First U.S. billion-dollar disaster of 2012: March 2-3 tornado outbreak

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:17 PM GMT on April 09, 2012

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The first billion-dollar weather disaster of 2012 for the U.S. was the March 2 - 3 tornado outbreak in the Midwest and Southeast, said NOAA today. They put the total cost of the tornadoes that killed 41 people in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Alabama at 1.5 billion. Global reinsurance company AON Benfield, in their latest monthly Global Catastrophe Recap Report, put the damage at $2 billion. The outbreak spawned two EF-4 tornadoes, one which devastated Henryville, Indiana, and another that plowed through Crittenden, Kentucky. The two other tornado outbreaks of note that occurred in February and March had damages less than $1 billion: the Leap Day tornadoes in Illinois and surrounding states ($475 million), and the Dexter, Michigan tornado EF-3 tornado of March 15 ($275 million.) I expect that the tornadoes that swept through the Dallas, Texas region last week will likely have a damage tally in the hundreds of millions, but fall short of the billion-dollar mark. In 2011, we already had two billion-dollar weather-related disasters by the first week of April, so we are behind last year's pace. NOAA's National Climatic Data Center logged a record fourteen billion-dollar weather disasters in 2011. There has been just one other billion-dollar disaster in the world this year, according to AON Benfield--severe flooding in Australia's New South Wales and Victoria states in late February and early March that caused $1.58 billion in damage. A separate flooding episode in late January and early February caused an additional $920 million in damage in Australia.


Figure 1. A school bus mangled by the EF-4 Henryville, Indiana tornado of March 2, 2012. Image credit: NWS Louisville, Kentucky.



A week for severe severe weather across the Plains and Midwest
Expect severe weather and tornadoes every day this week across the Plains and Midwest U.S., says NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC). A warm, unstable airmass will collide with cold air funneling down from Canada most of the week, creating conditions ripe for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes all week. The main focus of severe weather today will be over Western Oklahoma and portions of the Texas Panhandle, where SPC has issued their lowest highest level of alert, a "Slight Risk."


Figure 2. Severe weather threat for Monday, April 9, 2012.


Video 1. Wunderground tornado expert Dr. Rob Carver alerted me to this remarkable railroad surveillance video recently posted to YouTube that captures a train derailed by a Tornado January 7, 2008 in Harvard, IL. The tornado moved across the Chicago and Northwestern railroad where it blew 12 railroad freight cars off the track. The train was moving at the time the tornado hit it, so as the main engine stopped, the remaining cars on the track continued along it and slammed into the front part of the train. No one was injured, but 500 residents in the nearby unincorporated town of Lawrence were evacuated because of the potential for a hazardous materials situation.

Jeff Masters

tornado damage 3/2/12 (clerese3)
3/2/12 tornado damage to a business I pass on my way to and from work. This was a beautiful brick building.
tornado damage 3/2/12
Franklin Tornado/Mesocyclone (BySurasWeather)
Beginning of Tornado in Franklin, NC. Taken by a local Wal Mart Worker and was uploaded to Weather Channel on March 2, 2012
Franklin Tornado/Mesocyclone
Tornado (JimAtTn)
This picture of a small tornado was taken on Friday March 02, 2012 in southern Lincoln County, Tennessee about 7 miles south of Fayetteville. Photographer: Angela Currey-Echols
Tornado
Lumberton Lightning (TopekaStormChasers)
This pic was taken last night near Lumberton Mississippi
Lumberton Lightning

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Quoting MTWX:


Let's see how good you guys are... Here are a couple images from my personal collection... Which ones are tornadoes and which are not.







top one only.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9738
Quoting MTWX:


Let's see how good you guys are... Here are a couple images from my personal collection... Which ones are tornadoes and which are not.







1. Appears to be a tropical rain band
2. Appears to be a wall cloud
3. Does appear to be a tornado

The problem here is that none of those photos shows a debris cloud...
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Quoting RitaEvac:


Top one only


I was thinking that as well but I remember the third image being a tornado just last April. But I could be wrong!
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting MTWX:


Let's see how good you guys are... Here are a couple images from my personal collection... Which ones are tornadoes and which are not.







1st one: I think it is in the distance, but i'm not 100% sure, more like 95%

2nd one: Nope, it looks like just dust kicked up by straight line winds. 100% sure

3rd one: Very possible, but the house is obscuring the visibility, so all I can tell is that it appears to be a low hanging wall cloud.
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Quoting MTWX:


Let's see how good you guys are... Here are a couple images from my personal collection... Which ones are tornadoes and which are not.







Pic one and three.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting MTWX:


Let's see how good you guys are... Here are a couple images from my personal collection... Which ones are tornadoes and which are not.







Top one only
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9648
Quoting NEwxguy:


Looking through your multi colored glasses will make any cloud look like a tornado


Ahh, those are just for photo opportunities...how you doing, my Yankee friend?
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:

yo rita ya I know its not aug 9 I know what day it is I know what time of year this is you don't need to go on as if I was a crazy idiot ya read me


Me speak no espaniol
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9648
96. MTWX
Quoting Jedkins01:
Those 2 pictures posted on this blog that say they are tornadoes sure don't look like tornadoes to me. If I named cloud formations like that to be tornadoes every time I saw them I would see 100 tornadoes a year here during the wet season months...


I mean I realize they are pictures and the views are somewhat limited, so its hard to judge. But still, do we have confirmation they are tornadoes? They look very "non-tornado" like. They seem more to be general cloud formations seen with strong to severe thunderstorms.
Quoting Floodman:


Nah, just don't like general statements like that. Now if he says he's seen a few, I can take his statement as it stands (I'm at 16 or so within a mile or two; certainly not a lot, but more than most) and both those photos looked pretty familiar from here...


Let's see how good you guys are... Here are a couple images from my personal collection... Which ones are tornadoes and which are not.





Member Since: July 20, 2009 Posts: 23 Comments: 1393
Quoting BahaHurican:
Not quite sure we r ready for the first Twave of the season just yet...


BLOB
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting RitaEvac:


It's not August 9th, please return back to the current time and get back to the time machine immediately

yo rita ya I know its not aug 9 I know what day it is I know what time of year this is you don't need to go on as if I was a crazy idiot ya read me
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Not quite sure we r ready for the first Twave of the season just yet...


I know
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hey guys look at that blob on the W coast of Africa



It's not August 9th, please return back to the current time and get back to the time machine immediately
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9648
Not quite sure we r ready for the first Twave of the season just yet...
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hey guys look at that blob on the W coast of Africa

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I have a complete blog dedicated to ENSO with graphics,models and updates by Climate Prediction Center and the Australians. Check it out.

Link
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63 aspectre: 300foot(90metre) tall spikes caused by limestone weathering
in the ~600sq.kilometre(~230sq.mile) stone forest of Tsingy de Bemaraha
77 LargoFl: Now That is quite an interesting place, so unusual...great pics there...

So close to "That's impossible!" looking that I had to (use the excuse of weathering to) share.

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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
Up to 120 kts with this next system.
Looks like a large tornado outbreak may be on the way! I think we could have a high risk this week.
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Quoting Floodman:


Nah, just don't like general statements like that. Now if he says he's seen a few, I can take his statement as it stands (I'm at 16 or so within a mile or two; certainly not a lot, but more than most) and both those photos looked pretty familiar from here...


Looking through your multi colored glasses will make any cloud look like a tornado
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Quoting LargoFl:
Now That is quite an interesting plce, so unusual..great pics there..ty
Agreed. The limestone spires remind me of what we call "honeycomb rock" here; the sea washes the coastal limestone into sharp grey spikes and blades similar to what is seen in these photos, only on a much smaller scale.

Awesome.
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Wow!

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Puerto Rico is once again in the wet pattern that has been with us almost all year so far.

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Quoting Neapolitan:
Well, no. The warmest March in USA since ever.Not quite:

hot

Well, it already is above--but, yes, it will go considerably higher as we transition to an El Nino.


Transition is underway.

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting Neapolitan:
.
Sorry, I plussed the wrong post by mistake...

Thanks for the global info. I remember hearing about the cold snap, but got the impression from some "other" sources that it lasted for more than a couple weeks.

This is one reason I like to stick with WUbloggers... I get a lot more info that way.
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Quoting aspectre:
IF we transition to ElNino: the consensus prediction makes it appear as if this year will be Neutral, possibly barely nudging into ElNino territory before returning to Neutral.
Fair enough. But considering that 2011 was the warmest El Nino year ever recorded, I imagine even an ENSO-neutral year will be more than toasty.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13626
Quoting FtMyersgal:


Agreed. The SPC map is an indicator of where weather may become a concern. It should be used along with other tools to determine an area's potential for moderate or severe weather IMO
Haha. IMO. But then, I don't live in FL. It's only noon, hon.

There are others who can interpret the signs also, but the SPC has the best tools available to others, and then some. And, of course, when it comes to tornadoes, the best tools are radar and watching the sky. That's why storm spotters, and I don't mean only storm chasers, are key for NWS and emergency management in areas like the Plains this time of year.

Quoting ncstorm:
Just because there isnt a moderate risk on the SPC map dosent mean anything..look at the Dallas tornado..they only had a 2% tornado risk for that day and a F3 popped up. Weather has a mind of its own despite what computer models say or try to say.
Means a lot if you're living under it.

You and others might want to review the SPC's FAQ section on convective outlooks and the notations on the convective outlooks regarding what a 2% probability means.
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IF we transition to ElNino. From the charts I've seen here, the consensus prediction makes it appear as if this year will be Neutral, possibly barely nudging into ElNino territory before returning to Neutral.
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.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13626
Quoting swampdooogggg:

You starting again, Jerry? ;-)


Nah, just don't like general statements like that. Now if he says he's seen a few, I can take his statement as it stands (I'm at 16 or so within a mile or two; certainly not a lot, but more than most) and both those photos looked pretty familiar from here...
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Quoting Skeptic33:
Warmest March in USA since 1910.
Well, no. The warmest March in USA since ever.
Quoting Skeptic33:
global temperature remains below 30 years average line.
Not quite:

hot

Quoting Skeptic33:
It will go above when El Nino returns
Well, it already is above--but, yes, it will go considerably higher as we transition to an El Nino.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13626
Quoting BahaHurican:
Prolly balanced in our hemisphere by one of the coldest Marchs on record for much of Europe, IIRC... didn't they have snow in Rome etc?
Nope. Both March, and the winter as a whole, were warmer than normal for most of Europe. There was that single intense cold snap in late January/early February, but at just two weeks, it wasn't enough to seriously offset the warmth. For instance, this winter 2011-2012 summary from the UK Met Office:

Mean temperatures over the UK were 0.6 C above average during December, 1.3 C above in January and 0.7 C above in February. The UK mean temperature for the winter was 4.5 C, much milder than the last three winters, and comparable with several other mild winters since 2000. December was generally mild, especially across southern areas. After a mostly mild January, the last few days saw the onset of a cold spell that lasted 2 weeks with some sharp frosts and snowfalls, especially over England. Mild weather then returned until the end of February. Over Scotland and Northern Ireland, it was the mildest February since 1998, and one of the mildest on record.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13626
Yup. Warmest March in USA since 1910.



However, global temperature remains below 30 years average line. It will go above when El Nino returns.



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Up to 120 kts with this next system.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9738
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300foot(90metre) tall spikes caused by limestone weathering in the
~600sq.kilometre(~230sq.mile) stone forest of Tsingy de Bemaraha
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Prolly balanced in our hemisphere by one of the coldest Marchs on record for much of Europe, IIRC... didn't they have snow in Rome etc?


Perhaps, although many of the colder areas did not experience the cold for quite as long. The global March analysis from NOAA will come out later this month, then it might be easier to compare.

Just remember that it works both ways... when we had our cold winters the past few years, other parts of the world were very warm. Globally averaged, we were warmer than average and still near the record. I would imagine that that will still be the case this year, as well.
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3244
Quoting ncstorm:
Just because there isnt a moderate risk on the SPC map dosent mean anything..look at the Dallas tornado..they only had a 2% tornado risk for that day and a F3 popped up. Weather has a mind of its own despite what computer models say or try to say.


Agreed. The SPC map is an indicator of where weather may become a concern. It should be used along with other tools to determine an area's potential for moderate or severe weather IMO
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Prolly balanced in our hemisphere by one of the coldest Marchs on record for much of Europe, IIRC... didn't they have snow in Rome etc?
The intense cold was earlier in the year. I was skiing in the Alps at the start of March and marvelled at the work of the - not sure what you call them, in Europe, pisteurs - in keeping the trails. Huge amounts of snow remained from earlier, which was fortunate as some days the temperature was topping 60f at well over 7,000 feet ASL. Mounds of slush each afternoon were transformed overnight into a hard but skiable surface, which lasted surprisingly well. First time I've ever sought shade on a skiing holiday. Six days back to back blue sky :-)
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1130 cdt Convective Outlook maintains Slight risk area over KS, OK, and TX,

BUTTT... sounds like this might be upgraded to Moderate risk by the 3 pm outlook time. From today's late morning outlook: SUPERCELL STORMS CAPABLE OF VERY LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS. LOW LEVEL WINDS ARE FORECAST TO STRENGTHEN THROUGH THE EARLY EVENING... WHICH MAY ALSO SUPPORT A RISK OF A FEW TORNADOES AS THE STORMS TRACK SOUTHEASTWARD ACROSS WESTERN OK.

Was a moderate risk area delineated over Western OK in the 1 am convective outlook that had been reduced to slight at 0800 cdt.

If you are in these areas, Stay tuned to your favorite weather info source...
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Galveston water temp 78 degrees


Do you have the fishing tackle ready?
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Yeah saw that on TWC this morning. unreal almost the whole US was covered in red dots.
It's Official... Warmest March!





Some dots are full and others are just rings
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting StormTracker2K:


Yeah saw that on TWC this morning. unreal almost the whole US was covered in red dots.
It's Official... Warmest March!



Interesting that S FL and much of TX were not in record breaking territory. In the Bahamas, our March was pretty much average, and not the constantly above average temps of Marches in the last 10 years.
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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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