Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:58 PM GMT on July 05, 2011
The National Weather Service completed damage surveys last month in Alabama on the massive April 25 - 27 tornado outbreak, and found evidence to upgrade another tornado from the outbreak to EF-5 status with winds in excess of 200 mph: the Rainsville, Alabama tornado of April 27, 2011. Damage included houses that were completely removed from foundations and debris scattered for about one mile, trees that were debarked, and a few mobile homes completely destroyed with debris strewn for about a mile downwind. EF-5 damage included a pickup truck that was thrown and torn into multiple pieces, and an 800 pound steel safe anchored to a foundation that was torn away, thrown 600 feet, and had its door ripped from its hinges. Twenty-six people died in the tornado.
Figure 1. The remains of a school bus that was blown across Highway 75 in Rainsville, Alabama during the EF-5 tornado of April 27, 2011. This bus was originally sitting in the parking lot adjacent to the building in the distance to the right. Image credit: National Weather Service.
Figure 2. Number of strong to violent EF-3, EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes from 1950 to 2011. The year 2011 now ranks in 2nd place behind 1974, with 77 of these tornadoes. There is not a decades-long increasing trend in the numbers of these most dangerous of tornadoes, making any link to climate change for this year's terrible tornado season difficult to support. Image credit: NOAA/National Climatic Data Center (updated using stats for 2008 - 2011 from Wikipedia.)
Six EF-5 tornadoes have now been confirmed by the National Weather Service in 2011. This ties the year 1974 for most top-end tornadoes in one year. Here are the 2011 EF-5 tornadoes:
1) The April 27, 2011 Neshoba/Kemper/Winston/Noxubee Counties, Mississippi tornado (3 killed, 29 mile path length.)
2) The April 27, 2011 Smithville, Mississippi tornado (22 killed, 15 mile path length.)
3) The April 27, 2011 Hackleburg, Alabama tornado (71 killed, 25 mile path length.)
4) The April 27, 2011 Rainsville, Alabama tornado (26 killed, 34 mile path length.)
5) The May 22, 2011 Joplin Missouri tornado (157 killed, 14 mile path length.)
6) The May 24, 2011 Binger-El Reno-Peidmont-Guthrie, Oklahoma tornado. (9 killed, 75 mile path length.)
Video 1. The EF-5 tornado that hit Rainsville, Alabama on April 27, 2011 was caught on video as it was re-forming. Tornado formation videos are rare, and this video shows how dangerous it can be to wait until you see a tornado to take shelter. A powerful tornado can form right on top of you with only a few seconds warning.
The Atlantic is quiet
The Atlantic is quiet, with no threat areas to discuss. The only model showing potential activity over the next seven days is the NOGAPS, with predicts that a low pressure system with tropical characteristics may form on Saturday off the coast of North Carolina, in association with a cold front pushing off the coast. If such a storm does form, it would move northeastwards out to sea, and likely not be a threat to land.
I'll be back with a new post Wednesday or Thursday.
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