Killer tornadoes rip Iowa, and Minnesota; tropical depression possible late this week

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:08 PM GMT on May 26, 2008

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The 2008 Memorial Day Weekend tornado outbreak will continue to hammer the U.S. today, even as residents from Iowa and Minnesota clean up from the devastating tornadoes that killed eight people Sunday afternoon. A mile-wide tornado plowed through Parkersburg, Iowa between 5pm and 6pm CDT yesterday, killing five people in that city, and two in nearby New Hartford. It was the deadliest tornado in Iowa in more than 40 years. The tornado passed just north of the airport in Waterloo, Iowa, which recorded sustained winds of 64mph, gusting to 94 mph at 5:37pm CDT. Damage appeared to be at least EF-4 in photos I saw, and possibly EF-5 (over 200 mph). In Minnesota, another powerful twister killed at least one person and injured 9 in the Minneapolis suburb of Hugo.


Figure 1. Satellite image of the supercell thunderstorms that spawned the Parkerburg, Iowa and Hugo, Minnesota tornadoes on May 25, 2008.

The slow-moving low pressure system responsible for all the mayhem began in Colorado on Thursday, when the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) recorded 48 reports of tornadoes, including the EF-3 mile-wide twister that killed one person in Windsor, Colorado. On Friday, an additional 63 tornado reports occurred, mostly in Kansas. The tornado that hit Quinter, Kansas on Friday was the eighth violent EF-4 tornado of the year. Also on Friday, two people were killed in Cairo, Kansas when a tornado smashed a car trying to flee the storm. If you want to see why one should not try to escape a tornado in a car, take a look at what the tornado did to the car. Saturday was relatively quiet, with only 13 tornado reports, but Sunday's tally of 43 brought the 4-day total from the 2008 Memorial Day weekend outbreak to a remarkable 157 tornado reports. Some of these tornado reports are undoubtedly of the same tornado, so the actual number of tornadoes for the 4-day outbreak may be less than 150. BBC has some awesome aerial footage of the weekend tornadoes.



Figure 2. Radar reflectivity image (top) of the May 25, 2008 Parkersburg, Iowa tornado. The position of Parkersburg is marked by a circle with a cross in the middle. Bottom: Doppler velocity image of the tornado, showing a small core of red and blue colors right next to each other, denoting strong winds towards and away from the radar, the classic signature of a tornado vortex.



Figure 3. Radar reflectivity image (top) of the May 25, 2008 Hugo, Minnesota tornado. The position of Hugo is marked by a circle with a cross in the middle. Bottom: Doppler velocity image of the tornado, showing a small core of red and blue colors right next to each other, denoting strong winds towards and away from the radar, the classic signature of a tornado vortex. We've also saved a 12-frame radar animation of the Hugo cell, thanks to wunderground member Todd S.

Tallying up the numbers
The death toll from Sunday pushes this year's tornado deaths to 111, the most since 1998, when 130 were recorded. Assuming that the Parkersburg, Iowa tornado was an EF-4 or EF-5, there have been nine violent EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes this year. This is the most since 1999, when 13 such twisters were recorded. The total number of tornadoes this year is approaching 1100, and we may challenge the all time record for tornadoes in a year of 1817, set in 2004. Could this be a sign of climate change? No, I don't think so, and I'll explain why in a blog later this week.

Severe weather forecast
Severe weather will pound the U.S. again this Memorial Day, with the main action expected to stretch more than halfway across the country--from Texas to New York. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed much of Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle under its "Moderate Risk" category for severe weather, one step below its highest level of concern, "High Risk". Yesterday was also a "Moderate Risk" day in Iowa and Minnesota. The Weather Underground Severe Weather page and Tornado page are good places to go to follow the severe weather. Also, tune in to the chase accounts and awesome storm photos from Wunderblogger Mike Theiss. After today, it appears the severe weather outbreak will finally diminish, with only a slight risk of severe weather expected Tuesday, and no severe weather expected Wednesday.

Possible development in the Western Caribbean or Eastern Pacific late this week
For the past 3-6 days, our most reliable global computer weather forecast models have been predicting the development of a low pressure system near or over Central America by Friday of this week. Given the persistence in the models in developing this low, we need to be alert to the possibility of a tropical depression forming in either the Western Caribbean or Eastern Pacific, on either side of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It is uncertain which ocean basin such a storm might form in, and whether or not there will be a tropical wave around to help kick off development. It may be that the low pressure region will stay anchored over land south of the Yucatan Peninsula, preventing any development. This is the solution preferred by the ECMWF model in its last few runs. However, the GFS, NOGAPS, and Canadian models all predict a tropical depression might form in the Western Caribbean near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. In contrast, the UKMET shows development in the Eastern Pacific, on the Pacific side of Central America. Climatologically, May tropical storms are much more common in the Eastern Pacific than the Western Caribbean, so we should not discount the UKMET solution, even though it is an outlier. All five models predict that the Central American low pressure area will move northward towards the Gulf of Mexico, and wind shear may fall enough to allow a tropical depression to form should the low's center emerge over water. I'll be posting daily updates on the situation this week.

Jeff Masters

Wedge Tornado (MikeTheiss)
A large and violent wedge tornado near Quinter, Kansas. Photo Copyright Mike Theiss
Wedge Tornado
Wallcloud near Lacrosse, Kansas (MikeTheiss)
Photo of a wallcloud crossing road near lacrosse, Kansas on May 25, 2008. Photo copyight Mike Theiss
Wallcloud near Lacrosse, Kansas
Storm Damage (CAPEdcrusader)
These are pictures taken of the storm that went through Forest Lake / Hugo, MN. The tornado passed 3 miles south of us, but we got a pretty vicious shot of hail for about 15 minutes straight. The pictures of bldg damage are west of the worst tornado damage, probably where the funnel cloud was just about to reach the ground.
Storm Damage

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1009. extreme236
1:41 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
JMA forecasts 91W (AKA Tropical depression) to become a tropical storm in 24 hours.
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1008. Tazmanian
6:39 PM PDT on May 26, 2008
we now have TD 6W
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1007. Levi32
5:40 PM AKDT on May 26, 2008
Hey WBK long time no see! Yeah been very busy and to boot I'm leaving in a week and will be gone until mid-August......but at least I won't be missing the peak of the hurricane season.
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1006. extreme236
1:40 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Very well organized with deep convection over the center.

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1005. TheCaneWhisperer
1:35 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
I still can't believe the locals in SFL mentioned this area in question, their way to spark business in a sagging economy as SJ mentioned earlier, sheesh save it if you can, we're on the verge (ummm, already in one IMO) of a recession? ANYONE tracking this beyond the EPAC and SW Caribbean at this time is wasting it.
1004. weatherblog
1:35 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Also, if you look near the African Coast, shear has been light in that area. With the very warm SST's, low dust/SAL, and the light wind shear, we could have another Dennis or Emily in July. Our Cape Verde season may start quickly this season proved by some models already showing some sort of development off of Africa. Plus, we already had many organized tropical waves.

The only thing that's against the waves is the low latitude of the ITCZ.
Member Since: July 10, 2006 Posts: 27 Comments: 1623
1003. extreme236
1:39 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Well weatherblog it's always good to have someone with a different view point on the blog...otherwise if everyone the same viewpoint we would be saying "I agree" all the time and there wouldn't be much to talk about.
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1002. weatherboykris
1:39 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Hey Levi! Haven't seen you on here in awhile. I've got to go in a few, but will be back later this evening. Bye guys.
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1001. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
1:38 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Japan Meteorological Agency
Tropical Cyclone Advisory
9:00 AM JST May 27 2008

At 0:00am UTC, Tropical Depression [1008 hPa] located near 13.7N 138.0E has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts up to 45 knots. The depression is reported moving northwest at 10 knots.

Forecast and Intensity
==========================
24 HRS: 14.7N 137.3E - 35 knots (CAT 1)
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1000. Levi32
5:35 PM AKDT on May 26, 2008
weatherblog - The image is slightly decieving when you look at it, because there doesn't seem to be much low shear at all, but the anticyclone is there, over Panama, and when you get anything developing under an anticyclone that's the best upper-air environment you can get.
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999. TerraNova
9:36 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Extent of dry air (shaded blue) in the Atlantic:

Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
998. weatherblog
1:29 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
983. weatherboykris 1:25 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Weatherblog, the storms themselves create wind shear, which shows up on the models. Often during active periods during the season, you will see pockets of high shear directly over powerful hurricanes. This shear is caused by the storm itself and does not damage the storm. Besides that, let's not get ahead of ourselves. The GFS clearly shows that this will be, if anything, a weak, sheared system.


978. Drakoen 1:22 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
976. weatherblog 1:21 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
This is around the time when the "future storm" starts developing in the SW Caribbean. Doesn't the GFS contradict itself? Look at all the destructive wind shear in the caribbean.


#1 You are not looking out far enough
#2 You are not seeing that upper level high over Panama



I see what you guys are saying (still learning about these things lol). It makes sense.
But, I was just trying to point out the shear in the general area doesn't look too helpful to any system that might form. But, I guess there are other factors to take in too as you guys mentioned.
Member Since: July 10, 2006 Posts: 27 Comments: 1623
997. extreme236
1:33 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
There you go WeatherBlog...the NGPS shows the anticyclone over the system.
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996. weatherboykris
1:31 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
992. TheCaneWhisperer 1:30 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Here's something to ponder. Say this storm does develop in the EPAC and gets named Alma and maintains it's low center through the Atl Basin. How many years prior had 2 "A" storms since Alma would keep her name and Arthur would be next up in the Atl? And, would that be counted in the Atl. Season totals?


I believe that if it maintains it's original low pressure center while moving over land, it would continue to be Alma, and not count toward Atl. season totals.
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995. JupiterFL
1:28 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Get your normal supplies and then get a chain saw if you have extra funds. They come in so handy after the storm. Also a bunch of rope to tie your surviving trees back up. My favorite thing was cooking up some eggs and bacon on the propane grill, for breakfast when the power was out. You can do everything on one of those things including the coffee.
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994. Drakoen
1:31 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
992. TheCaneWhisperer 1:30 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Here's something to ponder. Say this storm does develop in the EPAC and gets named Alma and maintains it's low center through the Atl Basin. How many years prior had 2 "A" storms since Alma would keep her name and Arthur would be next up in the Atl? And, would that be counted in the Atl. Season totals?


It will be Alma as long as it remain a tropical storm or greater after crossing. If it is a depression or less and re-intensifies over water then it would be named Arthur.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30557
993. Drakoen
1:30 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Wow the blog reached 20 pages in one day lmfao...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30557
992. TheCaneWhisperer
1:22 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Here's something to ponder. Say this storm does develop in the EPAC and gets named Alma and maintains it's low center through the Atl Basin. How many years prior had 2 "A" storms since Alma would keep her name and Arthur would be next up in the Atl? And, would that be counted in the Atl. Season totals?
991. weatherblog
1:24 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
This is GFS at 108 hours



This is NOGAPS prediction at the same time

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990. Drakoen
1:27 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
To make a comparison and only a short term comparison, the system in the EPAC looks almost exactly like the tropical wave that came of the African coast that produced Dean.
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989. cchsweatherman
9:27 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Good night all and I will be here tomorrow morning around 8am.
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988. StormJunkie
1:23 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
975.

I have a genny, and a few sheets of ply wood. Will piece the rest together as the season goes. A lot of preparation depends on what you are preparing for.

I have been through a Cat 4, so I have a pretty good idea of what I would be getting in to with most storms. If you don't have a good idea, get your supplies now, and don't be afraid to go heavy on them. Better to have too many then too few.

So yeah BT, I am pretty much in the same boat as you.

As far as water goes, when models start hinting at a system approaching my area four or five days out, I start freezing gallon and 2 liter jugs of water. As the ice melts keeping the food cold, I then have drinking water.
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986. weatherboykris
1:26 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
978. Drakoen 1:22 AM GMT on May 27, 2008


976. weatherblog 1:21 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
This is around the time when the "future storm" starts developing in the SW Caribbean. Doesn't the GFS contradict itself? Look at all the destructive wind shear in the caribbean.


#1 You are not looking out far enough
#2 You are not seeing that upper level high over Panama


That too.

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985. KoritheMan
1:23 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
going well korithe...how was your winter? I never actually leave this place, i check the good dr's blog everyday i can but don't post that much over the winter.

My winter started off mild, but was hella cold during January, February, and March. Hell, it was even cold during April. Seriously, this April was one of the coldest I remember in a long time. Because of unusually strong and frequent cold fronts, SSTs throughout the Atlantic basin, especially in the Gulf of Mexico and Carribean Sea, remained well below average for a better part of the Spring. Just recently have they begun to get above average.

Anyway, I'm out all. I'll probably post my first blog of the tropical season tommorow. Later! You guys have a good one!
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984. Drakoen
1:24 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
979. jphurricane2006 1:23 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
weatherblog, what about the other models, what kind of shear do they predict?

im especially interested in the NOGAPS


The NOGAPS shows a decent upper level anticyclone over the Caribbean in conjunction with the area of low pressure.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30557
983. weatherboykris
1:23 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Weatherblog, the storms themselves create wind shear, which shows up on the models. Often during active periods during the season, you will see pockets of high shear directly over powerful hurricanes. This shear is caused by the storm itself and does not damage the storm. Besides that, let's not get ahead of ourselves. The GFS clearly shows that this will be, if anything, a weak, sheared system.
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982. Drakoen
1:24 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
You guys forgot about this graphic from the NHC.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30557
981. extreme236
1:21 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
NOGAPS shows low shear around the center of the system...keep in mind its just a model and will not have a perfect handle on the exact shear.
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980. Boatofacar
1:21 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
I really dont have any supplies...yet. I will be moving back to florida next week and will stock up then. Besides..JP has enough supplies to share!
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978. Drakoen
1:21 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
976. weatherblog 1:21 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
This is around the time when the "future storm" starts developing in the SW Caribbean. Doesn't the GFS contradict itself? Look at all the destructive wind shear in the caribbean.



#1 You are not looking out far enough
#2 You are not seeing that upper level high over Panama
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30557
977. GeoffreyWPB
9:20 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
lol...if McCain wins...maybe he will appoint Gov. Crist the head of FEMA!!
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976. weatherblog
1:19 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
This is around the time when the "future storm" starts developing in the SW Caribbean. Doesn't the GFS contradict itself? Look at all the destructive wind shear in the caribbean.


Any comments?
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975. Bamatracker
1:19 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
come on somebody post that they don't have their supplies so i don't feel like the only slacker here.
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973. Bamatracker
1:17 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
going well korithe...how was your winter? I never actually leave this place, i check the good dr's blog everyday i can but don't post that much over the winter.
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972. HurricaneGeek
9:17 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
As SpongeBob says... "I'm ready-eddy-eddy-eddy-eddy". So yeah, SpongeBob and I are ready. LOL =)
Member Since: May 10, 2007 Posts: 110 Comments: 7039
971. presslord
9:17 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
absolutely ready,,,and that IS a cool question
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969. GeoffreyWPB
9:14 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
I'm ready for the season...Didn't the Fla. Legis. do away with our Hurricane Tax Free Week? Gotta love the Rebups!
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968. KoritheMan
1:16 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Wow, it's Bamatracker. I haven't seen or talked to you in forever, man. Nice to see you! How's it going?
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967. Bamatracker
1:16 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
woohoo for spam!!!! who want MRE's?
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966. Drakoen
1:16 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
957. jphurricane2006 1:13 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
lol I know extreme, cant wait for that

I have an interesting question that almost never gets covered here

and BE HONEST

How many of you on this blog are actually ready for hurricane season??


I'm ready ;P
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30557
965. Stormchaser2007
9:15 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Live In WPB and I got my shutters up so im ready!!
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963. Boatofacar
1:13 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
I have 1 pack of D cell batteries and 2 cans of Spam....
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962. Bamatracker
1:14 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
How many of you on this blog are actually ready for hurricane season??


eh....i'm not by normal standards i guess. Have a plan but no supplies
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961. extreme236
1:14 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
How many of you on this blog are actually ready for hurricane season??

Since I'm living in Ohio I can honestly say I'm ready lol
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960. KoritheMan
1:14 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
How many of you on this blog are actually ready for hurricane season??

I am. I'm being honest, jp.
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959. Drakoen
1:12 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Now that I looked over the NOGAPS surface streamlines, i'm hoping the the QuickSat catches the area in the EPAC rather than the one in the southern Caribbean.
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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.