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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909. IKE
7:41 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Their saying there are no signs of development, but there could be within the next 48 hours...they say that all the time.
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907. hurricane23
8:42 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
I must say this is pretty signficant when it comes to sst's across the atlantic basin.Iam hopeing this warming comes to a halt cause the warming trend over the last few weeks has been pretty substantial across the tropical atlantic.Might be in for a long season.

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906. Drakoen
12:42 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
901. IKE 12:41 AM GMT on May 27, 2008

896. extreme236 7:39 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Its not contradictory because it says right now there aren't any signs of development, however some development could occur eventually. The NHC says that all the time.

True.


I agree as well.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30726
905. weatherblog
12:41 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
I'll be back later. Keep the good discussion going...lol
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904. Drakoen
12:41 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Some of you guys need a grammar lesson.

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30726
903. extreme236
12:41 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
I know it doesn't say "right now" but thats how I interpret it. Its saying there are no signs of development in the area now but some slow development could occur in the next few days.
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902. StormJunkie
12:38 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
894

Has to be the Crack Modeling Co.

962mb...lol
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
901. IKE
7:40 PM CDT on May 26, 2008

896. extreme236 7:39 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Its not contradictory because it says right now there aren't any signs of development, however some development could occur eventually. The NHC says that all the time.


True.
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900. extreme236
12:39 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
But I guess it matters on how you interpret it

JRRP...it would seem shear would decrease, however I would like to see it happen for myself first.
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899. 7544
12:38 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
894. WPBHurricane05 12:37 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
891- I believe that is the CMC


gem
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897. weatherblog
12:35 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
LOL JRRP, I was just going to post that. :)

Refering to the predicted wind shear, it looks to be favorable in the SW Caribbean, but it isn't predicted to be favorable in the NW Caribbean. I don't know, maybe by June 1st or so, the NW Caribbean will have lower shear, and isn't an anticyclone supposed to be there, therefore lowering shear?

If not, I will see our "future storm" having a a hard time developing.
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896. extreme236
12:38 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Its not contradictory because it says right now there aren't any signs of development, however some development could occur eventually. The NHC says that all the time.
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895. HurrikanEB
12:37 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
so... any changes since earlier or are we still just waiting to see whats going to happen down around central america
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894. WPBHurricane05
8:36 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
891- I believe that is the CMC?
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
893. HurrikanEB
12:35 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
good evening everyone.
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892. HIEXPRESS
8:31 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
884. HadesGodWyvern 8:28 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
...you're probably looking for the words "Currently there are no signs of development, However slow development is possible in the next few days" =P

Reminds me of this classic:
THE NEAR-UNANIMOUS GUIDANCE MAKES THIS A HIGH CONFIDENCE FORECAST...BUT THOSE AWAY FROM THE FORECAST TRACK SHOULD NOT LET DOWN THEIR GUARD JUST IN CASE THE GUIDANCE PROVES TO BE UNANIMOUSLY WRONG.
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891. 7544
12:34 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
just for fun ive been watching this model it has it going off the so east coast of so fla then moving back in take alook

Link
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890. Bamatracker
12:32 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
i favor the possibility of 90E forming over the next few days. at this point I don't buy into seeing 90L this week though.
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889. JRRP
12:26 AM GMT on Mayo 27, 2008

shear will decrease in the ATL and CARB
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887. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
12:29 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Haha =)
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886. extreme236
12:28 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
I know I sound like the people who constantly say something will become 90L or 90E but this time it looks as though 90E could actually happen lol
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884. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
12:24 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
you're probably looking for the words "Currently there are no signs of development, However slow development is possible in the next few days" =P
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883. 7544
12:26 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
lets see if we are going to have an invest or a td1 before june 1 things are getting interesting
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882. extreme236
12:27 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Things can change easily. Just 36 hours ago shear was 5-10 knots north of Panama, so that tells you how fast it can change.
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881. hurricane23
8:26 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
A drift eastward is what was interesting from that TWO.
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879. hurricane23
8:22 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Here is the lastest TAFB...

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878. HurricaneGeek
8:22 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
It reminds me of a sentence: "A weak category five." When really instead of "weak", the better word(s) would have been "barley a...". After all, there is no weak category five. =)
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877. extreme236
12:23 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
871. jphurricane2006 12:21 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
lol they kind of contradict themselves there huh adrian?


Not really...their just saying that there aren't any signs of anything forming yet but conditions are favorable for gradual development.
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876. Drakoen
12:22 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
871. jphurricane2006 12:21 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
lol they kind of contradict themselves there huh adrian?


I don't see a contradiction. They said no signs of development now but slow development is possible over the next few days.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30726
875. HurakanPR
12:18 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
I NOTICE THAT TOO, 7544,There is a fast moving blob,near 50w, and the shear for that area is forecast to be low according to the atlantic shear forecast. Let's see....
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874. extreme236
12:20 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
867. jphurricane2006 12:14 AM GMT on May 27,2008
I agree with weatherblog, Im starting to think the models are stringing us all along on a wild goose chase lol


I would have to disagree...there is already a sfc low in the Caribbean and the NGPS doesn't show a cyclone until 54 hours, and we don't know what the shear will be like then. Anyway, even if a Caribbean system doesn't form, than an EPAC system could form. There is a good chance for something to form on either side of the Central America IMO.
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873. Drakoen
12:21 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
870. hurricane23 12:20 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Has anyone seen this lol....

A BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE EXTENDS FROM CENTRAL AMERICA
WEST-SOUTHWESTWARD FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES INTO THE EASTERN
PACIFIC. ASSOCIATED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ARE DISORGANIZED AND
THERE ARE NO SIGNS OF DEVELOPMENT WITHIN THIS AREA. HOWEVER...SOME
SLOW DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SYSTEM IS POSSIBLE OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF
DAYS AS IT REMAINS NEARLY STATIONARY OR DRIFTS EASTWARD. REGARDLESS OF DEVELOPMENT...LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL IS POSSIBLE OVER
PORTIONS OF CENTRAL AMERICA DURING THE NEXT FEW DAYS...ESPECIALLY
IN PANAMA... COSTA RICA...AND NICARAGUA.


Wow its in the TWO
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30726
872. taistelutipu
3:09 AM EEST on May 27, 2008
Hi everyone. Have a look at this webcam located in Ponca, Oklahoma. At 7:20 pm local time it looks as something is coming down... maybe a tornado forming.
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870. hurricane23
8:19 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Has anyone seen this lol....

A BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE EXTENDS FROM CENTRAL AMERICA
WEST-SOUTHWESTWARD FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES INTO THE EASTERN
PACIFIC. ASSOCIATED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ARE DISORGANIZED AND
THERE ARE NO SIGNS OF DEVELOPMENT WITHIN THIS AREA. HOWEVER...SOME
SLOW DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SYSTEM IS POSSIBLE OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF
DAYS AS IT REMAINS NEARLY STATIONARY OR DRIFTS EASTWARD.
REGARDLESS OF DEVELOPMENT...LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL IS POSSIBLE OVER
PORTIONS OF CENTRAL AMERICA DURING THE NEXT FEW DAYS...ESPECIALLY
IN PANAMA... COSTA RICA...AND NICARAGUA.
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869. JRRP
12:11 AM GMT on Mayo 27, 2008
784. aspectre 11:20 PM GMT on Mayo 26, 2008
690. extreme236 "GFS shows a system off Africa in about 132 hrs or so lol"
691. weatherblog "CMC showing developin storm off of Africa."
As I posted back at 626:
SeaSurfaceTemperatures in most of the NorthAtlantic tropical cyclone MainDevelopmentRegion are pretty close to seasonal average.
However last I saw, SSTs in the far eastern portion of the MDR -- plus in the area east of CapeVerde while south of the MDR -- are 1&1/2 to 2 degrees above normal.

Anybody have any idea how that's going to affect the 2008 hurricane season?
Any comparable seasons [ie with comparably high SSTs in the east]?


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868. IKE
7:12 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
18Z NOGAPS places the system on the western tip of Cuba in 144 hours....

Link
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866. extreme236
12:13 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Keep in mind that is the shear tendency over the past 24 hours...by morning it could be decreasing or increasing. The far SW caribbean is decreasing right now.
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865. hurricane23
8:10 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
At minimum some good tropical moisture will be on the increase over parts of florida later this week.As far as anything of more significance iam holding of on any futher thoughts until i actually see some concrete evidence of tropical cyclone formation. Adrian
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864. 7544
12:11 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
lets not forget the year of 2005 started early too is there something else try to get its act together around 50 w in the atl.
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862. extreme236
12:10 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
If it were cane season already the NHC may have mentioned the new low pressure forming in the SW Caribbean in a TWO...
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861. weatherblog
12:10 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Wind shear is unfavorable throughout most of the caribbean: Decreasing in the NW caribbean and increasing north of Panama where the models are hinting development. The wind shear would have to decrease quickly [along with dry air] if this "storm" would pan out.


Any comments?
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860. TheCaneWhisperer
12:06 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
There is a small portion of that circle in the SW Caribb. Gotta cover the proverbial hiney.
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859. Drakoen
12:04 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
853. StormJunkie 12:04 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
7544, the $$ is what got there attention...


lol.
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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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