Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:05 PM GMT on February 29, 2012
Strong tornadoes plowed through the Midwest U.S. last night and this morning, killing at least nine people. Six people died in Harrisburg, Illinois when a tornado hit near 5:37 am CST this morning, damaging or destroying 200 buildings. Another person was killed in southwest Missouri near Buffalo when a possible tornado ripped through a mobile home park. Thirteen others were injured in the mobile home park. Two others died in the Cassville and Puxico areas. A tornado also moved through downtown Branson, Missouri early this morning, causing heavy damage to the city's famous theaters, and injuring at least twelve people. A tornado plowed through the small town of Harveyville, Kansas (population 275), twenty miles southwest of Topeka, at 9:03 pm last night. The tornado destroyed 40 - 60% of the structures and injured ten, one critically. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged fifteen preliminary tornado reports yesterday and today.
The same storm system also brought the heaviest snows of the winter to portions of the Upper Midwest, which has received scant snowfall this winter. Blizzard warnings are posted in South Dakota this morning, where snowfall amounts of 6 - 10 inches are common. According to NOAA's latest storm summary, five states have experienced snowfall amounts of ten inches or more--Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan, and Nebraska. The highest snow amount as of 8 am CST was recorded at Tripoli, Wisconsin, where fourteen inches had fallen.
Figure 1. Radar image of the squall line that passed through Harrisburg, Illinois this morning, spawning a tornado that killed three people. The position of Harisburg is marked by a circle with a "+" symbol.
Figure 2. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged thirteen preliminary tornado reports yesterday.
More tornadoes likely today
The powerful late-winter storm system that spawned the deadly tornadoes will move eastwards, bringing snows of 5 - 10 inches to northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and northern New England. The storm's cold front is triggering severe thunderstorms over much of Kentucky this morning, and these thunderstorms are expected to grow in severity and spawn more tornadoes this afternoon, once the heat of the day destabilizes the atmosphere. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has posted tornado watches for portions of Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio this morning, and has placed much of Tennessee and portions of surrounding states in their "Moderate Risk" area for severe weather today. Consult our Severe Weather Page and Interactive Tornado Page to follow today's severe weather.
Figure 3. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed much of Tennessee and portions of surrounding states in their "Moderate Risk" area for severe weather, one level below the highest level of alert, "High Risk."
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