High risk of a major tornado outbreak today; 13 dead from Leap Day outbreak

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:14 PM GMT on March 02, 2012

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A powerful spring storm system is gathering strength over Missouri this morning, and will track northeastward into Southern Michigan tonight. The atmosphere in the storm's warm sector, south of the the warm front and east of the cold front, is very unstable, thanks to a flow of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico at the surface, and very cold, dry air aloft. A powerful jet stream with winds winds aloft blowing at 150 mph will interact with this unstable air, and the strong change of wind speed and direction with height (wind shear) associated with this jet will impart a strong twisting motion to updrafts that from in this afternoon's thunderstorms along the cold front. These are ideal conditions for tornado formation, and a large tornado outbreak with damaging long-track tornadoes is likely late this afternoon in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed Central Kentucky, Northern Tennessee, and a small portion of Southern Indiana in their "High Risk" area for severe weather Friday afternoon and evening, and is warning of the possibility of long-track significant tornadoes. While the conditions are not as dangerous as those we saw in 2011 during the May 21 - 25 Joplin, Missouri and late April Southeast U.S. tornado outbreaks, the potential exists for a punishing tornado assault with many more strong and violent tornadoes than occurred during the Leap Day outbreak. A number of severe thunderstorms with damaging winds have already formed this morning along the storm's warm front, in Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois. Consult our Severe Weather Page and Interactive Tornado Page to follow the storms.


Figure 1. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed Central Kentucky, Northern Tennessee, and a small portion of Southern Indiana in their "High Risk" area for severe weather Friday afternoon. This is highest level of alert.


Figure 2. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center is calling for a 30% chance of tornadoes today within 25 miles of each point in the pink shaded area. Within the hatched area, there is a 10% or greater probability of strong EF-2 and EF-3 tornadoes, or violent EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes within 25 miles of a point.

Leap Day tornado outbreak death toll hits 13
The cleanup continues today from the round of deadly tornadoes that pounded the Midwest on Leap Day, killing thirteen people. The outbreak began on February 28, when nine confirmed tornadoes touched down. A pair of EF-2 tornadoes hit Buffalo, Missouri and Harveyville, Kansas, with each twister causing one death. Also on that day, a weak EF-0 tornado moved over open fields near Gandy, Nebraska--the first February tornado in Nebraska since record keeping began in 1950. The outbreak continued on Leap Day, February 29, with 27 more confirmed tornadoes. Hardest hit was Harrisburg, Illinois, where a violent EF-4 tornado with 180 mph killed six, injured approximately 100, and damaged 200 homes and 25 businesses. The tornado cut a path 26.5 miles long and 275 yards wide across the town, according to the NWS damage survey. The only EF-3 tornado of the outbreak hit Asherville, Missouri that day, killing one person. The other deadly tornadoes of the outbreak included an EF-2 tornado that killed one person in Cassville, MO; an EF-2 that killed two in Monterey, Tennessee, and an EF-1 that killed one person in Smithville, Tennessee. An EF-2 tornado also plowed through downtown Branson, Missouri on Leap Day, injuring 33 people. An NWS storm survey found the tornado was 400 yards wide and carved a path 22 miles long. Overall, damage from the two-day tornado outbreak will run in the hundreds of millions, and could add up to the first billion-dollar weather disaster of 2012 in the U.S. The 36 confirmed tornadoes from the outbreak make it the second largest February tornado outbreak since record keeping began in 1950. The biggest February tornado outbreak occurred on February 5 - 6, 2008, when 92 tornadoes touched down.


Figure 3. Damage at the Branson, Missouri Hilton after the Leap Day tornado. The tornado blew out or cracked windows in 219 of the hotel rooms in the 12-story/295 room Hilton Branson Convention Center, and extensively damaged three of Branson’s 50 plus theatres--Americana Theater, Branson Variety Theater and Dick Clarks’ American Bandstand Theater. Image credit: BransonRecovery Facebook page.

Portlight disaster relief charity responds to the Harrisburg, Illinois tornado
Portlight has a seasoned veteran from last year's tornado recovery efforts in Harrisburg, IL, and is looking for more people to volunteer their time. They are teaming with another disaster recovery charity, Team Rubicon, in the effort. As usual, they will be focusing efforts on the unserved, under served and forgotten. Please visit the Portlight Disaster Relief blog to learn more. Donations are always welcome!


Figure 4. Team Rubicon at work during last year's tornado recovery efforts.

Jeff Masters

HARRISBURG IL (catfish10)
HARRISBURG IL
HARISBURG IL. (catfish10)
Golden circle building
HARISBURG IL.

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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Finally a good picture of downtown West Liberty... oh my god.


Definitely not the worst of it.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Finally a good picture of downtown West Liberty... oh my god.



Actually, not quite as bad as I expected. But that is just one part of town.
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 2863
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Finally a good picture of downtown West Liberty... oh my god.

Cant really tell from that but I thought the town would be completely leveled. Not as bad as I thought (As far as I can tell from this Image.)
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Quoting TheOnlyBravesFan:
To the person who said the warning can't be confirmed by dual-pol, they did it again. While I agree that spotting it live is better, they can do it with dual-pol. THe last one they spotted with it was really there (Paulding Co. to Gwinnet Co. now)

* AT 938 PM EST...A DEBRIS SIGNATURE INDICATED BY DOPPLER RADAR
CONFIRMED A TORNADO NEAR SUWANEE...MOVING EAST AT 40 MPH.


You are probably referring to me. And again, coming as someone from the NWS who has been through warning training and has used radar data to analyze easily 100 cases, I can tell you that radar does not spot tornadoes. At best, you can use information that the radar detects to compile a confidence level that a tornado exists.

To repeat...
If radar data is good data, it can see strong winds that are consistent with a strong mesocyclone or, in some cases, the actual tornadic circulation. These winds are not necessarily the tornado, but are indicative of the circulation that can help cause the tornado, or may be winds rotating around a tornadic circulation and are caused by it.
Even with dual pol, the radar is not really spotting a tornado. It is detecting a distribution of targets that are varying in sizes and shapes, and if they vary to a certain extent, it can be consistent with debris lifted into the storm.
Radar is a remote sensing tool, it can lie to you.

When you merge all of the radar information together, still the best you can get is that a tornado is very likely on the ground (probably 90-95% confidence), and perhaps that it is very likely a strong tornado. It certainly would be wise in those situations to convey that information to the public, which is why the NWS is using that information in a tornado warning statement.
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 2863
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Finally a good picture of downtown West Liberty... oh my god.


Seriously looks like a war zone. How terrible. :(
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Quoting redux:


well i think the media can do their job without being a disruption to search and rescue, and without cameras and interviews. just use your eyes.

but that is just me.

another thing to consider is that a LOT of the roads are probably very much inaccessible.


I wish they could, but they are a nuisance. I have helped with these search&rescues/ damage reports before, the media doesn't just film, they want to talk to people and walk around these homes, getting in the way, and it's not to help.
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
Slayersville:

West Liberty:
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Quoting SPLbeater:


ya they are different, when i say media i refer to news stations. TWC is (mostly) weather.
It's pretty sad what they are now, compaired to what they were when they started in the early 1980's.
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Finally a good picture of downtown West Liberty... oh my god.

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Quoting SPLbeater:


ya they are different, when i say media i refer to news stations. TWC is (mostly) weather.


Nah, they're mostly hypers. I prefer my NWS to them.
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Not right now. We'll find out eventually, but we need to let emergency people do their job first.


I agree. There will be enough time/damage left over tomorrow for media to tape all they want. Right now i'm listening to county radio scanners, they are busy trying to clear areas as they search out people/attempt to fix power lines. Having the media there will just hinder there efforts. The damage will be there tomorrow for the media to see.
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
Death toll for today has jumped to 27 per TWC
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Death toll up to 27.
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It's not very much or very telling, but first picture from West Liberty:

Link

It what's left of a church...
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1739. redux
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Not right now. We'll find out eventually, but we need to let emergency people do their job first.


well i think the media can do their job without being a disruption to search and rescue, and without cameras and interviews. just use your eyes.

but that is just me.

another thing to consider is that a LOT of the roads are probably very much inaccessible.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Remember when Weather Channel's Mike Bettes was the first one on scene in Joplin? Instead of reporting, he actually looked in every cars, helped out others, made sure everybody is okay, and other stuff WHILE reporting at the same time. Mike Bettes even cried on national TV because the damage in Joplin was bad.


ya they are different, when i say media i refer to news stations. TWC is (mostly) weather.
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Quoting Speeky:
How many tornadoes do you think will be reported by the time the day is done.

We are at 91 so far.

Over 100.
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1735. Speeky
How many tornadoes do you think will be reported by the time the day is done.

We are at 91 so far.
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Quoting redux:


i could understand them not wanting cameras in, but it is a newsworthy event. someone should be allowed in to be the eyes of the world.
Not right now. We'll find out eventually, but we need to let emergency people do their job first.
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It's slowly quieting down tonight. None of the tornado warned storms have super impressive signatures, which is great news. Tomorrow will be a better day for, accessing the damage, and starting the recovery process.
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Quoting RTSplayer:


Records past 2 days

When you have a Gulf that much above average, and so many record high surface temperatures there is a HUGE amount of energy available.

Over night lows that are higher than the average day time high?

Breaking records by 5 to 22 degrees? Astounding.

You don't think that's unnatural?

My goodness.
I agree , I"m on your team. You can write the explanation to the OP, I felt a "no" kept us on focus with the on going severe weather.
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Quoting TuMama:


A bus in a house? I see it all now. Very sorry for those poor children.
actually, no one was in the bus at that time and all children at that school is accounted for.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Pretty much everybody, including the news people, is very frustrated with lack of details in Eastern Kentucky, especially for West Liberty and Saylersville.


they can go film their house if they want to get a stinkin story i really could care less about the STUPID media!
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To the person who said the warning can't be confirmed by dual-pol, they did it again. While I agree that spotting it live is better, they can do it with dual-pol. THe last one they spotted with it was really there (Paulding Co. to Gwinnet Co. now)

* AT 938 PM EST...A DEBRIS SIGNATURE INDICATED BY DOPPLER RADAR
CONFIRMED A TORNADO NEAR SUWANEE...MOVING EAST AT 40 MPH.
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
Quoting SPLbeater:


GOOD, them stupid media idiots need to stay out!

i hate it when media gets in, cuz all they care about is their stupid news film. they wont care if somebody needs help, they will just film them and move on.
Remember when Weather Channel's Mike Bettes was the first one on scene in Joplin? Instead of reporting, he actually looked in every cars, helped out others, made sure everybody is okay, and other stuff WHILE reporting at the same time. Mike Bettes even cried on national TV because the damage in Joplin was bad.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Pretty much everybody, including the news people, is very frustrated with lack of details in Eastern Kentucky, especially for West Liberty and Saylersville.


The one that hit West Liberty was strongest, but they had a total of 2 strong tornados and a third very powerful STS pass right over the same general area during about a 1 hour span of time.
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1724. redux
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Pretty much everybody, including the news people, is very frustrated with lack of details in Eastern Kentucky, especially for West Liberty and Saylersville.


i could understand them not wanting cameras in, but it is a newsworthy event. someone should be allowed in to be the eyes of the world.
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1721. ncstorm
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For those of you following Fukushima, some studies are being published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information webpage mostly about the detection of Fukushima plume over Europe (Spain, Greece, Romania, Italy and other places)...

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubme d&cmd=link&linkname=pubmed_pubmed&uid=22197531


Study: All of Western US and most of East Coast, Midwest, Canada covered in airborne particles on March 20, Fukushima plume model shows Based solely on Reactor No. 1 explosion

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Pretty much everybody, including the news people, is very frustrated with lack of details in Eastern Kentucky, especially for West Liberty and Saylersville.
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1718. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52116
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Officials is blocking people and news people from entering West Liberty.


From what we saw on radar, there is probably a really good reason for that. And it's not a "good" reason :(

Those poor people.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Officials is blocking people and news people from entering West Liberty.


GOOD, them stupid media idiots need to stay out!

i hate it when media gets in, cuz all they care about is their stupid news film. they wont care if somebody needs help, they will just film them and move on.
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Quoting FatPenguin:


wrong. it's not that easy an answer.

warmer oceans = more energy into the equation that gives us tornadoes.

right now, GOM is above average.
Right, it's not a simple answer, but tonight is not a good time to get into GW, agreed?
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Quoting TheOnlyBravesFan:
They're still coming for GA!!!




when they cme to NC, i shall put my hand up and tell them to stop. they will then turn around and head southwestwards lol
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1713. hydrus
IR short wave.
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Officials is blocking people and news people from entering West Liberty.
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Quoting Chapelhill:

No.


Records past 2 days

When you have a Gulf that much above average, and so many record high surface temperatures there is a HUGE amount of energy available.

Over night lows that are higher than the average day time high?

Breaking records by 5 to 22 degrees? Astounding.

You don't think that's unnatural?

My goodness.
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9 are dead in Indiana from today's tornadoes. 5 are from the very long tracked Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio supercell and 4 are dead in Holton were a mass causality unit was set to the town.
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Meanwhile in the tropical world, TS Irina has lost itself and is now at 40mph
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
It was right across the River from me thought it was gona miss but then I looked at the Fox radar and the area were the tornado was located was right on top of us. I was out on the patio noticing how impressive the inflow was and lightning with no precip. Lets say I freaked out cause I was no longer expecting it.
I was in a night time tornado just east of Newnan GA in the fall of 1990. It was removed from the producing t'storm by at least 20 miles due to the location of the warm front. Was still an F1/ F2 at times. Night tornadoes are really bad!
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They're still coming for GA!!!


Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
... Error, it was a hail report, I misread.
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1705. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52116
1704. hydrus
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.