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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I was wondering is there anything going on in Tenn well Memphis right outside of there? My friend and i was talking and he said it looks really bad like really cooled off and the clouds look like there rotating. I mean I don't know I was just wondering.

sheri
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Quoting StAugustineFL:


Current TorCon index at 7 in south-central KS and north-central OK.


If you read the article I posted 253 it seems all the ingredients are coming together for a serious outbreak tomorrow. Lets just pray they stay away from populated areas. Have some potential for some big long track nados
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1951






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Quoting emcf30:
Tomorrow, May 24, 2011, has all the makings of an extremely dangerous weather day across the southern Plains. Parmeters are highly indicative of long-tracked, strong to violent tornadoes across Kansas and Oklahoma. As such, the Storm Prediction Center has issued a Day-2 Moderate Risk, and an upgrade to High Risk appears likely. Residents of the risk areas are strongly urged to monitor this developing situation and have a good severe weather plan in place now. Dozens of storm chasers will be covering this event to provide ground-truth to NWS and media personnel;

Link


Current TorCon index at 7 in south-central KS and north-central OK.
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Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1951
Quoting emcf30:

You may get your wish, The made it a point earlier that this was a prelem and the final will come out tomorrow.
Source Dr. Forbes



ok
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You and me are both Tornado videos fans ;)
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Tomorrow, May 24, 2011, has all the makings of an extremely dangerous weather day across the southern Plains. Parmeters are highly indicative of long-tracked, strong to violent tornadoes across Kansas and Oklahoma. As such, the Storm Prediction Center has issued a Day-2 Moderate Risk, and an upgrade to High Risk appears likely. Residents of the risk areas are strongly urged to monitor this developing situation and have a good severe weather plan in place now. Dozens of storm chasers will be covering this event to provide ground-truth to NWS and media personnel;

Link
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1951
Quoting weaverwxman:
I'm with you chicklet in the no rain in Fla even with all this heat. Yesterday was clear blue skies in S.Fla looked like a cold winter day.Never seen 90 and clear blue skies that I can remember and I've lived here all my life.


Rain is coming, i am getting some sprinkles as we speak now.......look at the mositure that has returned to Florida. Rainy days are coming.


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Guess I have to start paying attention again. I was surprised to see an Invest in the Atlantic Basin. Being so focused and just returning from working the Alabama Tornadoes. Looks to be an active season.
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Quoting Tazmanian:




not too be rude too other blogers

but i was hoping for a EF5 rateing oh well

You may get your wish, The made it a point earlier that this was a prelem and the final will come out tomorrow.
Source Dr. Forbes
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1951
Joplin tornado formingLink
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting IKE:
Here fishie....fishie....


good pre season test nothing more nothing less epac may be where we see first full system then cen carb south of pr by weekend to take us into early june
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remember that even if 92L becomes 30-40 mph it will still be NON-TROPICAL unless if it becomes Tropical which I don't but on the other hand down in the Southwestern Caribbean we could see something there between now and the next 2 weeks
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My bad...the May 27, 1896 tornado killed 118 in east St. Louis; 137 on the Missouri side. See what happens when I pull stats out of my memory (such as it is)?
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Quoting BarometerGirl:
Doppler from Sunday. Hook echo below Joplin appears at 1:35 to 1:39


Looks like a bit of a debris ball at 0:44 :(
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242. IKE
Here fishie....fishie....


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Quoting weaverwxman:
I'm with you chicklet in the no rain in Fla even with all this heat. Yesterday was clear blue skies in S.Fla looked like a cold winter day.Never seen 90 and clear blue skies that I can remember and I've lived here all my life.

no afternoon thunderstorms predicted for us all week yet temps in the 80s and low 90s.
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If anybody wants to see a tornado live this link just had one. it was a small rope. Bad part about this is that the storm is not tornado warned.
Link
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Geesh, I think Joplin's been under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning half of the day. No end in sight as the storms regenerate over the same areas and a new line fires west of I-35
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235. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Japan Meteorological Agency
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #27
SEVERE TROPICAL STORM SONGDA (T1102)
3:00 AM JST May 24 2011
==================================

SUBJECT: Category Two Typhoon In Sea East Of Philippines

At 18:00 PM UTC, Severe Tropical Storm Songda (980 hPa) located at 11.7N 131.5E has 10 minute sustained winds of 55 knots with gusts of 80 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west at 10 knots.

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: T3.5

Forecast And Intensity
=======================
24 HRS: 12.9N 129.4E - 75 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon)
48 HRS: 14.6N 127.0E - 80 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon)
72 HRS: 16.7N 124.4E - 85 knots (CAT 4/Very Strong Typhoon)
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
We may very well be looking at a TD/TS in the Atlantic by Wednesday or Thursday. I know these aren't really reliable, but I'll post them anyway.



92L's problem isn't going to be getting high enough winds, it's going to be convincing the NHC that it has a shallow warm core.
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Quoting StAugustineFL:
Personally I hope it's a very SLOW hurricane season although predictions say otherwise. I'll be fish-casting all season.
i'll be here as well waiting watching warning
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I'm with you chicklet in the no rain in Fla even with all this heat. Yesterday was clear blue skies in S.Fla looked like a cold winter day.Never seen 90 and clear blue skies that I can remember and I've lived here all my life.
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Personally I hope it's a very SLOW hurricane season although predictions say otherwise. I'll be fish-casting all season.
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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.
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...)
California has seen record snow as well. in the Sierra Nevadas, California's largest and tallest mountain range, mammoth mountain (a popular ski resort) set its all time snow record by several feet.
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In case people have not seen this yet...

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

1. A SURFACE LOW LOCATED ABOUT 650 MILES EAST-SOUTHEAST OF BERMUDA IS
ASSOCIATED WITH A MID- TO UPPER-LEVEL LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM. SHOWER
AND THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY REMAINS DISORGANIZED DUE TO STRONG
UPPER-LEVEL WINDS...AND ANY DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SYSTEM SHOULD BE
SLOW TO OCCUR. THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...20 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM
BECOMING A SUBTROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT MOVES
TOWARD THE EAST OR EAST-SOUTHEAST AT 10 TO 15 MPH. ADDITIONAL
INFORMATION ON THIS SYSTEM CAN BE FOUND IN HIGH SEAS FORECASTS
ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE...UNDER AWIPS HEADER
NFDHSFAT1 AND WMO HEADER FZNT01 KWBC. ANOTHER SPECIAL OUTLOOK WILL
BE ISSUED TUESDAY...OR SOONER IF NECESSARY.

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Hiya all. It's been a long off season. Glad to see many of the regulars are still here. I'm afraid Keeper is right about this becoming the norm. The droughts are becoming the norm here in Florida. My grass hasn't needed to be cut in six weeks now. There is no rain. Even the weeds look about to give up.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SPRINGFIELD MO
352 PM CDT MON MAY 23 2011

..TIME... ...EVENT... ...CITY LOCATION... ...LAT.LON...
..DATE... ....MAG.... ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. ...SOURCE....
..REMARKS..

0541 PM TORNADO JOPLIN 37.08N 94.51W
05/22/2011 JASPER MO NWS STORM SURVEY

*** 116 FATAL, 400 INJ *** A NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
STORM SURVEY REVEALED THAT AN EF-4 TORNADO IMPACTED A
LARGE PORTION OF THE CITY OF JOPLIN. WIND SPEEDS WERE
ESTIMATED AT 190 - 198 MPH. THE PATH WIDTH WAS ESTIMATED
AT THREE QUARTERS OF A MILE WIDE.




not too be rude too other blogers

but i was hoping for a EF5 rateing oh well
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Quoting emcf30:


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


Nope... May 27, 1896 St. Louis, Missouri; 255 dead. Bear in mind that 60 0f those dead were on the east side of the river but that leaves 195 in Missouri. This one hit in south St. Louis traveling through the brewery neighborhoods in south city, cut across at the warehouse district and hit east St. louis

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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
XX/XX/XXE
MARK
10.55N/96.88W


Seems like these the waves are the ones supposed to emerge into a system S of RD/PR...

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9874
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PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SPRINGFIELD MO
352 PM CDT MON MAY 23 2011

..TIME... ...EVENT... ...CITY LOCATION... ...LAT.LON...
..DATE... ....MAG.... ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. ...SOURCE....
..REMARKS..

0541 PM TORNADO JOPLIN 37.08N 94.51W
05/22/2011 JASPER MO NWS STORM SURVEY

*** 116 FATAL, 400 INJ *** A NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
STORM SURVEY REVEALED THAT AN EF-4 TORNADO IMPACTED A
LARGE PORTION OF THE CITY OF JOPLIN. WIND SPEEDS WERE
ESTIMATED AT 190 - 198 MPH. THE PATH WIDTH WAS ESTIMATED
AT THREE QUARTERS OF A MILE WIDE.
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Quoting Grandpato4:
I believe the toll will still go higher. It is a tragedy. In all my years, and there are many, I do not recall seeing tornadoes like I have this year.
this is to become the norm friend as much as i don't want it but its here and we have to learn from it and adapt to survive with it
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somebody's got to come on and ask if it's headed for south florida...exciting anyway to see a yellow spot on the NHC hurricane map.
meanwhile, here in florida we are turning into a desert. i cannot believe it is this hot and we are not getting afernoon showers.
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XX/XX/XXE
MARK
10.55N/96.88W
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We may very well be looking at a TD/TS in the Atlantic by Wednesday or Thursday. I know these aren't really reliable, but I'll post them anyway.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32523
if it goes subtropical all bets are off for a cape verde hit...

(sorry...it's been a long wicked off-season)
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XX/INV/92L
MARK
27.85N/54.65W
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Quoting pottery:
Err, take it easy, guys.
There are some strong emotions...


yup...and it is, after all, a weather blog...discussing records is part of the fun here...sit here next to me and let's have sum rum...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting Chicklit:
changing subject briefly:

has blog hysteria broken out over 92L yet?!
i for one am pretty excited about the appearance of this thing.
LinkLoop!


Seems to be wrapping around better, but slowly.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32523
Err, take it easy, guys.
There are some strong emotions...
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24650
changing subject briefly:

has blog hysteria broken out over 92L yet?!
i for one am pretty excited about the appearance of this thing.
LinkLoop!
i am almost hysterical.
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MSNBC Image Slideshow
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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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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.