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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The tornado looks as they it may be getting stronger based on radar signature and more importantly, visual.
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omg please pray for those people in moore!! 99 all over again omg!
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2473
live coverage of the tornado! TWC and http://www.koco.com/news/oklahomanews/watch-koco-5 -news-at-5/-/9844008/10990302/-/g0okba/-/index.htm l
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2473
Tornado is taking a sharp turn towards moore.
Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4203


Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Impressive tornado footage again on TWC, tornado near Newcastle OK
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Classic stove pipe formation too...
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wow big tornado on the ground!
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2473
Live feed

Link
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KFOR has great chopper shot of large funnel on the ground.
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From KFOR live stream,

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Looks like yesterday's.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30237
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Pretty weak a the time being. Lifting and dropping.


Looks healthy on video
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tornado on the ground!!!!!!!! newcastle ok!!!! its going into moore!!!!
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2473
Only in Oklahoma do they chase tornadoes with helicopters.
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Tornado on KFOR stream right over Newcastle
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Moore needs to take cover.
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Tornado less than 5 miles from newcastle.
Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4203
Pretty weak a the time being. Lifting and dropping.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30237
omg not 1999 again no!!!
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2473
Tornado on the ground!
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4498
Well, looks like the west coast of Florida can't buy a a drop of rain yet again. If this are was forest there would be numerous fires by now. Thunderstorms are again remaining inland...

Meanwhile the severe threat continues in much the same areas as yesterday, its scary to think that tornado was an EF5 yesterday, I watched it develop on live T.V. that super cell was the prime candidate...
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rotation so far west of moore!!!
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2473
Buses being held at the high schools... They are going into Lockdown
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Quoting Dakster:
4" hail... yikes. That'll leave a mark if you get hit by it.


Yea, its not good. Tornado is currently about 7 miles from newcastle, so if you live anywhere near there, find shelter NOW.
Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4203
Tornado on the ground.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30237
I'm always late

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News9 is a good stream.
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Rapidly rotating wall cloud on news 9.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30237
This storm is about to drop a tornado near Newcastle.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4498
4" hail... yikes. That'll leave a mark if you get hit by it.
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Tornado spotted In garvin, OK, reports say.
Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4203
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Tornadic vortex signature spotted.

Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4203
live tornado coverage! reports of funnels
http://www.koco.com/news/oklahomanews/watch-koco- 5-news-at-5/-/9844008/10990302/-/g0okba/-/index.ht ml
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2473
reports of 4 inch hail in garvin, OK from my friend. Stay safe...
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1.45 degrees. Storm rotation as of right now should pass south of Metro OKC, around Moore.

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lull in excitement.
Follow up on the 11yr solar cycle vs. earthquakes...
If anything, the peak Earth Quake energy is during the quiet part of the sunspot cycle.(based on these two graphs)
http://www.jupitersdance.com/quakevsunspots.jpg
http://s2.hubimg.com/u/7449573_f520.jpg

see 1995 and 1963.
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Funnel Cloud on KFOR! Sirens sounding in Norman
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and here we go!! tornado warnings in effect!
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Take cover NOW if you live near here.

Member Since: April 30, 2013 Posts: 5 Comments: 4203
Quoting StormTrackerScott:
Cyberteddy watchout as a massive thunderstorm with tremendous lightning is heading your way.

Severe weather warning just issued as well.


I see it, already starting to rain. Radar says 2.25' hail might be with it.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23009
ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
242 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 315 PM CDT

* AT 237 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO. THIS DANGEROUS
STORM WAS LOCATED 5 MILES SOUTHWEST OF BRAY...AND MOVING EAST AT 30
MPH. A RAPIDLY ROTATING WALL CLOUD HAS BEEN REPORTED 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...MARLOW...BRAY...FOSTER...COX CITY AND PERNELL.
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Tornado warning for Southern OKC! Heading for Newcastle and Moore. It's taking a very similar path to the infamous May 3, 1999 F5.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4498
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
tornado warning okc...still unsure if a significiant tornado will form intime.
I would think the storm to the south would disrupt the inflow into the storm to it's north.
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oklahoma is really starting to remind me of night of the twisters. same system creating tornadoes over and over again
Member Since: July 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2473
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
240 PM CDT MON MAY 20 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NORMAN HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
NORTHWESTERN MCCLAIN COUNTY IN CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...
SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA COUNTY IN CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...
NORTHEASTERN GRADY COUNTY IN CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...
NORTHERN CLEVELAND COUNTY IN CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...

* UNTIL 315 PM CDT

* AT 238 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO. THIS DANGEROUS
STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR NEWCASTLE...AND MOVING EAST AT 20 MPH.

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

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
NORMAN...MOORE...NEWCASTLE...BRIDGE CREEK AND VALLEY BROOK.
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Quoting seminolesfan:
@#385:

A 384hr borecast? I thought you were the blob-meister not the crystal-ball model poster?

Well, color me confused... :)


I don't have that color... Can I color you Orange and Green instead?
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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.