March 2 - 3 tornado outbreak: 10th largest in recorded history?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:06 PM GMT on March 12, 2012

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The deadly early-season tornado outbreak of March 2 - 3 that hit Indiana, Kentucky, and surrounding states, killing 41 people, may have been the 10th largest two-day tornado outbreak since record keeping began in 1950. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center now lists 132 preliminary tornado reports for March 2, and 11 for March 3. It typically takes several months to finish damage surveys and verify all the tornadoes that really occur in a big tornado outbreak. Sixty-one tornadoes have been confirmed so far, according to Wikipedia's tally of the outbreak. The two-day total of 143 tornadoes from March 2 - 3 is probably an over count of about 15%, based on historical levels of over counts. This would give the March 2 - 3 outbreak around 120 tornadoes, making it the tenth largest outbreak since record keeping began in 1950. Assuming this is true, the past two tornado seasons would hold four of the top ten spots for largest tornado outbreaks in recorded history. Below are the top two-day tornado outbreaks since 1950. Several of these two-day totals were taken from outbreaks that lasted three or more days; the highest two-day period of activity was selected for this list, so that the outbreak would not be mentioned multiple times. The numbers from the 2011 outbreaks are still preliminary:

262, Apr 26 - 27, 2011
169, Apr 3 - 4, 1974
160, May 29 - 30, 2004
141, May 24 - 25, 2011
135, Jan 21 - 22, 1999
130, Apr 15 - 16, 2011
125, May 4 - 5, 2003
123, Jun 15 - 16, 1992
121, May 4 - 5, 2007
120ish, Mar 2 - 3, 2012
120, May 3 - 4, 1999


Video 1. Spectacular tornado video taken at a home in West Liberty, Kentucky outfitted with seven automatic security cameras, which captured the fury of the strong EF-3 tornado with 165 mph winds that roared overhead on March 2, 2012. The views from all the cameras are worth watching, but don't watch past 7:00, as the end of the video has three minutes of blankness at the end. According to an article at wkyt.com, the home owners, Randy and Norma Risner, took shelter in the basement, and their home survived the tornado. "You could actually feel the ground shaking and our the 11-foot basement walls were shaking, too," Norma said. The tornado destroyed their workshop (caught on camera), and another camera shows the roof of their neighbors home peel off.


Video 2. Perhaps even more impressive is video taken at a nearby pharmacy showing the West Liberty tornado destroying buildings across the street. The view from Clinic Pharmacy starts at 0:50 into this video.

The uncertain business of counting tornadoes
While there's no question that having four top-ten tornado outbreaks in just two years is highly unusual, the quality of our tornado data base is poor, and there are probably outbreaks that occurred prior to 1990 that were significantly under-counted and would have made the top ten list, had they occurred today. The number of tornadoes being reported has increased in recent decades, and this increase may be due entirely to factors unrelated to climate change:

1) Population growth has resulted in more tornadoes being reported.

2) Advances in weather radar, particularly the deployment of about 100 Doppler radars across the U.S. in the mid-1990s, have resulted in a much higher tornado detection rate.

3) Tornado damage surveys have grown more sophisticated over the years. For example, we now commonly classify multiple tornadoes along a damage path that might have been attributed to just one twister in the past.


Figure 1. Number of EF-1, EF-2, EF-3, EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes from 1950 to 2011. The total shown for 2011 is preliminary and uses unofficial numbers, but 2011 now ranks in 2nd place behind 1973. There is not a decades-long increasing trend in the numbers of tornadoes stronger than EF-0, implying that climate change, as yet, is not having a noticeable impact on U.S. tornadoes. Data provided by Harold Brooks, NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory.

If we look at changes in the strongest tornadoes--EF-1, EF-2, EF3, EF4, and EF-5 twisters, the ones most likely to have a reliable long-term detection rate, due to their destructive power--we see no sign of an increasing trend in recent decades (Figure 1), even if we include 2011. However, it is difficult to make solid conclusions on how tornadoes may be changing, since the quality of the historical tornado data set is so poor. This is largely due to the fact that we never directly measure a tornado's winds--a tornado has to run over a building before we can make an EF-scale strength estimate, based on the damage. As tornado researcher Chuck Doswell said in a 2007 paper, "I see no near-term solution to the problem of detecting detailed spatial and temporal trends in the occurrence of tornadoes by using the observed data in its current form or in any form likely to evolve in the near future." Major changes in the rating process occurred in the mid-1970s (when all tornadoes occurring prior to about 1975 were retrospectively rated),and again in 2001, when scientists began rating tornadoes lower because of engineering concerns and unintended consequences of National Weather Service policy changes. Also, beginning in 2007, NOAA switched from the F-scale to the EF-scale for rating tornado damage, causing additional problems with attempting to assess if tornadoes are changing over time.


Figure 2. Thomas Hudson and the Portlight trailer in Harrisburg, Illinois.

Portlight disaster relief charity responding to the tornado disaster
The Portlight disaster relief charity has made a strong showing in tornado-devastated Harrisburg, Illinois and Henryville, Indiana. Both towns were hit by deadly EF-4 tornadoes during the February 28 - March 3 tornado outbreak. From the Portlight blog:

"Yesterday we went to Henryville, Indiana and volunteered for a few hours, mainly unloading trailers with water, canned goods, etc.

The people were in great spirit, eager to rebuild, and overall thankful that it wasn't worse than it was.

Myself, Jeremiah Moran, Blaize Edwards, and Andrew Newcomb made the 2 hour drive from Washington, Indiana.

We will be trying to get back this weekend or a couple of days next week."

An interesting sciencedaily.com article discusses how the powerful EF-4 tornado from the February 29, 2012 outbreak that devastated Harrisburg, Illinois passed through a high-density network of seismographs. "The seismograms show a strong, low-frequency pulse beginning around 4:45 a.m. on Feb. 29. Our preliminary interpretation, based on other seismic records of tornadoes, suggests that we were recording not the tornado itself, but a large atmospheric pressure transient related to the large thunderstorms that spawned the tornadoes."

I'll have a new post by Wednesday.

Jeff Masters

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

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Good evening guys
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

You probably do not have your blog post filter set on "Show All".



OK, I looked all over and didn't find that setting anywhere.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I always wanted to know how did the native americans and settlers deal with Tornados and hurricanes?.I've herd people say that native americans would tie themselves to a tree when a hurricane would come.But what about a Tornado?


They would tie themselves to a BIGGER tree!
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The first Tropical Wave of 2011 was analized by TPC at 12z on May 15th. Will this year's first wave be introduced before or after May 15th?

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

They ran for it. If they saw a tornado headed towards them, they ran for their lives.

Not the smartest idea, but they really didn't know how to protect themselves from a tornado then.
That could be one reason.I guess thats a mystery in history we won't fully understand.
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Storms are exploding across Michigan, Tornado Watch just issued.



URGENT - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
TORNADO WATCH NUMBER 73
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
425 PM EDT MON MAR 12 2012

THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER HAS ISSUED A
TORNADO WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF

NORTHERN INDIANA
CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST LOWER MICHIGAN
EXTREME NORTHWEST OHIO
LAKE MICHIGAN

EFFECTIVE THIS MONDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING FROM 425 PM UNTIL
1100 PM EDT.

TORNADOES...HAIL TO 1 INCH IN DIAMETER...THUNDERSTORM WIND GUSTS
TO 70 MPH...AND DANGEROUS LIGHTNING ARE POSSIBLE IN THESE AREAS.

THE TORNADO WATCH AREA IS APPROXIMATELY ALONG AND 65 STATUTE
MILES EAST AND WEST OF A LINE FROM 30 MILES SOUTH SOUTHEAST OF
SOUTH BEND INDIANA TO 35 MILES NORTHEAST OF ROBEN HOOD MICHIGAN.
FOR A COMPLETE DEPICTION OF THE WATCH SEE THE ASSOCIATED WATCH
OUTLINE UPDATE (WOUS64 KWNS WOU3).

REMEMBER...A TORNADO WATCH MEANS CONDITIONS ARE FAVORABLE FOR
TORNADOES AND SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS IN AND CLOSE TO THE WATCH
AREA. PERSONS IN THESE AREAS SHOULD BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR
THREATENING WEATHER CONDITIONS AND LISTEN FOR LATER STATEMENTS
AND POSSIBLE WARNINGS.

DISCUSSION...A PRONOUNCED MIDLEVEL TROUGH IS EJECTING NEWD OVER
WI...WITH STRONG FLOW ALOFT EXTENDING SEWD OVER NRN IL/INDIANA TO
LOWER MI. CLOUD BREAKS AND MOISTURE ADVECTION HAVE RESULTED IN SOME
DESTABILIZATION NEWD INTO LOWER MI...AND CONVECTION APPEARS TO BE
INCREASING IN COVERAGE/INTENSITY SINCE 1945Z. GIVEN THE MODEST
INSTABILITY /MUCAPE OF 500-1000 J PER KG/ AND STRONG DEEP-LAYER
SHEAR...THE ENVIRONMENT WILL SUPPORT A RISK FOR DAMAGING WINDS WITH
BOTH SUPERCELLS AND LINE SEGMENTS. LOW-LEVEL SHEAR AND MOISTURE
WILL ALSO BE AT LEAST MARGINALLY FAVORABLE FOR A TORNADO OR
TWO...ESPECIALLY WITH ANY DISCRETE SUPERCELLS WITHIN THE CORRIDOR OF
STRONGER INSTABILITY.

AVIATION...TORNADOES AND A FEW SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WITH HAIL
SURFACE AND ALOFT TO 1 INCH. EXTREME TURBULENCE AND SURFACE WIND
GUSTS TO 60 KNOTS. A FEW CUMULONIMBI WITH MAXIMUM TOPS TO 400.
MEAN STORM MOTION VECTOR 24045.


...THOMPSON
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31463
Quoting PedleyCA:
Hey, Keeper.

How come all your posts come up Hidden. What's with that. Several others do so as well. Figured you might have a clue as you been around awhile, lol.

You probably do not have your blog post filter set on "Show All".
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31463
Quoting Jedkins01:



100 mb? Are you sure you didn't make a mistake on that??

Haha.

Sorry, there was a 100 mb pressure drop, not the actual pressure.

Seemed a bit strange to me..
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31463
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Hopefully we'll see more of this kind of tornado...well, without the house it destroyed at 2:00 and the whole city is destroyed later on:



This was the Manchester, South Dakota tornado on June 7, 2003. It was rated an F4 (EF5 on the new scale). Record-breaking meteorological data was attained from this tornado, as it directly hit a probe. At the center of the half-mile tornado, a minimum barometric pressure of 100 mbar was observed, with winds estimated near 260 mph.

Pretty amazing...



100 mb? Are you sure you didn't make a mistake on that??
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7281
Hey, Keeper.

How come all your posts come up Hidden. What's with that. Several others do so as well. Figured you might have a clue as you been around awhile, lol.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
wish it away wish it away

weakening to the west of ya
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
hey guys long time no see I guess

I have a question

how would the ENSO impact this hurricane season if it was to be on a neutral-cool side?
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11030
Quoting Patrap:
Aurora over Canada: The incoming CME shock that was detected very early this morning before sunrise, provided a nice treat for Sky Watchers in parts of North America. Olivier Du Tré in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada captured some amazing images including this one. "Red aurora's were going off like CRAZY! I could see RED with the naked eye (which was a first for me)". Visit this website link to view more of his amazing pictures.




www.solarham.com


Very nice, Pat! And just now new northern lights on the abisko aurora cam:
http://www.auroraskystation.com/live-camera/9/
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127559
That's a night Photo less than 1 min as the stars are mostly still.

Stars are not out during the Day in that number.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127559
Quoting DocNDswamp:


Indeed, know you are, Pat.
And 3/4" hail recently reported at Lutcher from the cell...


First grumble from the West is noted.

Deep.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127559
Quoting Patrap:
Aurora over Canada: The incoming CME shock that was detected very early this morning before sunrise, provided a nice treat for Sky Watchers in parts of North America. Olivier Du Tré in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada captured some amazing images including this one. "Red aurora's were going off like CRAZY! I could see RED with the naked eye (which was a first for me)". Visit this website link to view more of his amazing pictures.




www.solarham.com


That looks like it was taken during the daytime. Was that taken with a special exosure or was the aurora borealis visible in daylight?
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Quoting Patrap:
Im watching it closely..

"U betcha"


Indeed, know you are, Pat.
And 3/4" hail recently reported at Lutcher from the cell...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Aurora over Canada: The incoming CME shock that was detected very early this morning before sunrise, provided a nice treat for Sky Watchers in parts of North America. Olivier Du Tré in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada captured some amazing images including this one. "Red aurora's were going off like CRAZY! I could see RED with the naked eye (which was a first for me)". Visit this website link to view more of his amazing pictures.




www.solarham.com
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127559
Guidance for what to do if you are threatened by tornado while on the road says get out and get to a strong building. These videos and the pictures show that a strong building isn't enough. Guidance says if no buildings, get in a ditch, unless the ditch is flooded. My belief is that if one of these suckers is strong enough to pick up a car and beat it up, I'm not going to have much of a chance holding on to the grass in the ditch. Maybe from experience native americans knew where safe places were???
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@KeyWestSun
And to answer your question, I only have one handle here. And that's this one. But while we're on the topic of ignore lists, would you like to be the first person on my iggy list?.......
LOL. Sure!
:)
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 151 Comments: 18360
Cell isn't gonna die, notice the inflow showers being sucked ahead of it, if anything it could intensify, but will surely sustain itself thru NOLA

Look for NOLA to go under Severe TS warning
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting washingtonian115:
I always wanted to know how did the native americans and settlers deal with Tornados and hurricanes?.I've herd people say that native americans would tie themselves to a tree when a hurricane would come.But what about a Tornado?

They ran for it. If they saw a tornado headed towards them, they ran for their lives.

Not the smartest idea, but they really didn't know how to protect themselves from a tornado then.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31463
Im watching it closely..

"U betcha"
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127559
Looks at the other cells being sucked into the main tornadic cell

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
SPC Mesoscale Analysis shows a steady increase in MUCAPE and Effective Bulk Wind Shear. In addition, Effective Storm Relative Helicity values have crept up to 200-300 m2/s2. The environment across Michigan is becoming increasingly favorable for damaging wind gusts and isolated tornadoes. As you can see from the below image, there is a tiny line of showers and thunderstorms beginning to develop across northeastern Illinois. As this line moves eastward, expect gradual intensification, with the potential of both bowing segments and isolated tornadoes. The main severe threat will probably begin in an hour or two, and last until 10 or 11 PM CDT tonight.





Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31463
Batten down the hatches Pat
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
I always wanted to know how did the native americans and settlers deal with Tornados and hurricanes?.I've herd people say that native americans would tie themselves to a tree when a hurricane would come.But what about a Tornado?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
INCOMING!!

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Except for 1974 all the biggest recorded outbreaks happened after 1990. I think it is better documentation causing that. I bet the worst outbreaks 100 years ago or in the 1800s had as many.
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That spinny storm that went S of BR and by Donaldsonville looks headed toward NOLA.

Image added:
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 151 Comments: 18360
Storms in Michigan are just strong t'storms for now at least. Packing pea-sized hail and wind gusts higher than 30 mph with those storms.
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
Quoting Barefootontherocks:

Well that's an interesting glitch in the system.

Maybe you can clarify what you meant. I went to read your blog and it doesn't appear any blogs were ever posted by KeyWestSun handle. Did you use some other handle prior to Feb 12, 2012?
Member Since: February 12, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 572

I'm confused (as usual).
:)



See post #53 and #65 for explanation.
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Quoting SPLbeater:


it aint lame, be proud of it!:D


Okay sir lol. It does need work, and I need practice to become a better blogger, but I'm getting there. I'm proud of it, but compared to the "professional" look of others blogs (including yours, SPL), mine does seem "lame".
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

A foot of rain...in such a short period of time.


Hence the flash flood emergency. Really worried about some of the ungauged areas just west of Carencro. Can also see some of the flooding on the KATC-TV facebook page. Many parts of town are just flooding... not even from a major river, just because there is no where for it to go...
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Quoting ScottLincoln:
Hourly best-estimate, multi-sensor precipitation estimates from the NWS River Forecast Centers:
http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ridge2/RFC_Precip/

A foot of rain...in such a short period of time.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31463
Hourly best-estimate, multi-sensor precipitation estimates from the NWS River Forecast Centers:
http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ridge2/RFC_Precip/
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TheOnlyBravesFan:
I have a new (but lame, I admit) blogLink up, if anyone's interested.


it aint lame, be proud of it!:D
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4481
Quoting TampaTom:
Anyone remember what happened 19 years ago today?

Here's a hint.. it was HUGE!



1993 Storm of the Century


Huge,but not at the limit. Imagine the storm with northern end over mid-Greenland,southern near 15N latitude,western over Dakotas and eastern over Europe. Blizzard of 1993 would be a baby in comparison to that.
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The western US will face its own tsunami. But when?
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting aerojad:

Post of the year. I actually laughed out loud :)


Storm over water...surrounded by land
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting KeyWestSun:

That is because you had started your own blog. Once you create your first blog, the comments automatically reset. Don't ask me why it does that. But it does. It happened to me too. It only happens the one time though, so you'll be okay now.

Well that's an interesting glitch in the system.

Maybe you can clarify what you meant. I went to read your blog and it doesn't appear any blogs were ever posted by KeyWestSun handle. Did you use some other handle prior to Feb 12, 2012?
Member Since: February 12, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 572

I'm confused (as usual).
:)
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 151 Comments: 18360
Sunset LA going under now
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting RitaEvac:
Fish storm

Post of the year. I actually laughed out loud :)
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Fish storm

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
re: #68, 70
You betcha, RE and ST2K.

Meanwhile, roughly 100 miles to the SE of those flooding rains at my location in Houma-Terrebonne - have gotten none of that activity, no measurable rain since Friday, which was fairly meager at that on both my Cocorah gauges, Bayou Cane: .10" amt, Bayou Blue: .17" amts...
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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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