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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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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858. InTheCone
8:04 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
848.

Yeah, I heard that too. We could use a good WEAK soaker to get rainy season off to a good start. Hope it comes slow and wet, with teeny winds:)
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857. Clickerous
12:06 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Just by the news mentioning that gas and produce jumped up another 20 cents lol
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856. MississippiWx
12:04 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Gonna go grab some dinner! Having steak tonight! :-) After that, gonna watch the NBA playoffs. Go Pistons! You guys don't let the tropics get too out of hand while I'm gone!
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855. Clickerous
12:03 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
I think we'll see those percentages switch over to the other side by 6pm tomorrow
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854. WPBHurricane05
8:03 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Hope that image doesn't stretch the blog for the folks on IE.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
853. StormJunkie
12:03 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
7544 & TCW, the $$ is what got their attention...
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16838
852. TheCaneWhisperer
12:03 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
I was very surprised the locals in PBC mentioned it without there being an actual storm to look at, very surprised.
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851. Clickerous
12:02 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
848. 7544 12:02 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
hi everyone all our local mets in so fla says they will be watching something forming in carb. over the week end that should bring heavy rain in the area . this has got their attention now too


Greeeat
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850. WPBHurricane05
8:03 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
<20% chance of a storm developing in the EPAC.



TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
500 PM PDT MON MAY 26 2008

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

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.

$$
FORECASTER RHOME
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
849. StormJunkie
11:59 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
lol press!

Or should I say peenhole, as mlc put it!
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16838
848. 7544
11:46 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
hi everyone all our local mets in so fla says they will be watching something forming in carb. over the week end that should bring heavy rain in the area . this has got their attention now too
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847. Clickerous
11:57 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Are the models speeding up the process of development? or are we still looking at sometime later the week?
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846. StormJunkie
11:58 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Thanks MWx, hope you make good use of it, that is what it is there for :~)

Thanks mel, and no problem :~)
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16838
845. melwerle
11:56 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Hey SJ - you've done a really good job on your website. Thanks for sending me the link while I was away - helped me in a huge way to keep in touch with what was going on without my computer with all my links. You're da bomb!

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844. StormJunkie
11:57 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Hades, that is the 12z Nogaps. FSU does not process the 6 & 18z Nogaps from what I can tell.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16838
843. presslord
7:56 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
sj...you mean 'pinhole' eye....Don't you?
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
842. MississippiWx
11:55 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
838. StormJunkie 11:55 PM GMT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
MWx, no need to bookmark, find the most used model pages here.


Neat page, SJ! Thanks!
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840. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
11:54 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
LINK
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838. StormJunkie
11:54 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
MWx, no need to bookmark, find the most used model pages here.

18z nogaps is the last link under models.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16838
837. FLWeatherFreak91
7:52 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Yes MSWX, it's not a def thing, but it is true that certain models handle certain storms better. I just want to know which model has handled the situation best so far.
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836. StormJunkie
11:53 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
827.

is that an eye

:~)
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16838
835. Weather456
7:52 PM AST on May 26, 2008
826. JFV 7:49 PM AST on May 26, 2008
which would be 456?


2mr's visible and tonight's quikscat and the updated products at the CIMSS. I am also looking for persistence.
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834. MississippiWx
11:53 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
832. extreme236 11:52 PM GMT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
The NGPS develops our Caribbean system at 54 hours on the 18Z run.


Link?

Apologies. I'll be sure to bookmark it!
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833. melwerle
11:52 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Just got back from a neighborhood bbq...how's it going? Anything new going on to look at?

Melissa
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832. extreme236
11:50 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The NGPS develops our Caribbean system at 54 hours on the 18Z run.
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831. MississippiWx
11:49 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
825. FLWeatherFreak91 11:49 PM GMT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
Think back- which model for the past week has best portrayed what has already happened (i.e. this low north of Panama)? If we know which model has handled it best so far we can predict which one will handle it best in the future.


Eh, there is some truth to that statement. However, just because one model got it right to this point, doesn't mean it will get what happens tomorrow right. It wouldn't be wise to buy into any solution to this point.
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830. weatherblog
11:48 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Nevermind! I think it was just me...lmao
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829. Drakoen
11:45 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
ARIBBEAN...
AN AMPLIFIED UPPER LEVEL TROUGH OVER THE W ATLC EXTENDS ACROSS
EASTERN CUBA THEN WWD ACROSS THE CAYMAN ISLANDS TO BELIZE WITH A
HEALTHY FLOW OF DEEP MOISTURE BEING PULLED FROM THE EASTERN
PACIFIC ACROSS CENTRAL AMERICA INTO THE W CARIBBEAN. A WEAKENING
FRONTAL BOUNDARY ASSOCIATED WITH THE UPPER TROUGH EXTENDS FROM
HAITI TO JAMAICA AND THE CAYMAN ISLANDS WITH SCATTERED TSTMS
OCCURRING MAINLY OVER ADJACENT LAND AREAS. FARTHER S...A BROAD
AREA OF LOW PRES IS TAKING SHAPE OVER THE SW CARIBBEAN IN THE
GENERAL VICINITY OF 11N81W BUT CONNECTED TO AN EXTENSIVE TROUGH
WHICH CONTINUES ACROSS COSTA RICA INTO THE EASTERN PACIFIC.

CONVECTIVE ACTIVITY HAS WEAKENED SOMEWHAT WITH SCATTERED
SHOWERS/ISOLATED TSTMS S OF 13N W OF 77W INTO CENTRAL AMERICA.
THE AREA IS EXPECTED TO REMAIN DISORGANIZED DURING THE NEXT FEW
DAYS WITH THE TROUGH AND ASSOCIATED MOISTURE BEGINNING TO SPREAD
N ON WED.
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828. extreme236
11:37 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
18Z NGPS has the low pressure in the Caribbean developing and hitting Cuba.
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825. FLWeatherFreak91
7:46 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Think back- which model for the past week has best portrayed what has already happened (i.e. this low north of Panama)? If we know which model has handled it best so far we can predict which one will handle it best in the future.
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824. MississippiWx
11:47 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
822. weatherblog 11:47 PM GMT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
What's happened to everybody's avatars...? Or, am I the only one noticing this?


Nothing wrong with mine...
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822. weatherblog
11:46 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
What's happened to everybody's avatars...? Or, am I the only one noticing this?
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821. Weather456
7:45 PM AST on May 26, 2008
815. JFV 7:44 PM AST on May 26, 2008
456, will this low eventually become our storm that travels northward in the
carib?


Maybe, maybe not....I want to see somethings before I can give a definite answer.
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820. MississippiWx
11:44 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
815. JFV 11:44 PM GMT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
456, will this low eventually become our storm that travels northward in the
carib?


I'm not 456, but no one knows that answer yet. As everyone has been saying today, only time will tell. Nothing is a certainty at this point, other than we don't even have anything organized enough to be classified an invest.
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819. Drakoen
11:45 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
817. JFV 11:44 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
yep, its finally coming to fluient, isn't drak?


Just observing whats happening. Nothing is certain.
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816. weatherblog
11:43 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Erin




Humberto

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814. Drakoen
11:42 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I'm glad we are actually looking at whats happening now...
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813. StormJunkie
11:39 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Yep Click, you may be a new handle in here, but you are giving yourself away as being a local :~)
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16838
812. Weather456
7:37 PM AST on May 26, 2008
806. nrtiwlnvragn 7:34 PM AST on May 26, 2008

Its best to look at 24 hr pressure changes because its common for pressures to fall in the afternoon.

Either way pressures are falling.
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810. weatherblog
11:31 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Yes, Erin looked like a hurricane on radar when it was over land, but I guess it needed more than that to be classified as a truly tropical storm or hurricane...but refering to post 801, I agree with if it had more time in the GOM, it could have became a "Humberto"...but then again, Humberto rapid intensified, so...
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809. MississippiWx
11:34 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
806. nrtiwlnvragn 11:34 PM GMT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
Conditions at San Andres Isla (Island off the east coast of Nicaragua 12.35N 81.43W)as of 7PM

Wind from the E (080 degrees) at 6 MPH (5 KT)
Visibility greater than 7 mile(s)
Sky conditions mostly cloudy
Temperature 77 F (25 C)
Dew Point 73 F (23 C)
Relative Humidity 88%
Pressure (altimeter) 29.76 in. Hg (1007 hPa)

Pressure dropped from 1010 at 1PM today

Remember, it's normal for pressures to drop in the afternoons. A 3mb pressure change in a day is common.
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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.