Tornadoes Slam 5-State Area, Killing Two; Outbreak Continues Today

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:29 PM GMT on May 20, 2013

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The Midwest U.S. is under the gun again today, as a potent storm system that spawned a preliminary count of 24 tornadoes in five states on Sunday reloads and prepares to dish out another afternoon and evening of atmospheric mayhem. Sunday's tornadoes swept through Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois, with Oklahoma bearing the brunt of the assault. The outbreak's only deadly tornado--preliminarily rated as en EF-5 with 166 - 200 mph winds--hit Shawnee, Oklahoma, a town of 30,000 located 35 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. The twister leveled a trailer park, killing two people, and blew a semi-trailer off of an expressway overpass on I-40. At least 21 people were injured and 300 homes destroyed over the five-state area by the tornadoes. The 24 tornadoes from May 19 make it the biggest day for tornadoes in the U.S. this spring, and the highest number reported in one day since January 30, when 44 tornadoes touched down from Georgia to Indiana.


Figure 1. The Shawnee, Oklahoma tornado at 6:44 pm CDT May 19, 2013, as it passed just NW of Shawnee. The tornado killed two people in a mobile home park in Shawnee. Viewer submitted photo. #okwx pic.twitter.com/UCH9e8o9G8 Matt Mahler@themahler


Figure 2. The Shawnee tornado hurled a semi-trailer off of an expressway overpass at Highway 117 and I-40 in Oklahoma, and toppled another semi. Four people who sheltered under this overpass were injured, one seriously, and taken to the hospital. Highway overpasses can act to amplify a tornado's winds, and are very dangerous places to be during a tornado. According to the NWS in Norman Oklahoma, during the tornado outbreak of May 3, 1999, tornadoes crossed three highway overpasses, and at all three locations, there was a fatality. One of the fatalities occurred from an EF-2 tornado in a rural area, which suggests that a tornado need not be a large, violent tornado with a considerable debris cloud to cause fatal injuries to people seeking shelter from storms under overpasses. In addition to the fatal injuries to three people, there were also many severe, potentially life-threatening and gruesome injuries inflicted upon people underneath the overpasses, that in some cases, has left these people with permanent disabilities. Don't take shelter under a highway overpass from a tornado! Image credit: KFOR.com.


Figure 3. Radar reflectivity image taken at 6:08 pm CDT May 19, 2013 of the supercell thunderstorm that spawned the Shawnee, Oklahoma tornado.


Figure 4. Doppler velocity image taken at 6:08 pm CDT May 19, 2013 of the supercell thunderstorm that spawned the Shawnee, Oklahoma tornado. Note the couplet of dark red colors right next to light blues near the center of the image, showing that the air was moving both towards the radar and away from it within a short distance, indicating a tight rotation of the tornado's parent mesocyclone.

Iowa's record tornado-free streak ends at 359 days
A tornado touched down near Slater, Iowa at 6:10 pm CDT on Sunday, May 19, one of six tornadoes reported in the state that day. Remarkably, it was the first tornado recorded in the state since May 24, 2012 (Fayette County.) The 359-day streak without a tornado was the longest tornado-free period in state history. The previous record was 355 days, set between May 5, 1955, and April 26, 1956. The new streak is far more impressive because digital technology and spotter networks today are so comprehensive, resulting in far fewer missed tornadoes. There was a much higher likelihood back in the 1950s for tornadoes to be missed. The exceptional tornado-free period was due to the combination of the state's dry summer of 2012 (3rd driest on record) and cold spring of 2013 (8th coldest March - April on record). Thunderstorms like heat and moisture to form, and its tough to get a tornado if you're experiencing a top-ten driest or coldest spring or summer.


Figure 5. Radar reflectivity image of the tornado-spawning supercell thunderstorm that dropped an EF-1 tornado just to the southwest of Wichita, Kansas, on May 19, 2013.

Wichita gets lucky
At 3:30 pm Sunday, Kansas' largest city, Wichita, got a major scare when a large supercell thunderstorm spawned a half-mile wide tornado to the southwest of the city. The tornado headed directly for the airport and downtown Wichita, prompting the issuance of "Tornado Emergency" for the city. In the wake of the deadly EF-5 tornado that leveled Joplin, Missouri in 2011, the NWS decided to give local NWS offices the option to issue special, strongly worded tornado warnings to let the population know when a particularly dangerous tornado--one that has been confirmed by spotters to be on the ground--is approaching. The NWS issued one of these very strongly-worded tornado warnings on Sunday for Wichita:

Statement as of 3:47 PM CDT on May 19, 2013
... A Tornado Warning remains in effect for southern Sedgwick County until 415 PM CDT...

... Tornado emergency for Wichita...

At 345 PM CDT... a confirmed large... violent and extremely dangerous tornado was located on the southwest side of Wichita... and moving northeast at 30 mph.

This is a particularly dangerous situation.

Hazard... deadly tornado.

Source... weather spotters confirmed tornado.

Impact... you could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter. Complete destruction of neighborhoods... businesses and vehicles will occur. Flying debris will be deadly to people and animals.

Locations impacted include...Maize... downtown Wichita... Wichita... Bel Aire... McConnell Air Force Base…east Wichita and Oaklawn.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

This is an extremely dangerous tornado with complete devastation likely. You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter. Do not delay... seek shelter now! If no underground shelter is available seek shelter in an interior room of the lowest level of a structure... or if time allows... consider moving to an underground shelter elsewhere. Mobile homes and outbuildings will offer no shelter from this tornado.

Tornado... observed
Tornado damage threat... catastrophic
Hail... 2.75in

Wichita TV station KSNW did an excellent job covering the tornado, but were forced to abandon the studio during the height of the storm, as seen on this video clip. You can hear hail pounding the roof as the news crew scrambles for shelter. Station meteorologist J.D. Rudd has this to say: "We are okay. I'll tell you though, it got intense. That thing passed right over our studio. Luckily, it had lifted. But I truly thought the roof of our studio was about to peel off. And the sound of the hail was deafening. What a day. Three hours of coverage with the largest city in the state under a TOR warning for a long time. Weather service called it a Tornado Emergency…'Large, violent tornado on the ground'. Words that gave me chills when I read them." Preliminary damage surveys from the NWS indicate that the Wichita tornado was an EF-1 with a path length 4.6 miles that lifted two miles south of the Wichita airport.


Figure 6. Severe weather outlook for Monday, May 20, calls for a "Moderate Risk" of severe weather over much of Oklahoma, and portions of surrounding states. You can follow today's severe weather outbreak from our Severe Weather page.

Another big severe weather day today in the Midwest
The latest forecasts from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center call for an active severe weather day again on Monday, with a "Moderate Risk" of severe weather over much of Oklahoma, plus portions of Southwest Missouri, Northwest Arkansas, and extreme North Texas. The highest threat for tornadoes will be in Southern Oklahoma and into North Texas. The severe weather outbreak will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday, progressing eastwards into the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes. Only a "Slight Risk" of severe weather is expected those days.


Video 1. Impressive footage (peaking at 4:30 of the video) of the huge tornado that devastated Carney, Oklahoma on May 19, 2013.


Video 2. The "Dominator 3" armored tornado intercept vehicle saw plenty of action on Sunday, as seen in this video, taken just northeast of Edmond, Oklahoma. From the ‪http://tvnweather.com/‬ description of the video: "This tornado was one of the strongest ever intercepted, and we needed all 10,000k pounds of the new Dominator because I have never felt vibration like that before as we were slammed by suction vortices wrapping all around the vehicle. Jim Cantore was on board and he's hooked. All part of #TornadoChasers, Season 2013 coming up this fall on ‪http://tvnweather.com/ondemand‬"

Additional info
Wunderblogger Lee Grenci has an interesting post discussing how last Wednesday's Granbury, Texas tornado was able to form in an atmosphere that seemingly had too little wind shear to get a supercell thunderstorm spinning. The Granbury tornado was an EF-4 with 166 - 200 mph winds that killed six people, and was part of a weather system separate from the one that is generating the current Midwest U.S. tornado outbreak.

news9.com out of Oklahoma City had some excellent live helicopter coverage of Sunday's storms, and will likely be out there again today.

Jeff Masters

Severe Thunderstorm Warned 4 (smyezek)
Outflow dominate storms, interesting to watch especially this wall of water that just pushed east. Lots of wind, heavy rains and even some decent size hail (mainly quarter sized, but may have been slightly larger). Intercepted this storm several miles SW of Coin, Ia (Page County). Wall of Water from an outflow dominate storm.
Severe Thunderstorm Warned 4
Don't Try This At Home (taddarkprince)
No Really....Don't try this at home. Pentax K-5 and Tamron 10-24mm Lens.
Don't Try This At Home
Rozel, KS Stovepipe Tornado! (charlesimages)
My first tornado ever in my chasing career, and it's this massive beast! Awesome! Follow my adventures at facebook.com/CharlesimagesStormedia and cistormedia.com!
Rozel, KS Stovepipe Tornado!
Medford, OK (amy1225)
Medford, OK
After the Storm (ctrmom)
Calm after the storm, with lots of birds singing in the background too!
After the Storm

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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
How many schools did the tornado hit?!
Don't forget preschool daycare's and the medical center.
Member Since: August 31, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 438
This is EF-5 damage.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
the structure at the behind of the same cell remind me of a weak hook echo. but i am hoping it is not that.
Member Since: July 30, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 20
Sh*t! This tornado was with out a doubt an EF4/EF5. Two schools have been completely devastated, dozens of homes and other structures completely flattened. I haven't seen devastation like this since Joplin.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 5085
New tornado touching down near Foster south of Lindsey
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3477
Unfortunately reminds me of Andrew. I have a film picture I took of a school bus on top of a collapsed house in the Kendall area west of Fl Turnpike. I know what it feels like to be inside of that. Sigh.
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I can't watch this.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32856
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
How many schools did the tornado hit?!


it looks like 2..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16225
How many schools did the tornado hit?!
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
The ground was scoured. The trees were debarked. The school has been absolutely wiped out.

This was an EF5.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32856
I cannot believe the damage they are showing. Total devastation.
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Im crying right now..watching the school coverage on TWC..sorry guys this is too emotional
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16225
Extremely apparent tornado scar from areal imagery.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
cnn showing damage! slabs all seen on certain images
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2751
Wow, the damage from the helicopter is beyond comprehension.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 8047
Omg the images the chopper are showing look like Greensburg.
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From a chaser...

"I think everything… is gone… the Wal-Mart… my house… gone…"
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32856
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
This is apparently the elementary school.

Link

If that really was a school, then this was an excessively violent tornado, based on how sturdily schools are built even where I live.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
News 9 is showing the damage. Wow.

Link
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
From one of the news agencies in OK. So scary.



LIVE: Huge Twister Touchdown in Oklahoma
Posted on: 2:29 pm, May 20, 2013, by Kara Sutyak
By Nick Valencia. Catherine E. Shoichet and Holly Yan

SHAWNEE, Oklahoma (CNN) – A massive tornado estimated to be at least two miles wide is moving through Moore, Oklahoma, in the southern part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, CNN affiliate KFOR reported. Meteorologists warned that residents must be underground to survive a direct hit from this tornado.

The rare tornado emergency was issued for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area Monday afternoon as at least one twister touched down in the area. A tornado emergency is enhanced wording in a tornado warning indicating a large tornado is moving into a heavily populated area. Significant widespread damage and numerous fatalities are possible.
Member Since: June 9, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 866
Quoting MississippiWx:
Elementary school in Moore.


That was an elementary school!? Those poor kids...
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 5085
Quoting RitaEvac:
Ran into stable air where heavy rain was in front of it
Probably a nice boundary interaction from the lakebreeze east of Moore which contributed to the intense updraft. Subsequent big gulp of cooler lake airmass disrupted the updraft.
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oh no another tornado warning south of okc! aww man
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2751
This is apparently the elementary school.

Link
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32856
ill be back later, i need to see this mess...

Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4316


Still has a couplet, let's see how this goes...

Storm-Relative Velocity on LEFT
Hydrometeor Classification on RIGHT
Member Since: June 18, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 946
on CNN Governor Fallon just said the sirens just started going off again - tornado # 3
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Did I not tell yall that Basehunters page was great..they get in the thick of things and take some great pictures and provide excellent coverage..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16225
Elementary school in Moore.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Assuming this tornado just now was at least an EF4, Moore has been hit with four F/EF4 or greater tornadoes within 14 years.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
New Warning:

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
340 PM CDT MON MAY 20 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NORMAN HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHWESTERN LINCOLN COUNTY IN CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...
SOUTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA COUNTY IN CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...
NORTHEASTERN CLEVELAND COUNTY IN CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...
NORTHWESTERN POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY IN CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...

* UNTIL 415 PM CDT

* AT 338 PM CDT...A THUNDERSTORM WITH A HISTORY OF PRODUCING
TORNADOES WAS LOCATED NEAR STANLEY DRAPER LAKE. A TORNADO MAY
DEVELOP AGAIN AT ANY TIME. DOPPLER RADAR SHOWED THIS DANGEROUS
STORM MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.

IN ADDITION TO A TORNADO...LARGE DESTRUCTIVE HAIL UP TO TENNIS BALL
SIZE IS EXPECTED WITH THIS STORM.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
STELLA...MCLOUD...STANLEY DRAPER LAKE...DALE AND BETHEL ACRES.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TAKE COVER NOW IN A STORM SHELTER OR AN INTERIOR ROOM OF A STURDY
BUILDING. STAY AWAY FROM DOORS AND WINDOWS.
&&

LAT...LON 3530 9704 3530 9740 3539 9742 3553 9705
TIME...MOT...LOC 2039Z 255DEG 24KT 3535 9736

$$
30
Member Since: June 18, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 946
Power just flashed from the large cell going over Tampa right now...a ton of lightning and good winds.

Nothing compared to OK right now...scary stuff.
Member Since: September 10, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 409
2nd tornado on the ground near the first one.....
Worst thing i have ever seen on radar..
Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4316
Near the Moore medical center.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32856
Quoting Charmeck:
Watching CNN right now - OMG - Prayers going out to all people in the path of these storms. That thing is still on the ground - 1-2 miles wide!!!!!


They said a quarter mile wide on the live news.
Member Since: July 20, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 3013
thank u jesus it lifted!
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2751
This is terrible...
Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4316
There's another rain wrapped tornado on the ground near Cox City, Oklahoma.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 5085
Quoting Grothar:
This is one big storm. the city of Moore was devastated a few years ago.


Link



Remember driving through that area later that year ('99), damage was still very evident, believe there was a strip mall along 44 that had been glanced, still closed, debris still in trees. Hard to believe they'd get hit that hard again, but it is OK.
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Structures in Moore, such as the Elementary school with kids reportedly trapped, are leveled according to emergency officials and storm chasers.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32856
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Ran into stable air where heavy rain was in front of it
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9686
Watching CNN right now - OMG - Prayers going out to all people in the path of these storms. That thing is still on the ground - 1-2 miles wide!!!!!
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Quoting SouthernIllinois:
Did this really just go through downtown Moore. I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS.


yes.... Yes it did.....




This is a saved gif image from earlier, look at the strength of this thing...
Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4316
Roped out, doesn't really matter though - already went right through the most heavily populated areas.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24578
There might be another one developing behind this one. Check out the hook developing.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Roping out.
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Is gone in matters of seconds.
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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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