Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:40 AM GMT on May 06, 2007
The sirens sounded two more times in tornado-ravaged Greensburg, Kansas last night, as two more twisters tore through the county. However, both tornadoes missed populated areas, as did most of the approximately 75 tornadoes that touched down yesterday. The action should quiet down considerably today; the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has placed most of Kansas and Nebraska under its "Slight Risk" area for severe weather. Sweetwater, Oklahoma received significant damage from a tornado last night, and we've saved 300 Kb animations of the radar reflectivity and Doppler velocities of the tornado.
It will take a long time for Greensburg to recover from Friday's tornado. To get an idea of the scale of devastation, see the aerial photos posted by the Wichita Eagle. 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 nine deaths from the tornado bring the U.S. tornado death toll to 68 so far this year, two more than the toll for all of last year.
We've saved some extraordinary 1 Mb animations of the radar reflectivity and Doppler velocities of the tornado. I asked wunderground meteorologist and tornado expert Rob Carver to comment on what's going on in the animations, and here was his analysis:
This was likely an example of cyclic mesocyclogenesis. In a nutshell, the rear-flank downdraft surges out, wraps around and occludes the mesocyclone (Meso A for short). Meso A then veers to the left and dies, this is why tornado family members curve to the left as they dissipate. While Meso A is dying, a new meso spins up and becomes the dominant meso. Now, while I've seen plenty of simulated cyclic cases where the hook retreats when Meso A occludes, I don't think I've seen anything as dramatic.
Figure 1. Radar image of the storm that spawned the Greensburg, KS tornado of May 4, 2007, showing the clearly defined hook echo associated with the twister.
Coastal Carolina storm
The latest (8pm 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. We'll have a lot of time to watch the storm, as it is expected to meander offshore for five days and gradually weaken. 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. The models are hinting that the storm could remain over water long enough for this to happen, and I put the odds of a Subtropical Storm Andrea forming late this week at about 20%.
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. Stormchaser Dan Robinson posted some video stills of the Greensburg tornado.
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