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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It is going to be very very dangerous from Central and Eastern Kansas down into Central and Eastern Oklahoma today. Large, damaging, long-lived tornadoes are a good bet...Personally, I think we may see another EF-5.
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558. IKE
Stephanie Abrams on TWC...."It is Wednesday, May 24th"......

Uh...no...it's only Tuesday. She's a little out there...somewhere.
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islander101010's address got broke.
Try http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/05/24/japan .nuclear.plant/
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Hurricane Preparedness Week
May 22-28th, 2011

Here is a list of websites that can assist you in your preparedness plans "Link"

Link
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Water still building in Morgan City LA
Don't get caught up in the illusion that your not at risk if you live around their!!

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good morning all from NE Fla. Sun rising, as usual. Luckily some things don't change.

Odd, I go to the Norman OK NWS, and they've only got 30% for today, 50% for tonite.
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TS SONGDA

Beginning to really ramp up the spin and become better organised.
Westerly movement is slowing and that can only be good news for the locals in Luzon province, as this storm still has the potential to make landfall there.
Every model now suggests this systom will rapidly become a typhoon and intensify rapidly over the next 48-72 hrs.
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japanese are still not sure what has happened http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/05/24/japan. nuclear.plant/
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Outbreak of Strong Tornadoes Expected Late Today and Tonight / Plan Now Where You Will Seek Shelter



Link
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Quoting jlp09550:
Hmm, seeing how oddly active the tropics have been the past month already, is this a sign of what's to come? Just asking.

92L

Nope, all the invests we've seen have been subtropical and at northerly latitudes, since most storms form from tropical waves coming off Africa we can't say that it will be an active season because of the lows coming off America
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549. IKE

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548. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical Astrological Service and Administration
Tropical Cyclone Bulletin #6
TROPICAL STORM CHEDENG (SONGDA)
5:00 PM PhST May 24 2011
====================================

Tropical Storm "CHEDENG" has slightly intensified as it continues to move in a West Northwest direction.

At 4:00 PM PhST, Tropical Storm Chedeng (SONGDA) located at 12.5°N 129.8°E or 450 km east northeast of Borongan, Eastern Samar has 10 minute sustained winds of 60 knots with gusts up to 80 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west northwest at 6 knots.

Warning Signals
=============

Signal #1
---------

Luzon Region
------------
1. Catanduanes
2. Camarines Sur
3. Camarines Norte
4. Albay
5. Sorsogon

Visayas Region
-------------
1. Samar Provinces

Additional Information
======================
Residents living in low lying and mountainous areas under signal # 1 are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides.

TS "Chedeng" is expected to enhance the southwest monsoon and will bring rains over Visayas and Mindanao.

The public and the disaster coordinating councils concerned are advised to take appropriate actions and to watch for the next bulletin to be issued at 11 PM today.
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Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9690
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9690

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9690
Quoting iahishome:
Taz!

Or anyone else, can you tell me where to get that map from the SPC?
Here is a link to all of their convective outlooks, which are issued daily. The high risk outlook specifically can be found here.
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Taz!

Or anyone else, can you tell me where to get that map from the SPC? I went to Wunderground severe page and it only shows moderate risk tomorrow. I have a friend in the area of high risk and I want to tell her to lay low tomorrow!

I'd like to send her the link that shows 'high' risk instead of moderate.
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542. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Japan Meteorological Agency
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #31
SEVERE TROPICAL STORM SONGDA (T1102)
15:00 PM JST May 24 2011
==================================

SUBJECT: Category Two Typhoon In Sea East Of Philippines

At 6:00 AM UTC, Severe Tropical Storm Songda (975 hPa) located at 12.5N 130.2E has 10 minute sustained winds of 60 knots with gusts of 85 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west northwest at 9 knots.

Storm Force Winds
==================
50 NM from the center

Gale Force Winds
===============
170 NM from the center in northeastern quadrant
150 NM from the center in southwestern quadrant

Dvorak Intensity: T3.5

Forecast And Intensity
=======================
24 HRS: 13.2N 128.0E - 75 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon)
48 HRS: 15.1N 125.4E - 80 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon)
72 HRS: 17.7N 122.9E - 85 knots (CAT 4/Very Strong Typhoon)
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Quoting Levi32:


We're just that awesome :)

And you have a chance of thunderstorms? I'm definitely jealous. Our forecast down here in San Diego for the next week is pretty much overcast every morning with sun by the afternoon. Highs in the upper 60s to low 70s.

Gotta love that cold California current and the resulting marine layer. It keeps our weather perfectly mild and boring nearly all year round.

I'd advise all weather enthusiasts to stay clear from Southern California.
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LOL. I can't get anything right today, literally. Stuff like that keeps you humble LOL
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Terribly sorry to hear and see the devastation in Joplin.That utube video of those people in the gas station cooler were so fortunate to survive a monster of that magnitude.At the rate of these tornado outbreaks there won't be much of some of these cities left to rebuilt.So we have Iceland's volanoe waking up, Typhoon Songda with is about to rapidily intensify if it already hasn't started, 5 mbs drop from the previous observation.So that system may be a close shave to luzon then okanowa and the south to south east coast of Japan poteintally its not written in stone yet but if the recurvature doesn't commence soon the afformention areas will be a concern.
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...THERE IS A HIGH RISK OF SVR TSTMS ACROSS PARTS OF SOUTH CENTRAL
AND SOUTHEAST KANSAS SWD INTO PARTS OF CENTRAL AND EASTERN
OKLAHOMA...

...THERE IS A MDT RISK OF SVR TSTMS ACROSS CENTRAL AND SOUTHEAST
KANSAS...CENTRAL AND EASTERN OKLAHOMA...AND INTO WESTERN ARKANSAS...

...THERE IS A SLGT RISK OF SVR TSTMS FROM NEW ENGLAND SWD TO THE
MID-ATLANTIC REGION...AND WWD INTO THE PLAINS...

...SYNOPSIS...
WITH CYCLONIC FLOW ALOFT TO PERSIST ACROSS THE NORTHEAST U.S. AND
ERN CANADA...A STRENGTHENING MID-LEVEL SYSTEM -- ACCOMPANIED BY
70-PLUS KT MID-LEVEL JET -- IS FORECAST TO EMERGE INTO THE CENTRAL
AND SRN PLAINS. BY THE END OF THE PERIOD...A DEEPENING UPPER LOW IS
FORECAST ACROSS THE KS VICINITY -- WITH A 75 KT MID-LEVEL JET AROUND
THE SRN PERIPHERY OF THIS SYSTEM.

AT THE SURFACE...A COLD FRONT WILL CONTINUE ADVANCING ACROSS ERN
CANADA...MOVING EWD INTO NEW ENGLAND THROUGH THE AFTERNOON BUT
BECOMING MORE WASHED OUT ACROSS THE MIDWEST/OH VALLEY WITH TIME.
FARTHER W...A LEE LOW IS FORECAST TO MOVE VERY SLOWLY EWD/NEWD
ACROSS KS/OK...BUT SHOULD STRENGTHEN THROUGH THE AFTERNOON AS THE
UPPER LOW DEEPENS. BY LATE AFTERNOON...A DRYLINE WILL EXTEND SWD
ACROSS CENTRAL OK/CENTRAL TX AND A COMPOSITE WARM FRONT/OUTFLOW
BOUNDARY SHOULD EXTEND SEWD ACROSS SRN KS/ERN OK AND INTO AR. THIS
SURFACE SYSTEM WILL BECOME A FOCUS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A
POTENTIALLY SIGNIFICANT SEVERE WEATHER OUTBREAK FOCUSED ON KS/OK/WRN
AR THROUGH THE AFTERNOON AND EVENING HOURS.

...CENTRAL AND SRN PLAINS...
A REGIONAL OUTBREAK OF SEVERE STORMS -- INCLUDING THE POTENTIAL FOR
VERY LARGE HAIL...DAMAGING WINDS...AND SEVERAL LARGE/STRONG
TORNADOES IS EXPECTED THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING AS THE POWERFUL
UPPER JET EMERGES INTO THE PLAINS DRIVING SURFACE CYCLOGENESIS.

ELEVATED STORMS MAY BE ONGOING ACROSS PARTS OF NRN KS AND NEB AT THE
START OF THE PERIOD...WHILE A CAPPED WARM SECTOR HINDERS STORM
DEVELOPMENT INTO THE AFTERNOON HOURS. BY MID AFTERNOON...SURFACE
DEWPOINTS IN THE 60S TO NEAR 70 COMBINED WITH DAYTIME HEATING AND AN
EWD SPREAD OF VERY STEEP MID-LEVEL LAPSE RATES ATOP THE WARM SECTOR
WILL RESULT IN A VERY UNSTABLE ENVIRONMENT...WITH 100 MB MIXED-LAYER
CAPE VALUES EXCEEDING 3000 TO 4000 J/KG ACROSS PARTS OF OK/KS AND
INTO WRN AR E OF THE LOW/DRYLINE.

AS THE UPPER JET AND ASSOCIATED/DEEPENING UPPER SYSTEM EMERGE...A
SLOWLY WEAKENING CAP SHOULD RESULT IN STORM INITIATION BY LATE
AFTERNOON...FROM CENTRAL KS SWD INTO CENTRAL TX NEAR THE SURFACE LOW
AND SWD ALONG THE DRYLINE. WITH MODERATE/BACKED LOW-LEVEL FLOW
AHEAD OF THE SURFACE LOW VEERING AND INCREASING RAPIDLY THROUGH THE
LOWER TROPOSPHERE TO SWLY AT 50 TO 60 KT AT MID LEVELS...SHEAR VERY
SUPPORTIVE OF BOTH MID-LEVEL AND LOW-LEVEL ROTATION WILL ALLOW
STORMS TO RAPIDLY BECOME SUPERCELLULAR. VERY LARGE HAIL...DAMAGING
WINDS...AND SEVERAL POTENTIALLY SIGNIFICANT TORNADOES APPEAR LIKELY
AS THE STORMS INCREASE AND SPREAD ACROSS KS/OK INTO WRN AR AND THEN
LATER INTO WRN MO.
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536. xcool
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Quoting TomTaylor:
It's only May and you're in the 80s at 65N??

Jesus. I'm more than 30 degrees of latitude further south than you and my high is still more than 10f cooler. And I do not live in the mountains either.


We're just that awesome :)
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For those of you who like to witness rapid intensification, Songda in the WPAC is seemingly undergoing it as we speak. Really starting to wrap up...

Link
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Quoting Levi32:
My 5-day forecast for Fairbanks, Alaska :)

It's only May and you're in the 80s at 65N??

Jesus. I'm more than 30 degrees of latitude further south than you and my high is still more than 10f cooler. And I do not live in the mountains either.
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I don't think it's a matter of tornadoes becoming stronger. They're just passing through more heavily populated areas. A mile wide tornado in the Oklahoma panhandle or sparsely populated areas of western kansas isn't going to cause much damage.

I live in Hutchinson, Kansas. In 1990 and 1991 we were missed by an F5 and an F4 tornado. The F5 in 1990 eventually hit a glancing blow to Hesston. It missed Hutchinson to the east by several miles after passing half way between two small towns. I wasn't able to see it because of the heavy rain between the city and the tornado

I did watch the F4 in 1991 that passed a few miles to the west and hit the small suburb of Willowbrook before going to a rope like stage.

Had either of those storms taken a slightly different course, Hutchinson at the time could have looked like Joplin does today.


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Nice graphic Beell. You can easily see there how the low and high pressure centers would act to create conv/div on the jet stream.
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Quoting Levi32:
My 5-day forecast for Fairbanks, Alaska :)

A scorcher Levi!

And more info on jet streaks here. Usually it's the entrance region that causes divergence as the air is accelerating into the jet max. The worst weather here is usually to the SE side of the jet streak.
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529. beell
PVA and Divergence-Left exit. As would be found in the base of a trough.





Exit Region
The region downstream from a wind speed maximum in a jet stream (jet max), in which air is moving away from the region of maximum winds, and therefore is decelerating. This deceleration results in divergence in the upper-level winds in the left half of the exit region (as would be viewed looking along the direction of flow). This divergence results in upward motion of air in the left front quadrant (or left exit region) of the jet max. Severe weather potential sometimes increases in this area as a result. See also entrance region and right entrance region.

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream//append/glossar y_e.htm
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
Quoting jlp09550:
Hmm, seeing how oddly active the tropics have been the past month already, is this a sign of what's to come? Just asking.

92L
its anyones guess really all we can do is watch and warn
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
My 5-day forecast for Fairbanks, Alaska :)

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Quoting Drakoen:
http://www.weatherzone.com.au/help/glossary.jsp?l =r
Right Exit Region

(or Right Front Quadrant) The area downstream from and to the right of an upper-level jet max (as would be viewed looking along the direction of flow). Upward motion and severe thunderstorm potential sometimes are increased in this area relative to the wind seed maximum.




The region downstream from a wind speed maximum in a jet stream (jet max), in which air is moving away from the region of maximum winds, and therefore is decelerating. This deceleration results in divergence in the upper-level winds in the left half of the exit region (as would be viewed looking along the direction of flow). This divergence results in upward motion of air in the left front quadrant (or left exit region) of the jet max. Severe weather potential sometimes increases in this area as a result. See also entrance region and right entrance region.

NWS Glossary
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Quoting Drakoen:

No its not. The right front exit is the region with upper level divergence promoting thunderstorms.


No, it's left exit region that's divergent.
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Hmm, seeing how oddly active the tropics have been the past month already, is this a sign of what's to come? Just asking.

92L
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http://www.weatherzone.com.au/help/glossary.jsp?l =r
Right Exit Region

(or Right Front Quadrant) The area downstream from and to the right of an upper-level jet max (as would be viewed looking along the direction of flow). Upward motion and severe thunderstorm potential sometimes are increased in this area relative to the wind seed maximum.


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520. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Japan Meteorological Agency
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #30
SEVERE TROPICAL STORM SONGDA (T1102)
12:00 PM JST May 24 2011
==================================

SUBJECT: Category Two Typhoon In Sea East Of Philippines

At 3:00 AM UTC, Severe Tropical Storm Songda (980 hPa) located at 12.1N 130.8E has 10 minute sustained winds of 55 knots with gusts of 80 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west northwest slowly.

Storm Force Winds
==================
30 NM from the center

Gale Force Winds
===============
150 NM from the center in northeastern quadrant
110 NM from the center in southwestern quadrant

Dvorak Intensity:

Forecast And Intensity
=======================
24 HRS: 13.0N 128.2E - 75 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon)
45 HRS: 14.5N 125.9E - 80 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon)
69 HRS: 16.9N 123.4E - 85 knots (CAT 4/Very Strong Typhoon)
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Quoting beell:


LOL, Drak. It's good to see you!
I'll stick to my guns. Right front exit is subsident.

Haby-Exit Regions/Jet Streaks
No its not. The right front exit is the region with upper level divergence promoting thunderstorms.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
ya here is a radar shot




in the dark it comes


NOW there we go ...took ya long enough :}
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Quoting Skyepony:
Atleast what is going through OK City has weakened a bit. That cell headed east across AK still looks bad.
ya here is a radar shot



in the dark it comes
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
515. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical Astrological Service and Administration
Tropical Cyclone Bulletin #5
TROPICAL STORM CHEDENG (SONGDA)
11:00 AM PhST May 24 2011
====================================

Tropical Storm "CHEDENG" has slowed down as it moves in a West Northwest direction.

At 10:00 AM PhST, Tropical Storm Chedeng (SONGDA) located at 12.1°N 130.5°E or 490 km east of Borongan, Eastern Samar has 10 minute sustained winds of 55 knots with gusts up to 70 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west northeast at 6 knots.

Warning Signals
=============

Signal #1
---------

Luzon Region
------------
1. Catanduanes
2. Camarines Sur
3. Albay
4. Sorsogon

Visayas Region
-------------
1. Samar Provinces

Additional Information
======================

Residents living in low lying and mountainous areas under signal # 1 are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides.

TS "Chedeng" is expected to enhance the southwest monsoon and will bring rains over Visayas and Mindanao.

The public and the disaster coordinating councils concerned are advised to take appropriate actions and to watch for the next bulletin to be issued at 11 PM today.
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.
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Darn, my arrows (Radar) are never in right place lately, what am I doing wrong?
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See what u mean...

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510. Skyepony (Mod)
Atleast what is going through OK City has weakened a bit. That cell headed east across AK still looks bad.
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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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