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 Luisport:
Michigan has some cells too!!!!

Charlevoix County
Clare County
Kent County, MI

Are all showing thunderstorms with rotation!!!!


The latter storm is headed right for me. Could get interesting.
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Quoting Ameister12:
Good afternoon everybody!
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
Quoting Luisport:
Michigan has some cells too!!!!

Charlevoix County
Clare County
Kent County, MI

Are all showing thunderstorms with rotation!!!!
Canada is getting in the game too. Ontario is starting to show signs of severe weather.
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The fact that the link even has the name of the person that sent the emails to us proves the point that this person is responsible.
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360. VR46L
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


In other words the waiting game continues.


Could be a long one too if the MJO moves on without making an impact ...
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Quoting MrstormX:


Please refrain from posting those links here, it's not that I don't doubt that you are just trying to help but at the same time there is always that remote possibility you are trying to spread malware on peoples computer by having us click on that link. We must all be wary of "Social Engineering" and link spam. :-)


but i am not.... I got the emails too.
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Post 347:

Friendspedia? Yeah, not clicking on that link.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8030
Quoting dabirds:
The rogue, Litchfld/Hillsboro had the 55, didn't believe it. Thanks, figured it was a typo.

What's the red boxes on your map VR? Usually mean tornado watch/warning, pretty close to me, 1 county west in box's NE corner.


Litchfield reported a 46 mph wind gust at 4:15 am, that I do believe because of the outflow from the morning storms was right about over that area.

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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54398
HI wunderkidcayman , is the Grand Cayman radar up and running yet, if so, whats the address/ TIA
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Quoting Torito:
I know this isnt revelant to some of you, but to aussie, me, and 1900hurricane, i have found the sender of the spam messages we were sent. Reverse searches led me to this wesite, and sure enough, i found the person that did this. it seems to be some kind of scam for everyone that is being sent this message.


Link to what i found.

Link

Aussie, 1900hurricane, i suggest you look at this to know what is going on. It appears that someone is telling others to post that message on as many pages as possible, im going to try to get something done about it by contacting the owner of this site.


Please refrain from posting those links here, it's not that I don't doubt that you are just trying to help but at the same time there is always that remote possibility you are trying to spread malware on peoples computer by having us click on that link. We must all be wary of "Social Engineering" and link spam. :-)
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Good afternoon everybody!
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Quoting VR46L:


Euro still not having a bar of tropical trouble in the Carribean or Gulf @ 240 hrs


In other words the waiting game continues.
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OKC under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning
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Michigan has some cells too!!!!

Charlevoix County
Clare County
Kent County, MI

Are all showing thunderstorms with rotation!!!!
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Storms hesitating to move east over urban Miami-Dade...
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The rogue, Litchfld/Hillsboro had the 55, didn't believe it. Thanks, figured it was a typo.

What's the red boxes on your map VR? Usually mean tornado watch/warning, pretty close to me, 1 county west in box's NE corner.
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I know this isnt revelant to some of you, but to aussie, me, and 1900hurricane, i have found the sender of the spam messages we were sent. Reverse searches led me to this wesite, and sure enough, i found the person that did this. it seems to be some kind of scam for everyone that is being sent this message.


Link to what i found.

Link

Aussie, 1900hurricane, i suggest you look at this to know what is going on. It appears that someone is telling others to post that message on as many pages as possible, im going to try to get something done about it by contacting the owner of this site.

Edit: I think i really know what is going on now, but i would rather not say it, as i know that the point of this would be illegal if it is what i am thinking of. I am definitely going to do something with this.
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346. VR46L
Quoting ncstorm:
last frame for the Euro..


Euro still not having a bar of tropical trouble in the Carribean or Gulf @ 240 hrs
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Quoting calkevin77:


I think by the time the cap erodes the day time heating fueling the storms will shut down before they can hit the centex area today. Tomorrow, however, might be similar to the hail events of 2009 if the conditions pop as forecasted.


Music to my ears. Don't want the hail either. I hate May.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54398
I'm really worn out so I'm taking a quick nap. Be back about 2 hours from now.
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342. VR46L
Looks like South Florida is getting some weather too!!

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Quoting muddertracker:


wth? uh...no thank you.


I think by the time the cap erodes the day time heating fueling the storms will shut down before they can hit the centex area today. Tomorrow, however, might be similar to the hail events of 2009 if the conditions pop as forecasted.
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Quoting ncstorm:


ha ha..Im in the same boat..I'll raise you one to say I actually went to see the movie..


Me too......Big disapointment compared to the TV show but the popcorn was fresh and hot that particular Sat am for the early showing my kid dragged me to............
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last frame for the Euro..
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First two severe thunderstorm warnings are up for first two cells of day.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8030
Quoting dabirds:
Was expecting late development and didn't think our risk too high, ILwthr, but w/ sun out let's see what comes from SW. Any idea if that 55 gust verifies in my vicinity, seems high, whitewabit's 25 or so seems more likely.

35% humidity Ped, must be sweating it out.


Are you asking if we will see high winds are if a rogue one has already been reported? I've been checking all the WU sites around East St. Louis, Alton, Nokomis, Hillsboro haven't seen anything over 25 mph yet.

SPC still has nothing being reported in the state as of yet.

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This is what happens when you hit 92 with -11c temps at 500 milibars. Explosive thunderstorm development.

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335. VR46L
South east Penn Ewall Radar

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Quoting RitaEvac:


Looks closer to SE TX than what was previously forecasted

Maybe a little bit, but the enhanced risk area also makes it look that way in my opinion. Here is yesterday's Day 3 outlook:



And now today's previous Day 2 Outlook:

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11669
not to take away from the severe weather threat today but in NC/SC..getting some much needed rain..

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Quoting weathermanwannabe:


That young man like the Airbender in Avatar (only watch this show cause I have a kid who watches it)........ :)


ha ha..Im in the same boat..I'll raise you one to say I actually went to see the movie..
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331. VR46L
Penn Ewall Radar

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Quoting weathermanwannabe:


That young man like the Airbender in Avatar (only watch this show cause I have a kid who watches it)........ :)


But the movie on the other hand...

*shudders*
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There is some broad rotation in the cell between Reed City and Claire.



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Quoting BahaHurican:
Or Jesus in the temple at age twelve... respect young genius, I say... :o)

I was just thinking OK is the first step in a full trip to South FL for that young man... air wearing or no air wearing, sooner or later he has to make it there [to NHC].

It is destiny....


That young man like the Airbender in Avatar (only watch this show cause I have a kid who watches it)........ :)
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Quoting docrod:


You are close if Wikipedia is correct!!

Hurricane was first settled in 1896, and received its name after a whirlwind blew the top off of a buggy that Erastus Snow was riding in.
This is a cool story, even if it isn't true...

I do know they used to metaphorically refer to the back of an unbroken horse [bronc] as the "hurricane deck". I suppose being dusted by a EFO would make any horse remember its bronc-like days.... lol
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Oklahoma cells forming fast!

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Was expecting late development and didn't think our risk too high, ILwthr, but w/ sun out let's see what comes from SW. Any idea if that 55 gust verifies in my vicinity, seems high, whitewabit's 25 or so seems more likely.

35% humidity Ped, must be sweating it out.
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Tornado watches today isn't as impressive as yesterday's watches, but it only takes ONE tornado to ruin the whole day.
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Quoting Slamguitar:
Here we go in the mitten:



Look at the hook forming towards reed city!

watch that closely for potential tornados.
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Tomorrow as well it appears.



Looks closer to SE TX than what was previously forecasted
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Quoting RitaEvac:


Yes, TX is gonna get ROCKED later today

Tomorrow as well it appears.

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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54398
Here we go in the mitten:

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Even higher
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Quoting muddertracker:


wth? uh...no thank you.


Yes, TX is gonna get ROCKED later today
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
I think Shawnee tornado took the longest to developed out of these storms yesterday, but I was only paying attention to couple of storms.
Seemed like the helicopter guy from station #9 [don't remember call letters now] was watching its parent cell for a while and saw when it put down the tornado south of OK City.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22322
Quoting BahaHurican:
UT dwellers prolly named it after a horse.


You are close if Wikipedia is correct!!

Hurricane was first settled in 1896, and received its name after a whirlwind blew the top off of a buggy that Erastus Snow was riding in.
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Quoting 1900hurricane:


MESOSCALE DISCUSSION 0727
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0119 PM CDT MON MAY 20 2013

AREAS AFFECTED...CNTRL TX

CONCERNING...SEVERE POTENTIAL...WATCH LIKELY

VALID 201819Z - 202015Z

PROBABILITY OF WATCH ISSUANCE...95 PERCENT

SUMMARY...A FEW SUPERCELLS ARE EXPECTED TO FORM ALONG THE DRYLINE
LATER THIS AFTERNOON...WITH VERY LARGE HAIL LIKELY. AN ISOLATED
TORNADO IS POSSIBLE. A WATCH IS LIKELY BEFORE 20Z.

DISCUSSION...STRONG HEATING PERSISTS ACROSS CNTRL/WRN TX WITH VERY
STRONG INSTABILITY IN PLACE E OF THE DRYLINE. VISIBLE IMAGERY SHOWS
TCU INCREASING OVER THROCKMORTON AND YOUNG COUNTIES...WITH
ADDITIONAL CU SW OF SEP. ALTHOUGH WELL S OF THE JET...DEEP LAYER
SHEAR VALUES AND OVERALL HODOGRAPH LENGTH WITH INCREASING UPPER
LEVEL WINDS WILL BE MORE THAN SUFFICIENT FOR SUPERCELLS. AMPLE
MOISTURE AND COLD PROFILES ALOFT WILL RESULT IN VERY LARGE DAMAGING
HAIL.

THIS EVENING...CAPPING WILL INHIBIT EWD PROGRESSION OF THESE
CELLS...LIKELY DYING CLOSE TO I-35 BY 03Z.

..JEWELL/KERR.. 05/20/2013


ATTN...WFO...FWD...OUN...EWX...SJT...

LAT...LON 33819647 32709666 31659704 31139725 30769756 30639825
30799907 31069961 31329984 31849966 32769922 33509866
33829827 33919779 33969706 33819647


wth? uh...no thank you.
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Good Luck as to Levi's trip and I am sure he will impress them. Might end up in a situation where they are asking HIM questions and for advice like the young man/mathematics genius in Goodwill Hunting......
Or Jesus in the temple at age twelve... respect young genius, I say... :o)

I was just thinking OK is the first step in a full trip to South FL for that young man... air wearing or no air wearing, sooner or later he has to make it there [to NHC].

It is destiny....
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22322

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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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