF4. The line between EF4 and EF5 is razor-thin, and very subjective.


I don't doubt that most of the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham damage will be rated EF-4. However, for the tornado as such to receive an EF-5 rating, it only needs to display EF-5 damage at some point along its path. From what it looks like now, that path may have been hundreds of miles long--at the very least, it was from the MS border to NE of Birmingham, large and intense the whole time. I don't doubt that somewhere along that stretch, if not at multiple points, they will find EF-5 damage.
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Quoting IFuSAYso:
IA is not listed yet but should be soon. IA inspectors are on standby.


What is 'IA'? I'm kinda ignorant...Thanks!!
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting RandomText:


LOL.

EF6.

You'd need a volcanic steam event or meteor impact to get enough energy to make a tornado that powerful.


Everyone wants to think they are something special, that they've been through worse than anyone else, etc.

Its not even a matter of power. Its a matter of "EF6 doesn't exist". EF5 was (intentionally) designed as a rating without a top end, much like a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

And beyond that... if an EF5 is capable of basically wiping a house down to the bare foundation, what would an EF6 do? Bounce the rubble of the house?
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Quoting Tazmanian:



but buy looking at some of the photos you think we had a EF5

Yeah, but I honestly think its rating will be mostly EF4. The line between EF4 and EF5 is razor-thin, and very subjective.
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Preliminary reports of an EF-4 tornado in Smithville, MS and Monroe, MS. Estimated winds of 190mph in the tornado. Town of Smithville reported to be gone.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
365. IKE
194 dead in Alabama....per the Governor of Alabama.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Al

Link
Quoting IFuSAYso:
IA is not listed yet but should be soon. IA inspectors are on standby.
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IA is not listed yet but should be soon. IA inspectors are on standby.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Maybe we should just wait for the NWS to do what they say they will do? ...

000
NOUS44 KBMX 281623
PNSBMX
ALZ011>015-017>050-282300-

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BIRMINGHAM AL
1122 AM CDT THU APR 28 2011

...UPDATED FOR JEFFERSON AND TUSCALOOSA COUNTY SURVEYS...

IN REGARDS TO THE JEFFERSON AND TUSCALOOSA COUNTY DAMAGE...SUBJECT
MATTER EXPERTS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY WILL BE ARRIVING TODAY TO
ASSIST WITH SURVEYS...AND DAMAGE RATINGS WILL BE PROVIDED AFTER A
THOROUGH ASSESSMENT IS CONDUCTED.


Link
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Quoting MrstormX:


Not your fault, some ip address added false information. Another one tried to make it an EF6 tornado earlier, to give you an idea of how bad Wikipedia can get at times.



but buy looking at some of the photos you think we had a EF5
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
52 Neapolitan "I saw yesterday that #4 had sprung a new leak. Do you know if that's fixed? I also saw that TEPCO had given up on the idea--mentioned a few days ago--to completely superflood two of the reactors, as their engineers told them this could cause a possible collapse of the entire containment structure."

Didn't comment on it earlier cuz a leak vs a GIGO*calculated evaporation rate seemed to be a 50/50 proposition, given the amount of "disappearing" water.
Now TEPCO claims "Water isn't leaking from No. 4 reactor pool...the water has been evaporating at a rate in line with calculations by experts."

Which would make me lean^toward the leak, except for what they aren't saying about the cause of the change in data being fed into their same ol' equations that produced their new conclusions.
Speculation: the fuel-rod bundles could have become jumbled instead of remaining racked with the proper spacing; more of the fuel-rods could have broken than previously assumed; higher rates of chemical reactions between the fuel-rod fragments and water since the introduction&withdrawal of seawater as the primary coolant; etc

* GarbageInGarbageOut

^ Haven't trusted TEPCO since their executive pronouncements about what did and more importantly what didn't occur before, during & after the their 2007NuclearPowerplantIncident convinced me that they'd rejected the "Safety: first, last, and always" culture to embrace SNAFU as their operating mode
SNAFU inevitably leads to FUBAR... unless BigBrother steps in beforehand to slap some sense into corporate irrational exuberance.
Unfortunately as in the DeepwaterHorizon case, the industry owned the regulators.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting Tazmanian:
ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh



this is nuts we got Wikipedia yelling EF5 and we have no word from nws about any thing


am gussing there no point in fighting overe this


what do we do


Not your fault, some ip address added false information. Another one tried to make it an EF6 tornado earlier, to give you an idea of how bad Wikipedia can get at times.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



ok so what we do now
You just have to sit back and wait for the official word from the NWS. There is a method to their madness.
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A game of checkers?
Quoting Tazmanian:



ok so what we do now

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NADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
414 PM EDT THU APR 28 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHEASTERN BERTIE COUNTY IN NORTHEAST NORTH CAROLINA...
CHOWAN COUNTY IN NORTHEAST NORTH CAROLINA...
SOUTHWESTERN PERQUIMANS COUNTY IN NORTHEAST NORTH CAROLINA...

* UNTIL 500 PM EDT

* AT 412 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO. THIS DANGEROUS
STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR WILLIAMSTON...AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 65
MPH.

* THIS DANGEROUS STORM WILL BE NEAR...
WINDSOR AROUND 425 PM EDT.
EDENTON AND CAPE COLONY AROUND 440 PM EDT.
VALHALLA AROUND 445 PM EDT.

OTHER LOCATIONS IMPACTED BY THIS DANGEROUS STORM INCLUDE WOODARD...
MIDWAY...EDENHOUSE...MERRY HILL...MOUNT GOULD...MACEDONIA...
HANCOCK...MAVATON...CISCO AND LIGHT NIXON FORK.
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Quoting jeffs713:

Such is Wikipedia. No fault of yours, I got stuck there a bit too.



ok so what we do now
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437

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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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