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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288. MZT
11:53 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
New blog is up

Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 793
287. weatherboykris
11:41 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Tropical systems technically are cut off lows.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
286. MZT
11:31 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
For our possible Atlantic sotrm -- The 0600 models are forecasting a sub 1000 millibar low to form Tuesday, but that it will then weaken Wednesday and slosh ashore somewhere.

Nogaps says Florida... GFS says South Carolina... Canadian can't even decide to bring it ashore.

Most of the advisories are referring to this as a "cut-off low" and not describing it as tropical.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 793
283. Tazmanian
5:12 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
we are come overe to my blog lilmax no one her right now
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115362
282. lilmax
5:09 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
I'm back, couldn't sleep. What's up everyone? Nice pics taz, scary stuff.
281. Tazmanian
4:50 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
the photos you are seeing are from Greensburg and has you can see it is gone

lol

lol

lol

lol

Downtown Greensburg lies in ruins

lol

lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115362
280. Jedkins
4:35 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
ya thats the true reson why they aren't.

I wish they'd be able to issue watches eventually for our summer type pattern events, it would be usefull. But right now its just not practical.

Plus anyone who has lived here as long as me doesn't a severe watch box to be on alert when the sea breeze storms crank up iun the wet season.
279. weatherboykris
4:29 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Well,for a watch you need a large scale synoptic situation to cause the storms.Sea breeze thunderstorms are too unpredictable for a watch.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
278. Jedkins
4:25 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
sorry about my terrible typos, hope you could read everything alright everyone lol
277. Jedkins
4:24 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Heck we get lots of severe storms throughout the wet season here in Florida along the seabreeze collisions and never get any watch boxes.
276. Jedkins
4:23 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Heck we had numerous severe thunderstorm warnings and reports of hail in Florida today, but there was no watch box
275. Jedkins
4:22 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
the area covered by tornado watches may be getting stronger, but at least in the short term where severe storms do exsist, they are trending more numerous amd more ibtense.


After all its not about the watch boxes, its about the warningings, watch boxes only mean anticipation, not necceas
274. flibinite
4:19 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Thanks, Jedkins... what a mess out there, even in the places that don't get tornados. I'll bet there are a lot of people in those states who won't even go to bed tonight, scared and worrying... :-(

Jo
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 290
273. lilmax
4:18 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Good night folks, my thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the severe weather. Good night and be safe.
272. lilmax
4:16 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Good news, the area covered by the Tornado Watches are getting smaller. All of this could be done around 2:30 AM EDT!
271. lilmax
4:10 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
I really feel bad for those folks living in the Central Plains, having all those bad storms, it is crazy.
270. StoryOfTheCane
4:08 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
GFS predicts favorable Shear in the Southern Caribbean between the dates of May 11 & May 20

GFS
269. lilmax
4:08 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
If the steering winds stay that way and if that system does in fact form, Florida might have something to contend with. Though we need the rain but not the wind.
268. Bamatracker
4:08 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
im out for tonight!!! have a good night everyone.
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 1367
267. Bamatracker
4:04 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
GFS has a 1008 low into S. Carolina wed morning....looks like a rainmaker!!
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 1367
266. StoryOfTheCane
4:02 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
it will not become a named system, simply a big thunderstorm.
265. lilmax
4:02 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
I can tell that tonight will be a busy night for amateur and professional meteorologist bloggers here tonight.
264. MZT
4:01 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
I would agree, this possible system off the Carolinas is small beer. If it does become a named system, it'll probably be milder than Alberto, and just bring rain somewhere.

But, after all, we are pinheads on a tropical weather blog -- so, we gotta discuss it! :-)
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 793
263. Jedkins
4:00 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
I am ver concerned with what I'm seeing across the plains, there are so many storms capable od being destructive out there tonight its rediculous, and they are only becoming even more numerous...

Lets not forget how bad flooding can be as well, its often called the silent killer, and serious flooding is occurring this evening as well.
262. Bamatracker
4:00 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
night all that are leaving!!!
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 1367
261. StormJunkie
3:59 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Alright y'all I am out. The 00z GFS looks interesting. Be interesting to see the phase evolution for this run.

anywho, I am off to bed. See everyone tomorrow.

Models and much more....Quick Links
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
260. franck
3:59 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
I've never seen a cropping of clouds over an area that size. Kansas is a very large state.
Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
259. sfranz
3:58 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
The Iowa storms have linked up and think they want to play at being an eyewall (spinning clockwise.)

Link
Member Since: September 4, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 149
258. RL3AO
3:58 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
I'll be going to bed here in a minute. Hopefully we dont lose any more cities tonight. But this was a hell of an outbreak. I've never seen so many severe storms hit the same places over and over again.
257. Jedkins
3:58 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
That "mini hurricane" is what they call a MESO low, they can be producers of very dangerous tornados possibly, often very intense winds as well.

I have seen them here in Florida, they can be quite violent, we had a tornado warning at he tim when one went over me, that was back in Febuary..,
256. lilmax
3:54 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
1019 PM CDT SAT MAY 5 2007

OKC045-060345-
/O.CON.KOUN.TO.W.0034.000000T0000Z-070506T0345Z/
ELLIS OK-
1019 PM CDT SAT MAY 5 2007

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1045 PM CDT FOR
SOUTHEASTERN ELLIS COUNTY...

AT 1019 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR DETECTED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO ABOUT 11 MILES
SOUTH OF HARMON OVER FAR SOUTHEASTERN ELLIS COUNTY. SPOTTERS ARE
REPORTING POWER FLASHES WITH THIS STORM INDICATING EITHER A TORNADO
OR DAMAGING THUNDERSTORM WINDS ARE LIKELY OCCURRING. THE STORM IS
MOVING NORTHEAST AT 25 MPH.

THE THE TORNADO WILL GENERALLY REMAIN IN RURAL AREAS OF ELLIS
COUNTY SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST OF HARMON.

LAT...LON 3598 9962 3591 9954 3595 9938 3620 9938

$$

..SPEG.





All these warnings popping up. Scary stuff.
254. MZT
3:54 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
The GFS, like the NAM shows that low deepening rapidly tomorrow. By tomorrow evening, I'm sure we'll be actively speculating what it will do.

At least there will be something to evaluate, as opposed to waiting for something to arrive.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 793
253. kmanislander
3:53 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
catch you all tomorrow
gnite
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15904
252. HurricaneFCast
3:53 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
GFS Shows more westward movement towards land, and still a decently strong low... 1004mb. Well, i'm going to sleep, work tomorrow, and see how this plays out. It's not good to get to worked up over what, at the most, could become a weak TS, especially with 80Kt Wind shear....
Member Since: April 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
251. kmanislander
3:52 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
HCFC

Too true. Every year has some quirk to it
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15904
250. flibinite
3:51 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Hi all... what a horrible mess in the Midwest last night and today, especially in Kansas. I'm trying to post a link here to the NWS radar out of Wichita, which I've never done, so it might not work. But I was just wondering, do any of you see the first storm in this latest train actually spinning around, like a mini hurricane? And the second one almost looks it has a eye, or an anti-eye, in this case... both look to be very bad storms, whatever the case...

http://radar.weather.gov/ridge/radar.php?rid=ict&overlays=11101111&product=NCR&loop=yes

It helps if you can zoom in and click off the warning boxes...

Jo
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 290
249. stormhank
3:51 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
00Z GFS 54 hr...Link
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1386
248. HurricaneFCast
3:50 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Kman- Yeah, usually this is true. Less wind shear, warmer SST's near the caribbean, and above average moisture in the Atlantic tend to lead to an Above Average hurricane season. I would like to point out, however, that 2005, with 27 Storms, was neither an El Niño nor a La Niña event. It just goes to show, anything can happen.
Member Since: April 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
246. kmanislander
3:49 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
see my 3:17 post for the WV loop of that low diving down
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15904
245. MZT
3:48 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
The new GFS model runs are out for May 6 at 0000 utc

Link
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 793
244. sfranz
3:47 AM GMT on May 06, 2007

The visible sunset picture off GOES West is a bit sobering.

Sunset Visible Satellite

If you can't see the link for some reason, here are the direct addresses:

http://www.mirawebdesign.com/temp/midwest-tornado-outbreak-05-06-2007-00-45.jpg

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/cp/loop-vis.html

Member Since: September 4, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 149
243. TheCaneWhisperer
3:47 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
242. kmanislander
3:47 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Well I am out of here for tonight. It will be intersting to see how the E Coast low plays out tomorrow.

Good night all and thanks for the exchange of ideas and information
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15904
240. Jedkins
3:43 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
This is extremely dangerous weather out there tonight folks, this has me worried about tonight after what happened in Kansas last night,
239. MZT
3:43 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
Jedkinds, I think North Dakota will be getting a share in this too.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 793
238. kmanislander
3:42 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
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15904

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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.