Deadliest U.S. tornado since 1953 rips through Joplin, Missouri, killing 89

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:11 PM GMT on May 23, 2011

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The incredibly violent tornado season of 2011 struck another sickening blow last night, when a violent tornado carved a ½ – ¾ mile-wide path of devastation through Joplin, Missouri. At least 89 people died, hundreds were injured, and huge sections of the town virtually obliterated. Damage from the tornado is so severe that pavement was ripped from the ground, which is characteristic of a top-end EF-5 tornado with winds in excess of 200 mph. This was almost certainly a least an EF-4 tornado with winds over 166 mph, and the level of damage is so extreme that this is likely to surpass last month's Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado as the costliest tornado of all-time.


Figure 1. Cars stacked on top of each other in front of the heavily damaged St. Johns Regional Medical Center after the May 22, 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri. Note the pavement ripped up from the road and piled in front of the cars. Tornadoes powerful enough to rip up pavement are frequently classified as EF-5 with winds in excess of 200 mph. Image credit: Chris McCrillis, posted to Twitter.

The huge supercell thunderstorm that spawned the Joplin tornado formed over extreme southeast Kansas yesterday afternoon, along the boundary between warm, moist air flowing northwards from the Gulf of Mexico, and cold, dry air moving south from Canada. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) had put the region in its “moderate risk” region for severe weather. As the supercell moved into Southwest Missouri, it spawned the tornado that roared through Joplin at 5:45pm CDT. This storm generated other tornadoes, straight-line wind damage, and flash flooding from torrential rains that exceeded six inches as it moved east southeast across Southwest Missouri. SPC recorded 48 preliminary reports of tornadoes yesterday, bringing the 2-day total for the current outbreak to 70. A tornado also killed one person and injured 22 in Minneapolis Sunday. Separate tornadoes killed one person each in Andice, Texas and Reading, Kansas on Saturday—the first tornado deaths in the U.S. since the April 25 – 28 Super Outbreak.


Figure 2. Radar reflectivity image of the supercell thunderstorm that spawned the Joplin, Missouri tornado, ½ hour after it devastated the city (circle with the “+” symbol.)


Figure 3. Radar Doppler velocity image of the supercell thunderstorm that spawned the Joplin, Missouri tornado, ½ hour after it devastated the city (circle with the “+” symbol.)


Figure 4. Satellite image taken at 5:45pm CDT May 22, 2011, when the Joplin, Missouri tornado was occurring. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Deadliest tornado since 1953
Yesterday's Joplin, Missouri tornado is the deadliest single tornado in the U.S. since June 10, 1953, when 94 people died in the Worcester, Massachusetts tornado. The previous deadliest tornado in the past 50 years occurred just last month, when 65 people died in the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham EF-4 tornado in Alabama. This year's tornado death toll now stands at 455, making it the deadliest year for tornadoes in the U.S. since 1953, when 519 people died. The deadliest year was 1925, with 794 deaths. That was the year of the deadliest U.S. tornado of all-time, the great Tri-State tornado, which killed 695 people in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.

More severe weather today
NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed a large section of the Midwest U.S., including portions of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, in its “moderate risk” region for severe weather today. The threat of tornadoes will not be as great today as yesterday, with today's main threat being large hail and damaging straight-line thunderstorm winds. However, I do expect we will see a dozen or so tornadoes today, and residents of the at-risk area need to keep in mind the deadly history of this storm system. The severe weather threat will continue into Tuesday, when additional tornadoes are likely over Oklahoma, Kansas, and Southwest Missouri. A severe thunderstorm roared through Joplin between 8:30am and 9am CDT this morning, bringing heavy rain, small hail, and wind gusts to 36 mph. Undoubtedly, this storm frayed some nerves, and the city will remain at risk of seeing more severe thunderstorms through Tuesday night.


Figure 5. Severe weather threat for Monday, May 23, 2011.

Links
The most remarkable audio I've ever heard of people surviving a direct hit by a violent tornado was posted to Youtube by someone who took shelter in the walk-in storage refrigerator at a gas station during the Joplin tornado. There isn't much video. We won't see a lot of spectacular videos of the Joplin tornado, since it was wrapped in rain and difficult to see.

Listen to my 12-minute interview on the historic April 2011 tornadoes for EarthSky.org, which aired on NPR earlier this month. I discuss how climate change might impact severe weather and tornadoes.

Our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has an excellent post on The World's Deadliest Tornadoes.

My 2008 post, Are tornadoes getting stronger and more frequent? The answer is--we don't know.


Figure 6. The Portlight relief trailer being loaded in Summerville, SC, in preparation for a journey to the April tornado disaster zone.

Helping out tornado victims
For those who want to lend a helping hand to those impacted by the widespread destruction this spring's severe weather has brought, stop by the Red Cross website, or portlight.org blog. Portlight has been very active bringing aid to the victims of this year's tornadoes.

Jeff Masters

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Wall Cloud (thomasanthony)
Rotating wall cloud coming through Perry Kansas. That speck towards the top is a helicopter.
Wall Cloud
Gran Tara by ketchum ok. (wick918)
The one that hit Joplin Mo.
Gran Tara  by ketchum ok.
Reading, KS (wheelingrabbit)
Reading, KS Grain Silo
Reading, KS

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Straight from the top of the Blog.
If you are impacted you don't give a damn what the stats are.

Deadliest tornado since 1953
Yesterday's Joplin, Missouri tornado is the deadliest single tornado in the U.S. since June 10, 1953, when 94 people died in the Worcester, Massachusetts tornado. The previous deadliest tornado in the past 50 years occurred just last month, when 65 people died in the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham EF-4 tornado in Alabama. This year's tornado death toll now stands at 455, making it the deadliest year for tornadoes in the U.S. since 1953, when 519 people died. The deadliest year was 1925, with 794 deaths. That was the year of the deadliest U.S. tornado of all-time, the great Tri-State tornado, which killed 695 people in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.
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Quoting Neapolitan:

I know what you're saying. But Reuters obviously cares enough to write about it--as does Dr. Masters. Nobody's dancing on anyone's grave here. We all have different ways of wrapping our minds around tragedies; keeping count is one of them, bizarre as that may seem to some... ;-)


and I get that this is a weather blog...and that's sorta what we do here...
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Quoting presslord:


with all due respect...I can't imagine anyone really gives a damn about this right now...

I know what you're saying. But Reuters obviously cares enough to write about it--as does Dr. Masters. Nobody's dancing on anyone's grave here. We all have different ways of wrapping our minds around tragedies; keeping count is one of them, bizarre as that may seem to some... ;-)
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Quoting presslord:


with all due respect...I can't imagine anyone really gives a damn about this right now...


Exactly..Im sure the families that suffer through this ordeal arent checking with wiki eithier..lets concentrate on the help that we can give to the victims
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Indeed,,calamity could care less about its place in History,,as well as the Dead and injured and families lives changed forever.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 433 Comments: 132798
Quoting aspectre:
JOPLIN, Mo. -- The death toll jumped to 116 on Monday after a massive tornado,
the deadliest single U.S. tornado since 1899...


Don't think it is the deadliest in the US since 1899, infact I know its not.It will most likely break into the top ten. But I think it is the deadliest single tornado in Missouri history
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Quoting aspectre:
JOPLIN, Mo. -- The death toll jumped to 116 on Monday after a massive tornado,
the deadliest single U.S. tornado since 1899...
? There were more deaths in other tornadoes after the 117 killed in 1899. Some journalist just picked the next one up the list on wiki. There are worse ones listed in 1908, 1925, 1936, 1947: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tornadoes_ca using_100_or_more_deaths

EDIT: Alright, the most since 1936. Whichever. The 1899 bit is plain wrong.
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Quoting Neapolitan:

I wish they'd get their facts straight. For instance, the Woodward, Oklahoma, tornado killed 107; the entire family killed 181. Given that, unfortunately, there'll very likely be a few more deaths, the Joplin tornado should go down as the 7th deadliest single tornado in American history, and by far the deadliest in the post-radar era.

Incredible.


with all due respect...I can't imagine anyone really gives a damn about this right now...
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Doppler from Sunday. Hook echo below Joplin appears at 1:35 to 1:39
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Quoting atmoaggie:
That would put it in the top 10 in history and the most since 1947 (due to any single tornado).
At least according to this: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/23/us-usa- weather-history-idUSTRE74M46R20110523

I wish they'd get their facts straight. For instance, the Woodward, Oklahoma, tornado killed 107; the entire family killed 181. Given that, unfortunately, there'll very likely be a few more deaths, the Joplin tornado should go down as the 7th deadliest single tornado in American history, and by far the deadliest in the post-radar era.

Incredible.
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JOPLIN, Mo. -- The death toll jumped to 116 on Monday after a massive tornado,
the deadliest single U.S. tornado since 1899...
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Quoting Grandpato4:
The death toll is now at least 116.
That would put it in the top 10 in history and the most since 1947 (due to any single tornado).
At least according to this: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/23/us-usa- weather-history-idUSTRE74M46R20110523
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Quoting emcf30:

Death toll from Missouri tornado rises to 116
By KURT VOIGT and ALAN SCHER ZAGIER Associated Press © 2011 The Associated Press
May 23, 2011, 3:17PM
Link



Thank you... Unreal...
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Quoting Neapolitan:
On the dry side of things: El Paso, Texas, today broke a record, experiencing its 110th consecutive day without so much as a trace of precipitation.



Not good
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Quoting TampaTom:


Do you have a source?

Death toll from Missouri tornado rises to 116
By KURT VOIGT and ALAN SCHER ZAGIER Associated Press © 2011 The Associated Press
May 23, 2011, 3:17PM
Link

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Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
116 confirmed dead


Do you have a source?
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
Yeah, Joplin preliminary rating is EF4 with winds of 190 mph. It won't take much to upgrade it to EF5 as the surveys continue.

The storm has been noted in several places as a multi-vortex tornado. Looking at the damage, I would not be shocked to see it upgraded to EF5 either, considering we have evidence of asphalt peeled up and the area around the hospital looks like a moonscape almost.
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116 confirmed dead
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Quoting VAstorms:
Question for anyone who may know. The hospital in Joplin took 1.5 hours to evacuate but there was only a 20 minute warning for the tornado. So does that mean they evacuated after the tornado hit the hospital? How did they avoid major injuries. The place looks like the Murrah Federal building after the OKC bombing.


that reference is to after the event...and they may well not have avoided major injuries...
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Yeah, Joplin preliminary rating is EF4 with winds of 190 mph. It won't take much to upgrade it to EF5 as the surveys continue.
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Quoting VAstorms:
Question for anyone who may know. The hospital in Joplin took 1.5 hours to evacuate but there was only a 20 minute warning for the tornado. So does that mean they evacuated after the tornado hit the hospital? How did they avoid major injuries. The place looks like the Murrah Federal building after the OKC bombing.


One account I read earlier said once they heard the sirens, hospital staff moved patients into the hallways for protection. Evacuation post-tornado was to transport them to other regional hospitals.
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The Joplin tornado is probably a high end EF4 or low end EF5 judging by the damage - God be with them.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24938
185. beell
click for full weather watch text and graphic
WW 345
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 152 Comments: 17991
184. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting emcf30:
Just in Preliminary Rating EF4, Joplin, Mo
Final determination will be made tommorrow


Fox News through that Ustream just said maybe EF3.. doubt it with peeled up asphalt & all.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 292 Comments: 41026
I myself have been in a tornado and it came up without warning..the most terrifying event I ever experienced!! Comparing a hurricane to a tornado will always have the tornado winning the fight..you get PLENTY of warning for a hurricane..you know its out there, you can track it while 1000 miles away from your house..a warning for a tornado at its best is about 20 minutes? Whats 20 minutes compared to a two day evacuation..I will take a hurricane any day over a tornado. At least in a hurricane, you have a choice to leave, in a tornado, you lucky if you have enough time to get in a bathtub or some interior place in your house..Andrew was devastating but there was warning..at least more than 20 minutes!!
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Quoting VAstorms:
Question for anyone who may know. The hospital in Joplin took 1.5 hours to evacuate but there was only a 20 minute warning for the tornado. So does that mean they evacuated after the tornado hit the hospital? How did they avoid major injuries. The place looks like the Murrah Federal building after the OKC bombing.


And, that was the evacuation after the storm hit... The last thing they wanted to do was send folks outside during the storms and put them on the road.
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Quoting VAstorms:
Question for anyone who may know. The hospital in Joplin took 1.5 hours to evacuate but there was only a 20 minute warning for the tornado. So does that mean they evacuated after the tornado hit the hospital? How did they avoid major injuries. The place looks like the Murrah Federal building after the OKC bombing.


Four people did die inside the hospital during the tornado.
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Just in Preliminary Rating EF4, Joplin, Mo
Final determination will be made tommorrow
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Question for anyone who may know. The hospital in Joplin took 1.5 hours to evacuate but there was only a 20 minute warning for the tornado. So does that mean they evacuated after the tornado hit the hospital? How did they avoid major injuries. The place looks like the Murrah Federal building after the OKC bombing.
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178. Skyepony (Mod)
Atlantic
92L



East Pacific
90E

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 292 Comments: 41026
90E in the EPAC. 92L in the ATL.

Hurricane season is on.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24938
Quoting StAugustineFL:


That's not good news. Dr Forbes also adjusted the TorCon index slightly upward for today.



nop its not good news i wounder what torcon will be for tusday am gussing about 8 or 10
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


This site from them doesn't work?

Link


For some reason TCWEB is not updating, but other files in ATCF are. Also, we now have EP90

EP 90 2011052318 01 CARQ 0 111N 951W 20 1010 DB
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This is from Reed Timmer a few hours ago

Reed Timmer: Meteorologist and Extreme Storm Chaser
Terrible situation in Joplin, Missouri. Here is some very graphic video of the tornado as it was hitting Joplin, shot by storm chasers Scott Peake, Colt Forney, Kevin Rolfs and Isaac Pato. ... MAJOR tornado outbreak possible tomorrow in Oklahoma and Kansas. Everyone PLEASE be prepared.
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Quoting emcf30:


An updated graph of the amount of water in the snow above Bountiful, Utah . plus snowbirdski, resort has had 754 inchs this year, this is a new record for a season!

Just wait until all this starts to melt.

This article from last week nicely sums up the situation:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/late-storm s-add-to-record-snowpack-in-the-rockies-mudslide-a valanche-flooding-concerns/2011/05/18/AFrQ5c6G_sto ry.html
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Some of it is melting...I've been told by locals that the rivers are currently in a historic, spectacular state as far as whitewater rafting and kayaking go. (2 weeks from today, I'll be kayaking in NE Utah, NW Colorado. Losing my mind waiting to go do that...)


That would be a blast
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Quoting Tazmanian:
DAY 2 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1216 PM CDT MON MAY 23 2011

VALID 241200Z - 251200Z

...THERE IS A MDT RISK OF SVR TSTMS FROM NWRN TX TO SRN NEB...

...THERE IS A SLGT RISK OF SVR TSTMS SURROUNDING THE MDT RISK OVER
THE SRN/CNTRL PLAINS THROUGH THE OH/TN VALLEY TO SRN NY...

...TORNADIC OUTBREAK POSSIBLE ACROSS THE CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN PLAINS
TUESDAY. AN UPGRADE TO HIGH RISK MAY BE WARRANTED AS SITUATION
BECOMES MORE CERTAIN...


A CLASSIC PLAINS TORNADIC OUTBREAK APPEARS TO BE EVOLVING ACROSS THE
CNTRL/SRN PLAINS...ESPECIALLY FOR KANSAS AND OKLAHOMA. LATEST MODEL
GUIDANCE IS CONSISTENT REGARDING THE PROGRESSION OF A VERY STRONG
MID LEVEL SHORTWAVE TROUGH...CURRENTLY DIGGING ESEWD ACROSS SRN
CA...INTO THE SWRN U.S./SRN ROCKIES BEFORE EJECTING INTO THE PLAINS
BY PEAK HEATING. A VERY DIFFLUENT UPPER FLOW REGIME WILL OVERSPREAD
THE PLAINS AS 30-60M 12HR HEIGHT FALLS EDGE EWD. ADDITIONALLY...H5
SPEED MAX APPROACHING 80-90KT...AS NOTED IN THE GFS...WILL RACE TO A
POSITION OVER NWRN TX/SWRN OK BY 25/00Z WHICH WILL GENERATE VERY
STRONG SHEAR ACROSS THE WARM SECTOR FOR AREAS NEAR THE RED RIVER
REGION...NWD INTO KS AND EVEN SRN NEB. NEEDLESS TO SAY A VERY
DYNAMIC SHORTWAVE TROUGH SHOULD TIME FAVORABLY FOR RAPID SEVERE
THUNDERSTORM INITIATION ALONG/AHEAD OF THE DRYLINE AS ATMOSPHERIC
HEATING IS MAXIMIZED.

EARLY IN THE MORNING A FEW THUNDERSTORM CLUSTERS MAY BE ONGOING
WITHIN THE STRONGEST ZONE OF WARM ADVECTION FROM KS EWD INTO MO AND
THE LOWER OH VALLEY. THIS REGION OF ASCENT AND STORMS MAY
TEMPORARILY FORCE A CONVECTIVE OUTFLOW INTO NRN AR...NWWD INTO SRN
KS. HOWEVER...A NWD RETREAT IS LIKELY TO AT LEAST THE I-70 CORRIDOR
IN KS AS DAYTIME HEATING OCCURS ACROSS THE WARM SECTOR. FOR THIS
REASON IT APPEARS A VERY UNSTABLE AIRMASS WILL BE IN PLACE FROM NRN
TX INTO SRN KS WHERE SBCAPE VALUES COULD EXCEED 5000 J/KG WHERE SFC
DEW POINTS HOLD IN THE LOWER 70S. FORECAST SOUNDINGS ACROSS THE
WARM SECTOR EXHIBIT CLASSIC TORNADIC SUPERCELL STRUCTURES WITH
STRONG LOW LEVEL HELICITY ACROSS KS/OK WITH DEEP LAYER SHEAR ON THE
ORDER OF 50-60KT. BY MID AFTERNOON...STRONG HEATING SHOULD BE NOTED
ALONG/WEST OF THE DRYLINE FORCING TEMPERATURES TO SOAR WELL INTO THE
90S...EFFECTIVELY REMOVING INHIBITION FOR CONVECTIVE DEVELOPMENT
WHERE LOW LEVEL CONVERGENCE IS MAXIMIZED. AT THIS TIME IT APPEARS
TSTMS SHOULD INITIATE ALONG THE DRYLINE BY 21Z...ALTHOUGH ACTIVITY
COULD DEVELOP MUCH QUICKER WITHIN THE STRONGER FORCING ACROSS THE
CNTRL HIGH PLAINS TO THE NORTH-EAST OF THE SFC LOW WITHIN STRONGEST
UPSLOPE FLOW.


That's not good news. Dr Forbes also adjusted the TorCon index slightly upward for today.
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Latest ash advisory, in case someone of you plans a trip to Europe

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/aviation/vaac/data/VA G_1306172679.png
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Quoting emcf30:


An updated graph of the amount of water in the snow above Bountiful, Utah . plus snowbirdski, resort has had 754 inchs this year, this is a new record for a season!

Just wait until all this starts to melt.
Some of it is melting...I've been told by locals that the rivers are currently in a historic, spectacular state as far as whitewater rafting and kayaking go. (2 weeks from today, I'll be kayaking in NE Utah, NW Colorado. Losing my mind waiting to go do that...)
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Same procedure as last year?

Volcanic ash forces Obama to leave Ireland early (AFP) – 1 hour ago

DUBLIN — US President Barack Obama will leave Ireland for Britain on Monday night, a day ahead of schedule, because of fears over volcanic ash spewing from an Icelandic volcano, a White House official said.

"Due to a recent change in the trajectory in the plume of volcanic ash, Air Force One will depart Ireland for London tonight. The schedule for tomorrow will proceed as planned," the official said.

The ash cloud from the Grimsvoetn volcano was already causing "minor delays" to some flights in Britain, authorities said Monday.

Earlier, the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) in London said there was a risk some ash cloud may reach parts of northern Europe in the next 24 hours.

But it added that "at this time no disruption to flights as a result of the Icelandic volcanic eruption is anticipated in Irish airspace for the next 24 hours."

Obama and his wife Michelle had initially been due to fly into London on Tuesday morning after spending 24 hours in Ireland.

Instead they will now take off from Dublin on Monday evening heading for London's Stansted Airport.

Ash from a volcano in Iceland last year caused the biggest shutdown of European airspace since World War II because of fears it can cause damage to jet engines.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.
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They've centered 92L ~128miles(206kilometres)SouthSouthWest of Bermuda
and ~687miles(1106kilometres)EastSouthEast of Engelhard,NorthCarolina.

So unless the steering currents push it wrong-way, 92L's probably gonna be pretty ignorable
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They can't get a break
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SPRINGFIELD MO
158 PM CDT MON MAY 23 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN SPRINGFIELD HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
JASPER COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST MISSOURI...
NORTHERN NEWTON COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST MISSOURI...
SOUTHEASTERN CHEROKEE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST KANSAS...

Member Since: Posts: Comments:


An updated graph of the amount of water in the snow above Bountiful, Utah . plus snowbirdski, resort has had 754 inchs this year, this is a new record for a season!

Just wait until all this starts to melt.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
AL, 92, 2011052312, 01, CARQ, -24, 305N, 656W, 20, 0, DB

Not sure on this, but maybe. It is from ATCF COM file.


This site from them doesn't work?

Link
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90 Dead in Joplin Missouri After Deadliest American Tornado in 60 Years

Link

Heart wrenching article as a woman describes her and her family trying to help

Up to 92 now
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ok I was not expecting this 92L out in the Atlantic but anyway I bet the NHC want to get the season started early anyway soon there will be 93L in the SW Carib soon
maybe late week/weekend this week or early next week
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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