Tornado smashes small Kansas town; major tornado outbreak today

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

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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37. melwerle
9:14 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
STORM!!!
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36. GainesvilleGator
8:58 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
That low pressure system off the SE US coast could be a bad thing if it helps fan the flames on the Georgia & Florida fires. It will be a very big disaster if we get strong winds without rain. We need this thing to make landfall over either Florida or Georgia & to dump 2-3 inches of rain.
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35. CrazyC83
9:06 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
The worst still awaits. Those messages will be repeated countless times this afternoon and evening.

I'd say it is very possible we had our first EF5 last night...
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33. MichaelSTL
3:55 PM CDT on May 05, 2007
Today's outbreak is becoming dangerous, by this I mean by warnings like this, saying that it is extremely dangerous and life threatening, or large and destructive tornadoes:

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SIOUX FALLS SD
351 PM CDT SAT MAY 5 2007

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN SIOUX FALLS HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
BON HOMME COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST SOUTH DAKOTA

* UNTIL 445 PM CDT

* AT 351 PM CDT...TRAINED WEATHER SPOTTERS REPORTED A TORNADO 20
MILES SOUTH OF TYNDALL IN KNOX COUNTY NEBRASKA...OR ABOUT 28 MILES
SOUTHWEST OF YANKTON... MOVING NORTH AT 30 MPH.

* THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR...
TABOR AROUND 420 PM CDT...
TYNDALL AROUND 425 PM CDT...
SCOTLAND AROUND 440 PM CDT...

THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AND LIFE THREATENING SITUATION. TAKE
COVER NOW.
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
32. HurricaneAndrew
8:49 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
Hey guys, Andy Hagen here. I think I know who some of you guys are. I'm a Penn State junior from Miami. Anyways...I have been following the models very closely over the past day or 2 and the NAM/WRF along with a few other models are giving a chance for a warm core tropical cyclone to develop. The low level temperature forecasts as well as the 1000-500 mb thicknesses point toward the cyclone becoming more warm-core with time, out to around 60 hours. Let's not jump out of our shoes yet though.
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31. MichaelSTL
3:30 PM CDT on May 05, 2007
Remember that it's the temperature gradient that matters, not just the surface seas temperature

Exactly. That is what the maximum potential intensity map is based on - SSTs and the atmosphere's thermodynamic profile (you may also remember that one reason why Epsilon lasted for so long is that the upper atmosphere was unusually cold; the shallowness of convection also meant that upper-level shear did not affect it as much; lower-mid-level shear was more important).
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
30. hurricane23
16:29 EDT le 05 mai 2007
Right now the NAM and the WRF having getting to warm-core.

Here is the WRF at 78 hrs and 84 hrs.

78hrs

ffff

84hrs

ssd
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29. melwerle
8:24 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
I've had my a/c on for weeks now in Savannah - it's been in the high 80s, low 90s.
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28. MZT
8:18 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
Remember that it's the temperature gradient that matters, not just the surface seas temperature. One factor at play, is that we've had a bit of a cool wave sweep down into NC the last few days. I turned my heat back on last night... kind of unusual for May.

The SST's may be lower than classic tropical setups right now, but they are sufficiently warm to sustain a shallow subtropical storm. Think "Zeta" -- only early season, instead of late.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 797
27. MichaelSTL
3:20 PM CDT on May 05, 2007
SSTs are very low...so i think it will not be tropical.

Wasn't a problem for Epsilon, Zeta, Delta, Vince and Gordon (Gordon reintensified to a Cat 2 over ~75 degree water)... some of which were over even colder SSTs. 80 degrees is only needed for purely tropical systems that develop from tropical waves; cold-core lows can become tropical over much colder water. Also, look at this:

Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
26. CaneAddict17
8:21 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
The 12z nogaps also makes the storm very strong.Link
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25. ryang
4:19 PM AST on May 05, 2007
Lots of warnings in effect in Kansas...
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24. ryang
4:14 PM AST on May 05, 2007
SSTs are very low...so i think it will not be tropical.
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23. DocBen
8:10 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
Greensburg is not very far down the road from Wichita. I guess I will be watching the radar here tonight.
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22. hurricane23
16:12 EDT le 05 mai 2007
The GFS is also showing another area of low pressure but of more importance i noticed a gradual decrease in windshear.See here
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21. MichaelSTL
3:12 PM CDT on May 05, 2007
Uh-oh...

Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
20. Drakoen
8:09 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
I hope from the developing system that South Florida can at least get some rain. It may do a hurricane jean loop.
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19. MichaelSTL
3:05 PM CDT on May 05, 2007
The CMC still shows a tropical storm developing:


The NAM is far more impressive; not only warm-core but very deep as well:


And much stronger as well.
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
18. MZT
7:57 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
It's funny how the advisory does not say "tropical storm" ... it would get the mainstream news too excited, too early ... But "symmetric warm core system" is sufficient to alert just the cognoscenti. :-)

As for the tornado radars... Man, that is one naaaasty hook echo!
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 797
17. hurricane23
15:59 EDT le 05 mai 2007
Here's one view of the hook echo from my WT software i caught lastnight.

ggg
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16. hurricane23
15:52 EDT le 05 mai 2007
Indeed Kris...

From MLB NWS:

SIGNIFICANT MODEL DIFFERENCES EXIST WITH REGARD TO THE POSITION/
STRENGTH OF THE VERTICALLY STACKED LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM...THOUGH THIS
IS TO BE EXPECTED CONSIDERING ITS ANOMALOUS NATURE. IT IS QUITE RARE
FOR STORMS TO REACH THIS INTENSITY...THIS FAR SOUTH...THIS TIME OF
YEAR. LATEST NAM-WRF SUGGESTS THE MEANDERING LOW WILL INITIALLY
DRIFT SOUTHWESTWARD...REACHING THE LATITUDE OF JAX EARLY TUE...
BEFORE MOVING NORTHWESTWARD TOWARDS THE SC COAST. THIS SCENARIO
WOULD RESULT IN A WINDIER DAY ACROSS ECFL...THOUGH STILL DRY WITH A
NORTHWESTERLY FLOW. LATEST GFS IS FURTHER NORTH AND NOT NEARLY AS
AGGRESSIVE AS THE NAM-WRF. IN TERMS OF CYCLONE PHASE...THE NAM-WRF
ALSO INDICATES THE CYCLONE MAY ULTIMATELY EVOLVE FROM AN ASYMMETRIC
COLD CORE TO A SYMMETRIC WARM CORE SYSTEM
.
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15. hurricane23
15:49 EDT le 05 mai 2007
Here a view of the massive tornado from last night.

ggg
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14. weatherboykris
7:43 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
Adrian,check my comments in Bob's blog.Too lazy to repost them here.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
13. hurricane23
15:42 EDT le 05 mai 2007
(2pm Discussion)

ATLANTIC...
THE MAIN WEATHER FEATURE IN THE WRN ATLC CONTINUES TO BE THE SFC
TROUGH EXTENDING NE FROM HISPANIOLA TO A 1012 MB SFC LOW LOCATED
NEAR 27N64W. THIS...ALONG WITH UPPER DIFFLUENCE BETWEEN AN UPPER
TROUGH OVER THE WRN ATLC AND UPPER RIDGE OVER THE CENTRAL
ATLC...IS SUPPORTING AN EXTENSIVE AREA OF OVERCAST CLOUDINESS
WITH EMBEDDED SHOWERS/ISOLATED TSTMS N OF 24N BETWEEN 52W-65W.
ON THE WESTERN SIDE OF THIS AREA...VIS SAT IMAGERY SHOWS A SWIRL
OF LOW CLOUDS ASSOCIATED WITH THE DEVELOPING SFC LOW. THIS LOW
WILL MOVE MAINLY E WITH LITTLE CHANGE IN THE NEXT 24 HOURS. THE
GLOBAL MODELS ARE ALSO GRADUALLY COMING INTO BETTER AGREEMENT
REGARDING THE DEVELOPMENT OF ANOTHER LOW OFF THE SOUTHEAST U.S.
COAST DURING THE SUN-TUE TIMEFRAME. THIS FEATURE COULD HAVE
SIGNIFICANT MARINE IMPACTS FOR THE AREA INTO EARLY NEXT WEEK.
THIS LOW IS FORECAST TO EVOLVE FROM A STATIONARY FRONTAL
BOUNDARY EXTENDING NOW ALONG 31N WEST OF 60W. THIS SFC LOW MAY
REACH STORM FORCE WINDS AS IT MAKES A LOOPING TYPE MOTION OFF
THE SE US.

The UKMET has the low deeping as it moves SW but then weaking as it approaches the florida coast.


ggg
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12. weatherboykris
7:26 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
All's good,thanks for asking.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
11. starbuck89
7:16 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
Let's hope for a good hurricane season with hopefully no deaths and minimal destruction.
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10. StSimonsIslandGAGuy
6:57 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
Hey Kris :) How are things down there today? We seem to be having a forecast bust here, it was predicted to be in the lower 80s and mostly sunny outside of any storms. But instead it is 73 with a good northeast breeze.
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9. MargieKieper
1:58 PM CDT on May 05, 2007
Tornado right now in NE, northeast of North Platte:

[deleted the image as it apparently was being updated real-time]
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8. weatherboykris
6:48 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
hey guys
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
7. seflagamma
2:45 PM AST on May 05, 2007
Thanks Dr Masters on your updates and the information. It was shocking to learn of this destruction this morning.
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6. Thunderstorm2
6:43 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
Dr. Masters You have WUmail
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5. StSimonsIslandGAGuy
6:37 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
In a subtle sign of the approaching season and warming water temps, last night was the first night so far this year that we held above 70 for our overnight low.
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4. StSimonsIslandGAGuy
6:40 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
Hurricane Able of 1951 looks more interesting and exceptional the more I think about it
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3. StSimonsIslandGAGuy
6:35 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
Arlene in 1981 is the only tropical storm I could find that formed in the first 10 days of May.
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2. StSimonsIslandGAGuy
6:33 PM GMT on May 05, 2007
Thanks for the post Dr. Masters. My own running total of tornado fatalities takes us to 67 for the year, but I am sure I am the one who made the mistake. I'm afraid this will be the deadliest year for tornadoes since 1974.
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1. ryang
2:32 PM AST on May 05, 2007
Thanks Dr.Masters....bad stuff.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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