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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613. Gearsts
8:36 PM GMT on May 20, 2013
Is gone in matters of seconds.
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2002
612. Ameister12
8:36 PM GMT on May 20, 2013
It's dissipating..., but it could drop another tornado.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 5086
611. MAweatherboy1
8:36 PM GMT on May 20, 2013
Finally, it is roping out, and gone.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 8049
610. weatherh98
8:36 PM GMT on May 20, 2013
Rope
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
608. nofailsafe
8:35 PM GMT on May 20, 2013


Reflectivity on the left, hydrometeorclassification on the right. HUGE debris ball. Getting really close to the TLX radar. This is incredible.
Member Since: June 18, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 946
607. RitaEvac
8:34 PM GMT on May 20, 2013
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9686
606. Ameister12
8:34 PM GMT on May 20, 2013
Quoting ILwthrfan:
2 schools got hit east of I-35 in Moore.

Some kids are still in school. Good god...
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 5086
605. Torito
8:34 PM GMT on May 20, 2013
Quoting RitaEvac:
40 frames



shal i save this as a GIF too?
Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4316
604. Civicane49
8:33 PM GMT on May 20, 2013
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
603. Civicane49
8:33 PM GMT on May 20, 2013


Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
602. JTDailyUpdate
8:33 PM GMT on May 20, 2013
Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, TWC, every national news network is carrying this live right now
Member Since: August 19, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 347
601. bigwes6844
8:33 PM GMT on May 20, 2013
cars flipped on I 35 really bad situation going on in Moore
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2751
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
From Basehunters.

This was a violent tornado.

This was a daycare.

I feel sick! :(
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Strong rotation in the cell just NE of Wichita Falls
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Quoting MississippiWx:
The tornado I've seen for most of the time doesn't seem to be a mile wide. It has stretched to that large a few times possibly, but the average width seems to be half a mile. Still a very large and violent tornado. Bad news.



From most vantage points it appears larger than it is because it thins a lot as it hits the ground
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
From Basehunters.

This was a violent tornado.

This was a daycare.



Uhhh...wow.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
40 frames

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9686
From Basehunters.

This was a violent tornado.

This was a daycare.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32872
For the emergency Streams

Oklahoma Couty Sheriff and Fire


Oklahoma City Police


Oklahoma City Fire
Member Since: August 19, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 347
Looks more conical right now rather than a wedge, but it's kind of hard to tell with the debris. Still a very dangerous tornado.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
The tornado I've seen for most of the time doesn't seem to be a mile wide. It has stretched to that large a few times possibly, but the average width seems to be half a mile. Still a very large and violent tornado. Bad news.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
2 miles wide!!!!!!!!
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2751
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100% sure this is an EF5 Tornado.
Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4316
AccuWeather.com‏@breakingweather3 min
MT @nwsnorman: 322pm: Tornado is so large you may not realize it's a tornado. If you are in Moore, go to shelter NOW! #okwx
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Debris ball reflectivities are some of the highest I've ever seen.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
2 schools got hit east of I-35 in Moore.
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I'm sure this has been said already in the past half hour but Moore, OK has had some really bad luck...

1.) 1999 Bridge Creek-Moore F5
2.) 2003 May Outbreak F4
3.) 2010 May Outbreak EF4

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore,_Oklahoma_torn ado_(disambiguation)
Member Since: June 18, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 946
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
326 PM CDT MON MAY 20 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NORMAN HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHEASTERN COTTON COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST OKLAHOMA...
WESTERN JEFFERSON COUNTY IN SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA...
NORTHERN CLAY COUNTY IN NORTHERN TEXAS...

* UNTIL 430 PM CDT

* AT 324 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO. THIS DANGEROUS
STORM WAS LOCATED 4 MILES NORTHWEST OF PETROLIA...AND MOVING EAST
AT 20 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
WAURIKA...RYAN...PETROLIA...BYERS AND SUGDEN.
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look at the power flashes!!!! it looks like fireworks!
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2751
http://kfor.com/on-air/live-streaming/
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Crap... It's still there. Massive stove pipe/wedge.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 5086
Quoting Middy83:
anyone got live feed for the moore,OK tornado?


Grothar has one - post #479
Member Since: July 20, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 3013
tornado coverage
Link
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2751
Still a HUGE tornado on the ground.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24580
Quoting Middy83:
anyone got live feed for the moore,OK tornado?


Link
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32872
anyone got live feed for the moore,OK tornado?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
OMG!!!!! this thang is so freakin huge!! it looks bigger than a mile wide! IDK what the heck this is now! this is heartbreaking
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2751
The tornado seems to be weakening, though still strong.

Edit: Possibly cycling/restrengthening.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 8049
Everybody needs to brace themselves for what is about to come out of this.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32872
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Saved the gif, It can be used by anyone now and it will never update, it is history preserved now.



Feel free to use it at any time, credit to me would be appreciated since i spent 10 minutes saving it and making sure it cant update.
Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4316
SevereStudios‏@severestudios25 s
Pieces of houses, other debris falling on Ben McMillan as he chases the massive tornado in Moore, OK. Pray for these people.
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I said things were very favorable for significant tornadoes with discrete cells earlier in the outbreak today. Unfortunately, I was right.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
Going to hit Moore directly
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
i am looking at ben mcmillan stream there are insulation from house on the road. not a good sign.
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2 mile wide debris ball!!!!!


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2 mile wide debris ball.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 8049
That is one heck of a debris ball

KTLX Oklahoma City, OK - GRLevel3
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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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