Tornadoes and huge hail pound the Plains

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:33 PM GMT on March 29, 2007

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A barrage of 65 tornadoes ripped through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska last night. Two people were killed in the Oklahoma Panhandle when a tornado destroyed their house. Tornadoes also killed one person in Colorado, and one person in Texas. Several of the tornadoes were large, long-lived, and possibly violent EF4 twisters. Since the Enhanced Fujita rating scale is a damage scale, we may never know how strong some of these tornadoes were, as they mostly missed populated areas where they could do damage.

One supercell thunderstorm in the Texas Panhandle spawned a tornado that hit a rest area along I-40, flipping 18-wheelers parked there. This storm may have done enough damage to get an EF-scale rating. The thunderstorm also produced 4.5 inch diameter hail (softball sized!), which one doesn't see very often anywhere in the world. Looking at the radar reflectivity from this storm (Figure 1), we see that the echoes from this storm were near the top of the scale--70 dBZ--thanks in part to these highly reflective large hailstones. Seeing 70 dDZ on the radar is another rarity!


Figure 1. Radar reflectivity image of the March 28, 2007 thunderstorm that produced a tornado and softball-sized hail as it crossed I-40 east of Amarillo, Texas.

We got lucky with last night's storms, which all missed populated areas. What would happen if we got unlucky? What would a violent EF5 tornado do to Chicago or some other densely populated urban area? That was the cover story of January's issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which I'll discuss tomorrow.

Jeff Masters

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59. BahaHurican
1:41 AM GMT on March 31, 2007

Max Mayfield to join WPLG-ABC 10


Excellent! Best station in the market in terms of weather credibility. Good choice, Max.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22143
58. hurricant
2:54 PM GMT on March 30, 2007
hello everyone.. can anyone give me a link of probable dew points vapor pressure etc for ocala national forest.. i am going camping and want to try and get up early to catch sunrise on the alexander springs there where i hope the fog( which is said to be amazing) i have looked for this data but cant find any ..
57. hurricant
2:09 PM GMT on March 30, 2007
can anyone give me a weatherforcast for ocala national forest i am camping this weekend with family and i hear alexander springs has great fog in the spring and i hope to catch a pic for everyone
55. hurricant
1:22 PM GMT on March 30, 2007
traffic... and hurricanes... language .. well i come from south carolina originally and i understand what people are saying here about as often as i did back home so....
jeet jet ? joo? yownto? ariieet.
54. MisterPerfect
1:09 PM GMT on March 30, 2007
occaisional displeasure of living in miami...

traffic or language barrier?
Member Since: November 1, 2006 Posts: 71 Comments: 20138
53. hurricant
1:07 PM GMT on March 30, 2007
having had the pleasure of meeting dr mayfield, and the occaisional displeasure of living in miami... i am delighted we will have him when push comes to shove...
also can anyone give me a weatherforcast for ocala national forest i am camping this weekend with family and i hear alexander springs has great fog in the spring and i hope to catch a pic for everyone
52. sxwarren
10:21 AM GMT on March 30, 2007
MichaelSTL -

Re: urban areas, "heat island effects"

Not attempting to contradict, just citing some anecdotal observations (that I've always wished someone would study!).

I lived in and around Ann Arbor, MI, for about 30 years. Squall lines would typically move in on us from almost due west with the most intense parts of them (according to radar imagery) tracking along I-94 (leading directly toward A2) and I-96 (roughly parallel about 20 miles north).

The city itself sits in a valley and the interstate "splits" just to the west of it. Time after time, as squall lines approached the city, they would also "split". The most intense weather would bypass the city to the south and north, following the highway tracks, and then "rejoin"/resume in intensity off to the east. This was consistent behavior, at least for afternoon/evening weather.

Only twice, in my experience, did intense weather enter the city proper, both incidents occurring in the morning (one of which may have been a tornado).

Now, I'm not asserting that this was a "heat island" effect or natural topogrphy. It could just as easily be attributable to karma or the semi-permanent ganja haze that hovers over the city. Still, it's been a remarkably consistent pattern over a significant period.
Member Since: October 29, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 103
51. TayTay
7:22 AM GMT on March 30, 2007
Not named yet.

Link
50. savedbygod
4:56 AM GMT on March 30, 2007
Thanks for all the other info about myths of tornado strikes. Hopefully, it will save some lives.I know there are hundreds more that give people a false sense of security. I forgot to mention that I live in Wichita, Ks. Both of the super cell outbreaks that I mentioned earlier, got us here but started out in Texas, as I remember, just as the ones yesterday did. Of course the 1999 one is known for it's deadly path through Oklahoma. I believe it still has the record for the highest wind speeds ever recorded. I am strictly an amateur but I am fascinated with tornadoes & hurricanes. I maintain a healthy respect for them. I want to apologize up front if my comments don't always make sense. I have MSA, (Parkinson's Plus) so things don't get from my head to the computer in the same way.
49. StoryOfTheCane
3:55 AM GMT on March 30, 2007
another wave is poppin up

48. 1900hurricane
3:41 AM GMT on March 30, 2007
Here is an interesting read on the last F5 to directly hit the business district of a medium-large city.

Lubbock Texas Tornado
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11668
47. tornadodude
3:00 AM GMT on March 30, 2007
sorry for the messed up link here it is link
by the way,, nobody was killed by this tornado..
thank God!
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8347
46. tornadodude
2:58 AM GMT on March 30, 2007
the myth that tornadoes dont go near forks of rivers is definitely not true!!!

i live about 5 miles away from where two rivers come together and an F-3 tornado hit about two miles from my house on november 15 2005

here is the forecast for that day
mesoscale discussion. i live in southern indiana,
storm that caused tornado is the one in se illinois moving into sw indiana... i had just got out of school when it hit... it demolished many amish homes. a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-
November_2005_Tornado_Outbreak" target="_blank">2 of the 3 f-3s that day were in indiana scroll down till ya see indiana mine was Washington Indiana tornado
thats all
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8347
45. hurricane23
2:30 AM GMT on March 30, 2007
Guys check out my blog just added my new radar for this season...A new banner.Thoughts welcomed.Thanks adrian
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13793
43. hurricane23
1:02 AM GMT on March 30, 2007
WOW AWSOME NEWS!!!!MAX MAYFIELD WILL JOIN CHANNEL 10 IN SOUTH FLORIDA AND WILL TEAM UP WITH DON NOE!

MORE HERE
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13793
42. HIEXPRESS
12:50 AM GMT on March 30, 2007
Excerpt from link in MichaelSTL's post Urban-induced increases occurred with all synoptic weather types but were most frequent and intense with squall lines and cold fronts. Results suggest that urban-induced factors alter the microphysical and dynamic properties of clouds and storms.

When the East & West coast seabreeze fronts meet here in central Florida, It usually makes for a good thunderstorm, but when it happens over A heat island it really takes off. I also used to see it suck in the smoke belching from a couple of power plants (a lot cleaner now thanks) and the lightning would be (subjectively) worse. Also interesting was that the two fronts would appear to pass right through each other and continue to the opposite coast. Storm splitting is common - don't think it is splitting due to your town's "shields".
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
40. franck
12:09 AM GMT on March 30, 2007
Hiexpress...well said, and if there is a 'heat island' effect protecting cities at present it won't be long before a mega tornado overcomes that and brings down a high rise or two.
Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
39. HIEXPRESS
11:44 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
People who think they are in a "protected spot" whether due to cities or geography, are like those motorcyclists who don't wear helmets - there are only two kinds: those who have been down & those who are going down. Even if it was true, if you agree that climatic changes are taking place, then prior patterns will change too. Now that I think about it, a helmet wouldn't be a bad thing to have in a tornado either.
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
38. DenverMark
9:44 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
The fatality in Holly, CO was the first tornado death in almost 47 years in Colorado. Since 1880, there have been 14 killer tornadoes in Colorado, with 34 deaths. The deadliest tornado occurred near Thurman in Washington County on August 10, 1924, killing 10 people (source: Thomas Grazulis "Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991").
Member Since: February 11, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 6988
37. KG6ZLW
9:33 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Many people in city of Americus, GA were surprised by the tornado that ripped through there last month, destroying 155 homes and damaging another 200. It seems they had subscribed to an urban myth that because their city is on a hill it was tornado proof. Their major hospital is completely gutted and the docs are working triage out of a tent, then transporting victims to other hospitals an hour or more away. Their ambulatory care facility was destroyed as well, as was all of the doctors' offices near the hospital. It seems the only siren in town didn't have a backup generator and when the power went out there was no way to sound the siren. Hopefully all of you in tornado country have a NOAA radio.
36. Skyepony (Mod)
9:20 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Inside Edition had alot of chaser footage from yesterday. One tornado split in 2.

The local ch 6 news guy was estatic about Max Mayfield joinining the sister Miami station.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 164 Comments: 37858
35. weathermanwannabe
8:17 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
I did not want to go there yet, STL, as I was a newbie last year, but, I agree; I think the forecast numbers will go up as we get closer to June if the NCEP predictions hold over the next two months..........
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9134
33. thelmores
8:07 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Orchid, just to be clear, this indeed was first a waterspout, as it formed over water, and moved ashore....

It was officially classified as an F1 tornado, ripped off a couple roofs, broke windows, and tossed cars..... but nobody was really hurt, and damage was estimated i believe to be in the $10 million dollar range.....

all in all, just scared the bejesus out of a few people, and did relatively small damage.....
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3805
32. weathermanwannabe
7:54 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Speaking of Max, and on a tropical note (sorry about the off-topic) comment, it's already getting pretty warm down here in the Florida/Gulf region, looks like we're about to do another "skip" from a true Spring to Summer like temperatures, and NCEP is predicting a good possibility of a transition to La Nina conditions between March-May 2007. This means that it may be a more active season this year than last year when shear ruled in the Atlantic basin............
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9134
31. OrchidGrower
7:44 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
I'd be curious to see a professional meteorologist's reaction, but Thelmores' pics of funnels in Myrtle Beach sure look like full-blown tornadoes to me (no pun intended), especially the strong organization of the storm in the first pic.
Member Since: September 24, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 391
30. MisterPerfect
7:40 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Don Noe and Max teamed up, thats a hurricane dream team
Member Since: November 1, 2006 Posts: 71 Comments: 20138
29. Fshhead
7:37 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Hmmmm that is good news on Mayfield! Channel 10 is the news I trust also. Less hype!!
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
28. MisterPerfect
7:32 PM GMT on March 29, 2007


Max Mayfield to join WPLG-ABC 10

BY MARTIN MERZER
MiamiHerald.com

Max Mayfield was just a government weather forecaster, but he -- somewhat reluctantly -- posed for pictures, signed autographs, shook countless hands.

His frequent media appearances during hurricane crises made him something of a television star. Now, it's official.

Mayfield, who retired as director of the National Hurricane Center in January, signed a three-year contract Thursday with WPLG-ABC 10. He will serve as its full-time hurricane specialist.

What he will do: interpret tropical weather forecasts and help viewers prepare.

What he won't do: issue his own forecasts or wave his arms this way and that in front of those fancy TV graphics.

''I will not expend any effort ever on the forecast,'' Mayfield, 58, said. ``I don't think anyone can beat the quality of the forecasts of the hurricane center.

''I'll just try to make it understandable . . . ,'' he said. ``I will most likely be doing what I've done in the past, sitting at a monitor and interacting with the anchors and the weather people there at WPLG and keeping that close connection with local emergency managers.''

Competition for Mayfield's services has been keen since he retired after a 34-year career. He said he rejected flattering offers from the Weather Channel and several television networks.

Joining a South Florida operation will allow him to spend more time at his Kendall home with his wife and, when they're not at school, their three children. He begins there April 1.

''I just had to decide on something, and I just felt like it was a good fit with the local station,'' he said. ``South Florida, as far as the number of people, is one of the most vulnerable areas anywhere, and I hope I will be able to contribute.''

The contract gives WPLG exclusive media rights to Mayfield's expertise, though he still plans to speak at conferences and accept other duties related to hurricane preparedness.

Bill Pohovey, WPLG's vice president of news, said Mayfield will work closely with the station's chief meteorologist, Don Noe, and the rest of the staff. He called the signing of Mayfield ``a coup.''

''He brings such credibility to the weather,'' Pohovey said. ``He's the guy that this community and this country has gotten to know and trust.''

In a note to employees, Pohovey put it more bluntly:

``Just imagine the coverage the next time a storm is heading this way. . . . I'd hate to be sitting in a competing newsroom in this market!''


YES! At least I'll get to see Max a lot when the going gets tough down here in Miami!

Member Since: November 1, 2006 Posts: 71 Comments: 20138
26. thelmores
7:26 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
We don't have alot of tornadoes in myrtle beach, but we do have water spouts that come ashore...... normally small in nature, thank goodness!

here are a couple images......


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25. MisterPerfect
7:23 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Tornados are found on every continent on Earth. Antarctica included.
Member Since: November 1, 2006 Posts: 71 Comments: 20138
23. weathermanwannabe
7:16 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
I think it's just a matter of geography and demographics; people tend to forget that most of the U.S. is "rural" and the relative lack of major tornado strikes in a large city reflects this, and, the fact that there are not a lot of large urban cities in the tornado alley region.........
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9134
22. Geoman
7:03 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Also of interest are the occasional tornadoes that touch down near downtown Los Angeles--some years back, a weak one briefly touched down doing extensive damage to the Los Angeles Convention Center and some of the warehouses nearby. No one was hurt, even though it happened in the afternoon during rush hour.
Member Since: November 8, 2001 Posts: 65 Comments: 8
21. MisterPerfect
6:56 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
TEXAS TORNADOS 03/28/2007

Member Since: November 1, 2006 Posts: 71 Comments: 20138
20. Skyepony (Mod)
6:42 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Looks like the death count is up to 4.

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 164 Comments: 37858
19. Patrap
6:16 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Holly Tornado Turns Fatal
Reports Of Injuries And Damaged Homes, 3 Other Tornadoes On Eastern Plains
Posted: 9:09 PM, Mar. 28, 2007
Last Updated: 7:38 AM, Mar. 29, 2007

By Marshall Zelinger

A 29-year-old woman is confirmed dead from injuries sustained during a tornado in a small southeastern Colorado town Wednesday night. She was thrown into a tree and suffered massive head injuries. She died at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. Her three-year old daughter is in serious and stable condition also at Memorial.

The tornado hit the town of Holly, Colorado at about 8:11 p.m. Holly is in Prowers County along Highway 50, about 150 miles East of Pueblo. Residents and authorities in the area report damaged homes and several injuries. There is no immediate word of any fatalities, but authorities were going door-to-door assessing damage and searching for victims.

At least eight people were injured, according to Dr. John Abbott, Director of the Emergency Room at Prowers Medical Center in Lamar. Seven people were flown to other hospitals in Colorado, including Memorial and Penrose Main in Colorado Springs, St. Mary Corwin in Pueblo and Swedish Medical Center in Denver.

Four tornadoes hit the Eastern Plains Wednesday night. The first hit at 7:57 p.m., one mile South of Holly. The second one at 8:11 p.m. caused much of the damage in Holly. The third hit at 8:22 p.m., 13 miles Southeast of Sheridan Lake in Kiowa County. The fourth touched down at 9:10 p.m., five miles Southwest of Arapahoe.

"We didn't see anything, it was dark by the time it hit," says Holly resident Connie Vocke. "We just heard it and it was just like a big train coming."

Connie was playing bridge at the time of the tornado and says everyone playing cards had no idea what was coming.

"We're very lucky we're alive, there's some they can't find," says Connie. "You have to watch where you're walking because there are power lines, one of our little neighbor girls was up in a tree, they got her down and took her to the hospital but they thought she was going to be alright."

Connie says she and her neighbor walked the 8 blocks home. Connie's home only had a broken window.

"It didn't get my house. From my house West it got people's homes, well everything, it got everything," says Vocke. "(It's) complete chaos. Huge trees laying on everywhere, power lines are everywhere, limbs are everywhere. My girlfriend's house there's not a window, door, garage, car, nothing left."

Marshall Cook, a Deputy Fire Chief with the Lamar Fire Department says Highway 50 was closed for a time from Lamar to the Kansas state line to allow for emergency vehicles to get through more easily.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Anna Bryce School in Holly, 206 N. 3rd St
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128346
18. weathermanwannabe
6:10 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
I was in Miami (in an office building looking at it) when a small F-1 swept through Downtown Miami about 7 years ago and then went into Biscayne Bay (turning into a waterspout) before is dissipated.........Found out later that day that it went past the lot where my car was parked and blew out all my windows....
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9134
17. sullivanweather
5:47 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Savedbygod,

Another great example of how tornadoes can hit just about anywhere would be the Worcester, Ma tornado of 1953.

F4 to F5 damage occured across central Massachusettes. The tornado was on the ground for over an hour with a funnel almost one mile wide at times.
Member Since: March 8, 2007 Posts: 273 Comments: 12612
16. savedbygod
5:13 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
As a victim of the April 26, 1991 supercell outbreak & having family in the super cell outbreak in Oklahoma May 3, 1999; I would like to comment on supercells avoiding large metro areas. It is very dangerous myth. That myth & many others such as a tornado not touching down at the fork of 2 rivers (Wichita,Ks.)or hitting Topeka,Ks., because of the where it sits; have caused many deaths. Super Cells have done major damage in large cities all over the country. I only say this to save lives. My husband & I came very close to dying because of our complacency about tornadoes. We are alive only because of a miracle from God.
15. sullivanweather
3:52 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Lecho,

Lake Michigan has quite an effect on severe weather, especially during the spring time.

The air is much more stable immediately surrounding the lake and usually dampens out thunderstorms.
Member Since: March 8, 2007 Posts: 273 Comments: 12612
14. Frozencanuck
3:47 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Yesterday was the anniversary of the tornado that did much damage in Fort Worth TX.

March 28, 2000
Web posted at: 8:20 p.m. EST (0120 GMT)

FORT WORTH, Texas (CNN) -- The National Weather Service in Fort Worth confirms a tornado touchdown in downtown Fort Worth.

Local news reports say the twister broke windows, uprooted trees, blacked out street lighting and traffic signals and was followed by heavy rains

In 2000, an F2 tornado smashed through downtown, tearing many buildings into shreds and scrap metal. One of the hardest hit structures was Bank One Tower, which has since been renovated and used for condominiums.
Member Since: December 8, 2006 Posts: 42 Comments: 4738
13. ntmg05
3:35 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
An F3 tornado hit downtown Fort Worth a few years ago.
12. DocBen
3:34 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
We had quite a night just west of here (Wichita). Looks like tonight will be our turn!
Member Since: May 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 98
11. Inyo
3:30 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
it seems sometimes that tornados follow roads or riverbeds or other smooth areas. I'm not sure if it is really true though, or just a perception. (or perhaps in these areas damage is more severe since the wind gets a running start)
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 873
10. jake436
3:23 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
Probably, but like I said, I thought it was just happenstance, but after closely watching for a couple of years, I have noticed on numerous occasions that they either die down, or split and go around urban areas. It's uncanny.
Member Since: August 31, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 271
9. thelmores
3:13 PM GMT on March 29, 2007
I would be really surprised if there is "any" evidence that shows cities are less susceptible to tornadoes than less densely populated area's..... I believe we are talking pure chance along with topography variations......
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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.