Tornado smashes small Kansas town; major tornado outbreak today

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:30 PM GMT on May 05, 2007

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A terrible scene--played out all too often in 2007--happened again last night in Greensburg, Kansas. The sirens sounded, warning of an advancing tornado, but the black of night hid the 3/4-mile wide monster twister approaching from the southwest. The residents of this small town of 1600 had time to find safe shelter, but the tornado was so powerful, that even sturdy buildings could not protect the residents. The tornado destroyed or heavily damaged 90% of the town, destroying the central business district, city hall, and the high school. Eight people died, plus one more person 30 miles away. Damage surveys are not yet complete on the tornado, but photos I've seen of the destruction show damage consistent with EF4 winds(168-199 mph). It is possible the storm was an EF5 (winds more than 200 mph). The ten deaths yesterday bring the U.S. tornado death toll to 69 so far this year, three more than the toll for all of last year. For those interested, I've saved a 1 Mb animation of the radar reflectivity and Doppler velocities of the tornado (thanks to Wunderblogger redefined for saving these!) The animations show some very strong rotation and odd swirling behavior that I don't recall ever seeing in a tornado radar animation before.

Wunderblogger Mike Theiss was out chasing yesterday and caught some of the storms; be sure to tune into his blog over the next few days to read his chase accounts.


Figure 1. Radar image of the strom that spawned the Greensburg, KS tornado of May 4, 2007.

Major severe weather outbreak today expected
More strong (EF2 and EF3) or violent (EF4 and EF5) tornadoes are possible again tonight, and the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has put a large area of Kansas and Nebraska under its highest risk level, "High Risk". This is the fourth time this year that SPC has issued its "High Risk" forecast. The last time it did so, on April 24, an EF3 tornado struck the Mexico/Texas border near Eagle Pass, killing ten (the "High Risk" area defined by SPC was actually a bit north of where the tornado struck). Tornadoes have already been reported in Colorado and Nebraska today, so tune into our severe weather page and radar page to follow the outbreak.

Coastal Carolina storm
The latest (8am EDT) computer forecast models continue to show a moderately strong coastal storm developing several hundred miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on Monday. The storm will be extratropical in nature when it forms. It will bring strong winds and high surf to the Carolina coast for several days early next week, as it meanders offshore. Water temperatures are 22-23 C off of the coast, which may be warm enough to allow the low to acquire some subtropical characteristics and become the season's first named storm. However, none of the models are showing this, and I put the odds of a Subtropical Storm Andrea forming next week at about 10%.

Jeff Masters

LP Supercell with Wallcloud (MikeTheiss)
Small "Left Split" LP Supercell with blocky wallcloud in Oklahoma. © Mike Theiss - All Rights Reserved
LP Supercell with Wallcloud
Lightning 5-4-07 (kshippychic)
Lightning 5-4-07

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238. kmanislander
3:37 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
AH

So you can have high tornadic activity in EITHER an El Nino or La Nina year just that the geographical location is different.

When the tornadic activity is located in the central US ( where it has been happening this year ) that means la Nina is in play and we can therefore expect heightened hurricane activity. Hope I got that right
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237. Jedkins
3:39 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
These storms have absolutely amazing moisture content for this far north, which increases their violent and eratic potential.

The it goes around here in Florida, the more tropical and soupy the air is and the more moisture laden the storms are, the higher the risk of a eratic behavior and explosive development.

Also makes things more condusive for tornados under the dynamics out there.


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236. Tazmanian
8:39 PM PDT on May 05, 2007
i am watching cnn right now and the video Greensburg has been hit by a EF5 95% of Greensburg is gone you most turn it too cnn NOW 95% of Greensburg is gone
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235. franck
3:40 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Sorry...that's Kansas.
Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
234. Jedkins
3:39 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Thats disturbing, Aberdeen South Dekota has had 5 inches of rain today, they have had 4 straight hours of strong storms over them.

Here's the weird part, the temp started at 62 and has risen to 69 during these heavy storms!

Thats absolutely unheard of up there, heck its not common to see temps that warm here after 4 hours of thunderstorms straight accept during the tropical rain season.


In other words, semi - tropical convection is affecting areas as far north as south Dekota, incredible stuff folks...
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233. Bamatracker
3:37 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
doing well....waiting to see how these ole models are coming out.
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 1367
232. franck
3:36 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
The South Dakota radar signature looks just like a row of monster funnels.
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231. HurricaneFCast
3:33 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
OH and H23.. Nice animated graphic of that tornado outbreak, Wow! It's incredible isn't it? I feel bad for the many people who are about to be affected by those storms. That's just amazing, it's been awhile since i've seen this severe of an outbreak.
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229. RL3AO
10:37 PM CDT on May 05, 2007
Total rainfall

1
227. stormhank
3:35 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
hey bama n micheal how r you tonight?
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226. stormhank
3:33 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
thanks KM....I'll ask this same question again on November 30th.. LOL
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224. Bamatracker
3:31 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Link
Woohoo...00 GFS started downloading!!!
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 1367
223. HurricaneFCast
3:25 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Stormhank- An active tornado season can sometimes be attributed to a developing la niña, which is basically the opposite of an el niño, which is what we had last summer and during winter. La niña is, fundamentally, the cooling of the pacific ocean. Along with the cooling of the pacific ocean we can expect to see below average wind shear over the Atlantic Ocean. Last year the High wind shear was the main factor for a "normal" hurricane season. This year we should definitely see an above average hurricane season, especially since a light to moderate la niña is developing. Less wind shear = less resistance for a developing thunderstorm, disturbance, depression, tropical storm, and eventual hurricane. So yes this sometimes can be attributed to an active hurricane season, however there is usually no DIRECT correlation between an active hurricane and tornado season, it's merely the factors that produce the active season.
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222. Skyepony (Mod)
3:32 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39361
221. kmanislander
3:28 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
But I am sure someone knows of an active tornado season during an El Nino year LOL
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220. kmanislander
3:26 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
SH

If an active tornado season is associated with la Nina and La Nina is associated with an active hurricane season then I guess you have your answer
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219. kmanislander
3:20 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
STL

Thanks. Very interesting.
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218. stormhank
3:21 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Im back guys HI h23 n all. Just a quick question... Does an active tornado season have any thing to do with what type hurricane season there maybe?
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216. StormJunkie
3:21 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Shows well on this WV also.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
214. kmanislander
3:18 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
23

scary stuff
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213. hurricane23
11:17 PM EDT on May 05, 2007
Here is a differerent view..popping everywere.

fff
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
212. kmanislander
3:15 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
The WV loop gives a good image of the low diving down

Link
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210. StormJunkie
3:10 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
The shear should push away in front of the low. You can really see it churning over NC.
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209. hurricane23
11:11 PM EDT on May 05, 2007
Guys fixed the image...Now the timestamp is added so the time is showing.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
208. kmanislander
3:09 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Is this tornado season more active than normal and if so is there any correlation with la Nina ?
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207. StormJunkie
3:08 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
No kidding kman!
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
205. kmanislander
3:07 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
at least with hurricanes we get several days warning

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204. hurricane23
11:06 PM EDT on May 05, 2007
Yes SJ.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
203. 1900hurricane
10:02 PM CDT on May 05, 2007
All of the storms are training, which means that some places are getting their 3rd or 4th tornado warning today!
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202. StormJunkie
3:03 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Is that current 23?
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201. hurricane23
11:02 PM EDT on May 05, 2007
Hurricanefcast no problem...
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
200. hurricane23
11:02 PM EDT on May 05, 2007
g
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199. HurricaneFCast
2:58 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
But i did look into the model forecasts for this new low that should be forming sometime late tomorrow off the coast of the Carolinas. The GFS shows strong CC rotation, but too much wind shear. The NOGAPS shows less wind shear, but due to SST's and close proximity to land, i don't see a TS forming. We just have to keep an eye on it, at least there's something harmless we can have fun predicting this early, and if it did bring rain to Florida, I'd be happy, these fires are killing us here. The smoke is horrible. Sorry again Hurricane23 for my prior statements regarding the Invest 96W
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198. kmanislander
3:00 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
False alarm. Calm down everyone LOL
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197. RL3AO
9:59 PM CDT on May 05, 2007
Atlantic basis invests end in the letter "L"
196. lilmax
2:53 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
I'm having a deja vu from the previous severe weather outbreak from February-March. It's a similar set up. Perfect location, swallowed up all the energy it got.
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195. StormJunkie
2:56 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Evening TCW

Good to see everyone.

Yep TCW, should push off shore tomorrow or so?
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
193. HurricaneFCast
2:56 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Hurricane23, you're absolutely right. I'm sorry, I totally mistook that for Florida, it does look like Florida's SE coast though.. My apologies. I feel like an idiot :(.. Oh well, live and learn.
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192. MZT
2:51 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Pressures are generally around 1015 millibars along the Carolina coasts right now. I guess it's still too early to detect any real change.
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191. HurricaneFCast
2:55 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
There's such a thing: Link
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190. TheCaneWhisperer
10:48 PM EDT on May 05, 2007
The low in reference is diving SE, currently located in central North Carolina! It should make the coast sometime tomorrow afternoon/eveningish!

How about them storms blowing up in Kansas again in the same loop provided!

Evening All!
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189. HurricaneFCast
2:51 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
NOGAPS has a decently strong low moving near the Daytona, Florida Area, lingering off the coast for a few days, then being swept away by an HPS.
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188. hurricane23
10:54 PM EDT on May 05, 2007
Posted By: HurricaneFCast at 10:51 PM EDT on May 05, 2007. (hide)
Navy labeled low off SE Fl as Invest96w.

No such thing... located in the Indian ocean
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841

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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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