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

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

Share this Blog
44
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 563 - 513

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25Blog Index

That is one heck of a debris ball

KTLX Oklahoma City, OK - GRLevel3
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Reminds me of Tuscaloosa.


Looks JUST LIKE the May 3rd F5. This is terrifying.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4498
Tornado becoming more rain wrapped, making it even more dangerous.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Channel 9 says the tornado is throwing up entire houses.

Massive.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30242
Huge sheets of rain, wind and small hail pelting my west windows right now. Plenty of lightning as well. Under a severe t-storm warning as of 10 minutes ago.

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN GRAND RAPIDS HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
SOUTHEASTERN CLARE COUNTY IN CENTRAL MICHIGAN...
GRATIOT COUNTY IN CENTRAL MICHIGAN...
EASTERN ISABELLA COUNTY IN CENTRAL MICHIGAN...

* UNTIL 515 PM EDT

* AT 405 PM EDT...A LINE OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WAS LOCATED ALONG A
LINE EXTENDING FROM SOUTHEAST CLARE COUNTY TO WINN TO STANTON...

AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 40 MPH.
HAZARD...QUARTER SIZE HAIL AND 60 MPH WIND GUSTS.
SOURCE...RADAR INDICATED.
IMPACT...HAIL DAMAGE TO VEHICLES AND CROPS IS EXPECTED. EXPECT WIND
DAMAGE TO ROOFS...SIDING AND TREES.

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WILL BE NEAR...
DELWIN AND SEVILLE TWP AROUND 415 PM EDT.
SHEPHERD AND ELWELL AROUND 420 PM EDT.
FOREST HILL AROUND 425 PM EDT.
ALMA AND ST. LOUIS AROUND 430 PM EDT.
BRIDGEVILLE AND POMPEII AROUND 435 PM EDT.
ITHACA AND NORTH STAR AROUND 440 PM EDT.
OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE WISE...COE...NEW HAVEN
CENTER...MIDDLETON...EUGENE...BEEBE...EDGEWOOD... LANGPORT AND
GALLOWAY.

...1.00IN
WIND...60MPH
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Mile and a quarter
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 1900hurricane:


All I have to say is holy crap. That has to be one of the most defined hooks on radar I have ever seen. Thoughts and prayers to everyone in the path.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
There is nothing good here.... Wether it's an EF 2 or an EF 5 it's deadly
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Moore..Basehunters

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 13436
just reported mile wide mow!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
It's crossing right over the traffic jam...
Member Since: September 10, 2010 Posts: 2 Comments: 409
Reminds me of Tuscaloosa.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30242
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52211
this is pure danger, i hope no one will die in this situation,
Member Since: July 30, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 20
Velocity radar showing winds of 200 mph on the WC.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
all those cars....:(
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
i freeze framed the 10 images for the tornado. im going to make a blog and post them all in a row shortly.

Thats if i can get them to go on here.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
throwing homes in the air!! are u serious? and its rain wrapped! Joplin again!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Horrible situation occurring right now in Moore, OK. Very reminiscent of the May 3, 1999 tornado.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
OKC027-109-202045-
/O.CON.KOUN.TO.W.0026.000000T0000Z-130520T2045Z/
OKLAHOMA OK-CLEVELAND OK-
316 PM CDT MON MAY 20 2013

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 345 PM CDT FOR SOUTHERN
OKLAHOMA AND NORTHERN CLEVELAND COUNTIES...

...THIS IS A TORNADO EMERGENCY FOR MOORE AND SOUTH OKLAHOMA CITY...

AT 312 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS AND STORM
SPOTTERS WERE TRACKING A LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO
LOCATED NEAR MOORE...MOVING EAST AT 20 MPH.

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

LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
MIDWEST CITY...MOORE...STANLEY DRAPER LAKE...TINKER AIR FORCE BASE
AND VALLEY BROOK.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AND LIFE THREATENING SITUATION. IF YOU
CANNOT GET UNDERGROUND GO TO A STORM SHELTER OR AN INTERIOR ROOM OF A
STURDY BUILDING NOW.

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

LAT...LON 3529 9756 3534 9762 3547 9738 3527 9728
TIME...MOT...LOC 2012Z 252DEG 15KT 3532 9753

$$
30
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Lot's of live images and video - take care - I'm signing out to get out of the way of the tornado crew - take care everybody
Member Since: April 21, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 766
wow this horrible!!!! here we go! moore get under ground now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Don't have TV coverage here but you only get that type of definition on radar when there is lots of debris wrapped up in the circulation.

God Speed to all the folks...........This third-round is only starting as you look at the big picture on radar at the moment across several states.
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 8269
It's strange how much Spfld, IL has been warmer than StL (and me) lately. All day they've been 8-12 degrees warmer (according to top of the WU page - currently has them 92.3 while StL 80, we're listed at 78. Guess they've just been under less cloud cover lately, but still quite a lot of nothern plus differential lately.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Getting even bigger
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
TWC coverage..the horror of that neighborhood
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 13436
Look at all the debris this thing is tossing up.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30242
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 45 Comments: 11555
Quoting CybrTeddy:
THIS IS INSANE!
That is an incredible hook echo. Most vivid I've ever seen.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
It appears to still be growing.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Bad stuff going on.

TOKC TDWR Oklahoma City, OK - GRLevel3

TOKC TDWR Oklahoma City, OK - GRLevel3
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:
THIS IS INSANE!



Wow, I've never seen one spin like that on radar.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10156
Wow going to the high school

Prayers go up
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 45 Comments: 11555
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
this thang is seriously rain wrapped!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Torito:
WOW it is getting bigger STILL!


I know...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
BaseHunters1 shows this tornado heading towards the high school on their livestream
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Civicane49:


That is such an impressive radar loop. This needs to be a gif
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
THIS IS INSANE!

Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23012
Significant damage has been reported in Newscastle.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30242
Quoting Civicane49:



WOAH someone get a still shot or 10 frame of that saved somewhere!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Doesn't get any classic than this

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
311 PM CDT MON MAY 20 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NORMAN HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
WESTERN GARVIN COUNTY IN SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA...
NORTHERN STEPHENS COUNTY IN SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA...
EXTREME SOUTHEASTERN GRADY COUNTY IN CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...
EXTREME NORTHWESTERN CARTER COUNTY IN SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA...

* UNTIL 415 PM CDT

* AT 307 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO. THIS DANGEROUS
STORM WAS LOCATED 6 MILES SOUTH OF BRAY...AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT
25 MPH. STORM SPOTTERS CONTINUE TO REPORT A RAPIDLY ROTATING WALL
CLOUD WITH THIS STORM.

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

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
DUNCAN...BRAY...FOSTER AND PERNELL.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Oh my god... Lord Help Moore
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Did the news anchor just say it is heading right towards his house? Yikes!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
the chaser is in front of that tornado..my gosh!!
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 13436
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52211

Viewing: 563 - 513

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25Blog Index

Top of Page

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.