Two EF-5 tornadoes confirmed from last week's outbreak; record Ohio River flood

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:23 PM GMT on May 02, 2011

Share this Blog
6
+

Damage surveys and the hunt for missing victims continues today in the areas devastated by last week's historic tornado outbreak. With the death toll in the 340 - 350 range, the April 25 - 28 tornado outbreak has surpassed the April 3 - 4, 1974 Super Outbreak (315 killed) as the deadliest U.S. tornado outbreak of the past 50 years. Hardest hit was Alabama, with 249 deaths; Tennessee and Mississippi had 34 deaths each, and deaths were also reported in Arkansas, Georgia, Virginia, Louisiana, and Ontario, Canada. Twenty-eight separate tornadoes killed people. According wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, in his post The World's Deadliest Tornadoes, only the death toll of the great Tri-State tornado outbreak of 1925 (747 killed) and the 1936 Tupelo-Gainsville tornado outbreak (454 killed) were greater. These outbreaks both occurred during an era before Doppler radar and tornado warnings. Had last week's outbreak occurred back in those days, I expect the death toll would have been in the thousands. The National Weather Service provided warning times of 15 - 30 minutes for all of last week's killer storms, allowing time for most people to get to safe shelters.


Figure 1. MODIS satellite image from NASA's Aqua satellite taken on Friday, April 29, 2011, showing the damage paths of three of Wednesday's tornadoes in Alabama.


Figure 2. Damage paths of Wednesday's tornadoes as compiled by the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama.

Damage surveys will continue for another week, so it is uncertain exactly how many tornadoes were spawned in last week's outbreak. The confirmed count is already at 146, which would make it the 4th largest tornado outbreak in history. The total is likely to surpass the 155 confirmed tornadoes logged during the April 14 - 16, 2011 tornado outbreak. 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). So, remarkably, two of the top four outbreaks in history occurred within two weeks of each other. In addition, the period from 8am April 27 - 8am April 28 during last week's outbreak has a good chance of breaking the record for most tornadoes in a 24-hour period, which is currently 148 (set in the April 3 - 4, 1974 Super Outbreak.)

Two EF-5 tornadoes confirmed
Damage surveys have confirmed that last week's April 25 - 28 outbreak spawned at least eleven violent EF-4 tornadoes (winds 166 - 200 mph) and two EF-5 tornadoes (winds greater than 200 mph.) This is only the 5th time since tornado ratings began in 1950 that two top-end tornadoes have occurred on the same day. The last time was on March 13, 1990 in Kansas. An EF-5 with 205 mph winds hit Smithville, Mississippi at 3:44pm EDT on Wednesday. The tornado's path was only 3 miles long, but was 1/2 miles wide and did extreme damage. Fifteen were killed, 40 injured, and 166 buildings destroyed. Some well-built modern 2-story homes that were bolted to their foundations were completely destroyed, leaving only the foundation. This type of damage is characteristic of an EF-5 tornado with 205 mph winds. The Smithville tornado is the first EF-5 tornado in Mississippi since the Candlestick Park tornado of March 3, 1966. The other EF-5 tornado of the day, the Hackleburg tornado, touched down in Northwest Alabama in Marion County at 3pm CDT, and devastated the towns of Phil Campbell and Hackleburg. This tornado killed at least 25 people. Meteorologist Gary Dobbs, with WAAY-TV since 1984, spotted this tornado from his car and was unable to get to his storm shelter. While his house was destroyed around him, Dobbs was thrown 40 feet from the house. The door of the storm shelter blew off, and none of the friends therein were seriously injured. Dobbs required hospitalization. One other tornado that may get an EF-5 rating is the violent Tuscaloosa/Birmingham tornado, which killed at least 66 people and injured over 1000. It was the deadliest tornado in the U.S. since 1955, when 80 people died in Udall, Kansas. This tornado had a path length of 80.3 miles, and has been preliminarily rated at high-end EF-4 with 190 mph winds. The Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado is likely to be the most expensive tornado of all-time, and damage from the April 25 - 28 outbreak is likely rank as the most expensive tornado outbreak in history. Insured damages have been rated at $2 - $5 billion, and uninsured losses will be several billion more. The previous most expensive tornado outbreak in history was the $3.5 billion price tag, in 2005 dollars, of the April 3 - 4, 1974 Super Outbreak .


Figure 3. Radar reflectivity image of the Hackleburg, Alabama tornado of April 27, 2011, a few minutes after it devastated the town of Hackleburg, Alabama (white cross at center of image.) The Hackleburg tornado was rated an EF-5 with greater than 200 mph winds.


Figure 4. Remarkable video of the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Beginning at about 2:30 into the video, one can see the ominous mini-vorticies and cloud of debris that encircled the tornado.

Unprecedented flooding on Ohio River
Last week's storm system, in combination with heavy rains earlier this month and over past 24 hours, pushed the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois to 60.6 feet at 1am CDT May 1. This is the highest flood in history, besting the 59.5' mark of 1937. Additional heavy rains of 2 - 4 inches are expected over the next five days, and the river is not expected to crest until Wednesday, at a height of 61.5 feet. As the record flood waters from the Ohio River pour into the Mississippi and are joined by melt water from the this winter's record snow pack over the Upper Mississippi, all-time flood heights are likely to be exceeded at many points along a 400-mile stretch of the Mississippi below its confluence with the Ohio. I'll have a more detailed look in my next post.

Jeff Masters

Bartow County Georgia Tornado Damage 10 (marlin01)
April 28th, 2011
Bartow County Georgia Tornado Damage 10

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: 215 - 165

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8Blog Index

oh ok,thanks levi:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FirstCoastMan:
what does levi mean that the tropical pressure pattern has now flipped?


The equatorial Pacific has negative pressure anomalies instead of positive ones. This is an indication that the atmosphere is finally entering the neutral phase of the ENSO.

Another interesting thing is that this will now unleash the MJO to go nuts, after being penned up for so long. It will now be able to make strong runs across the Pacific, continuing across the entire tropical belt, instead of being stuck over the maritime continent and tropical Atlantic. This may allow the MJO to be a good predictive tool this hurricane season.

The first MJO burst in the Pacific is coming over the next couple weeks, and it will be lining up to make the last 10 days of May our first chance for possible early-season mischief.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
what does levi mean that the tropical pressure pattern has now flipped?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Levi32:
The tropical pressure pattern has now flipped. Look at the equatorial Pacific.

Quoting Levi32:
The first negative daily SOI value in more than a year has finally been registered. SOI Dailies
interesting...

Thanks levi
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
210. beell
Quoting atmoaggie:
Like these. Clearly the result of CO2 concentrations...



It's quite obvious.
;-]
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hawaii??

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9693
208. xcool
:)
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15620
Sunlinepr and Xcool...some pretty spectacular visuals...they just get better and better :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
205. xcool


Sea level pressure anomalies
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15620
Quoting Neapolitan:

Oh, absolutely not; it would take a near complete dismissal of what is known about climate science to make such a claim. But, as has been predicted for years and stated numerous times, a warming planet will likely set the stage for extreme weather events to occur with increasing severity and frequency; that page appears to have a large--though far from complete--list of just such events.
Like these. Clearly the result of CO2 concentrations...

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
203. xcool


wind shear,. red meaing- high wind shear -blue meaing lower wind shear...
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15620
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9693
201. Neapolitan
3:11 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting eddy12:
neap ok thank you for clearing that up because that is what it seemed to be inferring and reading some of the articles from which you took your headlines they seem to be really grasping at straws to make their point

So far as I know, none of the stories were trying to make a point, so I'm not sure what straw-grasping you encountered; do you have any specific items in mind?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13456
200. Levi32
3:09 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
The tropical pressure pattern has now flipped. Look at the equatorial Pacific.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
198. flsky
3:06 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
1st day in Birmingham, AL. Already hearing some heart-wrenching stories. I you're able, please donate what you can to these poor folks' recovery.
Member Since: October 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1910
197. Levi32
3:04 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
The first negative daily SOI value in more than a year has finally been registered. SOI Dailies
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
196. sunlinepr
3:01 AM GMT on May 03, 2011

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9693
195. xcool
3:00 AM GMT on May 03, 2011


getting about that time start looking by Africa!
;)))
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15620
194. BahaHurican
2:56 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Well, all I have to say is that oil is no longer a cheap form of energy. Isn't it time to move on?

Good night to all.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21483
193. caneswatch
2:50 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Haven't been on this place in a while........
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
192. Chicklit
2:50 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
LinkTimeBlurb

"Nobody likes to flood farmland on purpose, but this particular farmland is in a floodway."

Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11173
191. Neapolitan
2:49 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting CanesfanatUT:


You may consider the economics of alternative forms of energy are quite uneconomic. Else someone would have done it a while ago, no?

It's only "uneconomic" if one doesn't consider the future to have any value, or if one believes that oil will last forever, or if one dismisses the science that says just how bad burning fossil fuels is for the environment, or if one doesn't plan on having kids. It's kinda like saying a pack of Nicorette gum costs more than a pack of Marlboros, so it's not "economic" to quit smoking.

Quoting CanesfanatUT:
I mean, there HAS to be a reason for the heavy ethanol subsidies, right???

Oh, yes. Absolutely. The ethanol industry makes huge contributions to certain politicians; those politicians out of gratitude and a sense of payback continue to extend the subsidies. It's quite a nice system...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13456
190. CanesfanatUT
2:39 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting Neapolitan:

The lack of real fuel standards, the inability of many in government to let go of the Big Oil cash cow enriching them and move quickly toward alternatives, and the unwillingness of many Americans to quit living in the fantasyland of cheap and endless oil are all a large part of the problem.

One thing that isn't part of the problem is ExxonMobil's not being allowed to defile a pristine wilderness (ANWR) by drilling for a few weeks or months of crude.

USA Today quotes Dr. Masters in the first paragraph. Nice. ;-)


You may consider the economics of alternative forms of energy are quite uneconomic. Else someone would have done it a while ago, no?

I mean, there HAS to be a reason for the heavy ethanol subsidies, right???
Member Since: September 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 523
189. Neapolitan
2:33 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting eddy12:
neap I was reading post 49 and went to your link are you saying all the events on that link are caused by global warming?

Oh, absolutely not; it would take a near complete dismissal of what is known about climate science to make such a claim. But, as has been predicted for years and stated numerous times, a warming planet will likely set the stage for extreme weather events to occur with increasing severity and frequency; that page appears to have a large--though far from complete--list of just such events.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13456
188. Chicklit
2:28 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Controversy over Birds Point Levee break

It's a matter of flooding homes or polluting farmland:

"Cairo, whose population exceeded 15,000 in Mark Twain's day, is a ghost of what it was as a booming riverboat-era port town. The city currently has approximately 2,800 residents, most of whom have already evacuated, according to Mayor Judson Childs.

Missouri Farmers Outraged

Missouri farmers in the water's path are outraged by the decision. Bill Feezor, who farms 2,500 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans near Birds Point, said he fears the flooding.

'It will ruin my farm,' he said. 'This is my whole life.'

Farmers such as Feezor worry about a toxic stew of diesel fuel, propane, fertilizer and pesticides that, they believe, will cover their land once river water rushes in."

Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11173
187. TomTaylor
2:27 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting twincomanche:


Yep, your attitude will go a long way towards helping folks out.
Quoting twincomanche:


I have solutions does BO and company?

Quoting twincomanche:
G' night. Beam me up Scotty, there's no intelligent life down here.

ignorance is bliss.

If BO = Barack Obama, then yes, he has plenty of solutions. you don't support them, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have solutions.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
186. TomTaylor
2:20 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting Patrap:
Zep's Inspiration for "When the Levee Breaks"

Memphis Minnie and Joe Mccoys original.

interesting, thanks for that

One thing about zep, a lot of people accuse them for taking music from others. This may be true for quite a few songs, but one thing is for certain, they new how to take what wasn't so hot and craft it into a masterpiece.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
183. Neapolitan
2:06 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting twincomanche:


Yep, your attitude will go a long way towards helping folks out.

Thanks. I'm glad you recognize that it's not always about us in the right here, right now; we have to work toward the future today.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13456
181. weatherbro
2:02 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
I noticed there was a convenient burial at sea.

 Don't worry. Leviathan shall gorge upon his flesh!!!
Member Since: May 26, 2007 Posts: 47 Comments: 1270
180. Patrap
1:58 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Zep's Inspiration for "When the Levee Breaks"

Memphis Minnie and Joe Mccoys original.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
179. emcf30
1:57 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Live feed of the breaching Link
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
178. Chicklit
1:51 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting BahaHurican:
Re. #162. That's looking pretty good for 1st week of May....

You know, the various disasters and excitements are coming so fast it's almost making my head spin....


Usually off season is dull but unfortunately not this year.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11173
177. emcf30
1:50 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
The breaching of the levee should commence soon. Will be interesting.

Birds Point New Madrid Floodway Joint Information Center
The plan to operate the floodway will begin in less than an hour.
Birds Point New Madrid Floodway Joint Information Center
The U.S. Coast Guard is attempting to video the breaching of the levee as part of operating the Birds Point New Madrid floodway
45 minutes ago

Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
176. TomTaylor
1:49 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting twincomanche:


Yep, your attitude will go a long way towards helping folks out.
As will yours! LOL
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
174. Neapolitan
1:35 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting jdjnola:


Oh good they just dropped the "r" and the "n" from Katrina and named it Katia. Too soon with these high SSTs...

What's even funnier is that "Rina" is merely an alternate or shortening of "Katrina".
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13456
173. TomTaylor
1:34 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Original version

Led Zeppelin - When The Levee Breaks

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
172. jdjnola
1:33 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting cyclonekid:
For those who want to know...or may already know...



Oh good they just dropped the "r" and the "n" from Katrina and named it Katia. Too soon with these high SSTs...
Member Since: August 4, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 238
171. BarometerGirl
1:30 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
"St. Genevieve, hold back the water..."

from "Tear Stained Eye" by Son Volt which is about the town of St. Genevieve, Missouri which was wiped out by the Miss. R flooding in 1793 and then relocated further from it. The town is still one of the the oldest towns west of the Mississippi, surviving many more floods, and hopefully this one too. Listening to this song repeatedly today is like reciting a prayer for me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGMfEPUnTpI

Member Since: December 11, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 34
170. hurricaneben
1:23 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Quoting alfabob:

Looks like I'm just over the CSU prediction with:
TS: 18
HR: 10
MH: 6
Quoting alfabob:

Looks like I'm just over the CSU prediction with:
TS: 18
HR: 10
MH: 6
. I agree.
Member Since: May 15, 2009 Posts: 414 Comments: 677
169. BahaHurican
1:23 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Next forecast updates are at the beginning of June, right?
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21483
167. aspectre
1:19 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
wayfaringstranger "Greetings from Ringgold GA and Apison TN. The damage here is tremendous as we have confirmed an EF4 tornado in this area.
My family and I are safe and uninjured however there were several friends and families just less than 5 to 7 miles away who lost their homes and businesses.
Downtown Ringgold and the schools were obliterated.
"

From one of your neighbors posting in another forum:
I live just south of Ringgold, GA, by about ten minutes. ...the town got destroyed.
There are eight confirmed deaths from the town that I'm aware of. The cashier for the cafeteria at the elementary school where I work was trapped in her destroyed house. Her husband died. She was taken to the hospital. Her left foot was turned completely around and she has fiberglass insulation in her eyes and insulation and dry wall in her back. The hospital fixed her foot because she was starting to lose circulation there, but didn't fix her eyes or back yet because there were others who needed help worse. Thankfully her circulation has been restored.
Two teachers are now homeless and vehicle-less, though they are all well. Three other teachers are all okay, but their parents/brothers/sisters/etc. are homeless from the tornado.
The middle school and high school were destroyed and can't be used for at least six months for repairs. Entire buildings are gone.
It wouldn't have taken much for the tornado to have turned my way. I live in a double-wide trailer. Looking at these houses and businesses that were destroyed, my house would have been totally gone, and maybe me with it.
[Frown]
Lots of emotions today at work. Really tough day.
Yesterday [ie the day of the tornado] we had an hour and a half tornado "drill" at school because tornadoes were sighted in the region. Imagine, if you will, 19 pre-k kids in a bathroom, and put all of the pre-k to second graders in bathrooms (thankfully not 19 in all of them), with the 3-5 graders all squatting in the hall.
It was pretty intense. Though it was really heart-warming to hear sweet little pre-k and kindergarten giggles coming out of the bathrooms as their teachers entertained them during the "drill."
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
166. cyclonekid
12:55 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
For those who want to know...or may already know...

Member Since: July 14, 2009 Posts: 51 Comments: 1721
165. BahaHurican
12:55 AM GMT on May 03, 2011
Re. #162. That's looking pretty good for 1st week of May....

You know, the various disasters and excitements are coming so fast it's almost making my head spin....
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21483

Viewing: 215 - 165

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8Blog 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

Overcast
67 °F
Overcast