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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709. Drakoen
10:41 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
706. MississippiWx 10:41 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Hey Drak,

I don't know if you remember me, but I used to post a lot last tropical season. Good to see you and some of the other regulars are still here! Whatever happened to Alec? I remember he was always very knowledgeable with the tropics.


Your name looks familiars... I don't remember Alec...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30486
708. StormJunkie
10:41 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Good to see ya MWx, and good question, have not seen Alec in some time.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16501
707. louisianaboy444
10:40 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
We could possibily see a blowup of convection tonight with Diurnal Max approaching...I think a SFC could develop tonight if we get enough convection...if it does then the NHC would be tempted to promote this 90L...lets see if it holds together tonight and lasts into tomorow....if it does then we can take it more seriously
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706. MississippiWx
10:39 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Hey Drak,

I don't know if you remember me, but I used to post a lot last tropical season. Good to see you and some of the other regulars are still here! Whatever happened to Alec? I remember he was always very knowledgeable with the tropics.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10244
705. Drakoen
10:38 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The GFS actually takes it of the Yucatan with that trough probably head to Florida.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30486
703. JUSTCOASTING
10:36 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
i really dont like the direction of the 204 hr run they show a path to sw Florida
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702. StormJunkie
10:31 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
658.

TN, the 18z run is 2:00pm est. It takes 5 to 6 hours for most of the global models to run, and some take a little longer. Now the output may only take an hour or two, but the input and analysis takes much longer. Some one correct me if I am wrong.

Orca, that link you posted as well as several other very good model pages can be found on this link.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16501
701. Drakoen
10:35 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
More of the same from the GFS 18z...
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699. JUSTCOASTING
10:34 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
GFS has system doing a nice circle soaking of the yucatan
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698. JUSTCOASTING
10:31 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
168 hr gfs show 1004 low trying to get off the yucatan
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697. IKE
5:32 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Near the western coast of the Yucatan in 168 hours...strengthens it OVER land.......
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695. juniormeteorologist
10:31 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
hey, just updated my blog...i think we should worry about the african system later...
694. sporteguy03
10:28 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Jp,
I'm kicking back and waiting for an Invest...
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693. juniormeteorologist
10:28 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
weatherblog i see that system developing also...mite be the second named storm of the season..i believe it will be more than 12 named storms.
692. Weather456
6:15 PM AST on May 26, 2008
24hr Atmopsheric pressures continue to drop drastically along the coast of the Central America. Pressure tendencies increasing from -1.0 mb to -2mb. The lowest pressure is 1005.1 near MANAGUA AUGUSTO, Nicaragua (MNMG). This is due to the noticeable northwward moevemnt of the monsoon trough.

The TPC has also reposition the low further eastward than at 12Z, which makes much more sense considering what I've been seeing all day.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
691. weatherblog
10:28 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
CMC showing developin storm off of Africa.

Member Since: July 10, 2006 Posts: 27 Comments: 1623
690. extreme236
10:24 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
GFS shows a system off Africa in about 132 hrs or so lol
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
689. Orcasystems
10:27 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
669. nash28 10:17 PM GMT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
Use this link Orca- Link
Action: | Ignore User


Thank you :)I was not aware you had left for dinner or I would not have asked. I actually found this link also.... is it one you use?
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688. aviifl
6:24 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Just saw the weather on nbc6 in fort lauderdale. The weather guy said by the weekend, a low is supposed to develope and could affect south florida
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687. juniormeteorologist
10:21 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
maybe the huge high pressure will move out the way or disspate for this storm to move. I don't thing this storm will end up in Nicaragua, and Mexico, I think that it will end up in the Carribbean Sea, get more strength in the Gulf of Mexico, make a landfall in Southern Florida, and make its way up the East Coast..maybe a 2004 Charley Path..
685. weathersp
6:24 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
681. In responce to 679.

/sarcastic
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684. JUSTCOASTING
10:21 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
gfs hinting at a crossing over the yucatan into the gulf .Systen would have to be pretty big to make it over the yucatan
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683. AWeatherLover
10:16 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Nash I don't see that on the CMC, but maybe the one I'm looking at just isn't going far enough into the future. The one I see has it stuck over the Yucatan for a while, and then the model stops. I'm looking at the 12z.
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682. louisianaboy444
10:21 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
674. jphurricane2006 10:20 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
the 18Z GFS has the low initialized in 6 hours, then drops it, then picks it up again just as it makes landfall in Nicaragua

what is the GFS drinking, cuz I would love some lol


Thats what i was saying maybe one low pressure goes into the coast and dies and another one re-forms out in water maybe thats why it looks like it doesnt move for a couple of days...If i'm wrong then take this post with a grain of salt but it was just an idea ha...
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681. surfmom
10:22 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
gotta love kansas? - no hard feelings...no place I'd want to be --at leastI can see when the hurricanes coming at me with enough time to run, duck or hide
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680. IKE
5:19 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
It's headed for the BOC again.
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679. weathersp
6:21 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Gotta love Kansas...
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678. TerraNova
6:21 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
GREENSBURG...
RURAL RESIDENCES OF NORTHERN KIOWA COUNTY.


They've had a bad month...last week they narrowly dodged a large wedge.
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677. surfmom
10:18 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
last 10 days groundswell from the yucatan sent waves to surfers in the gomex. a gradient set up near cuba and winds blew 20-30 through the channel funneling south swell into the gomex.

Like a dream, some of these waves (right time & tide) were long period groundswell. this was a RARE event!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
676. nash28
10:21 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Not good... Man... Greensburg has been on a tornado watch/warning for damn near the entire weekend!!!
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675. extreme236
10:20 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DODGE CITY KS
517 PM CDT MON MAY 26 2008

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN DODGE CITY HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
NORTHERN KIOWA COUNTY IN SOUTH CENTRAL KANSAS.

* UNTIL 545 PM CDT

* AT 514 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO 7 MILES
SOUTHWEST OF GREENSBURG...OR 6 MILES SOUTHEAST OF MULLINVILLE...
MOVING NORTHEAST AT 22 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
GREENSBURG...
RURAL RESIDENCES OF NORTHERN KIOWA COUNTY.

WHEN A TORNADO WARNING IS ISSUED BASED ON DOPPLER RADAR...IT MEANS
THAT STRONG ROTATION HAS BEEN DETECTED IN THE STORM. A TORNADO MAY
ALREADY BE ON THE GROUND...OR IS EXPECTED TO DEVELOP SHORTLY. IF YOU
ARE IN THE PATH OF THIS DANGEROUS STORM...MOVE INDOORS AND TO THE
LOWEST LEVEL OF THE BUILDING. STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS. IF DRIVING...DO
NOT SEEK SHELTER UNDER A HIGHWAY OVERPASS.

A TORNADO WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 900 PM CDT MONDAY EVENING FOR
SOUTHWESTERN KANSAS.
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
673. weathersp
6:17 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
That system ain't goin nowhere with that HUGE area of high presssure taking over thw whole Atlantic.
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672. Orcasystems
10:17 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
666. jphurricane2006 10:16 PM GMT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
Orca it hasnt updated past 108 yet


I think I just screwed up, I am using the links from yesterday...
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671. nash28
10:17 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Nah, it's ok:-) Ask anything you want.
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670. chevycanes
10:15 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
it has it moving the whole time slowly to the NW thru 108 hrs. all you have to do is look where its at at 72 hrs.
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669. nash28
10:16 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Use this link Orca- Link
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668. surfmom
10:10 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
hey weatherlover -wishing you the best in your endeavors - i love this blog too, impossible for me to go to school - so tagging along on the blog i find i am learning a lot. i started supplementing w/books now as well, but what i already notice is that going into my second h-season here, i already have more of a platform of understanding then last year
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
667. MasterForecaster
10:15 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I feel bad for Nash let the poor guy eat his dinner then ask him all the questions lol.
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665. nash28
10:14 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
So far, we have the GFS bouncing around, the ECMWF dropping the system in the EPAC, the NOGAPS bringing a deepening system up over the western tip of Cuba heading for SW FL, and the CMC going apecaca as per usual and blasting S. FL into oblivion...

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662. louisianaboy444
10:12 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Is it possible that they might have multiple low pressure centers forming and they not sure what to do with them...maybe the first one drives into the coast of central America and another one forms off the coast again...but i dont think a model could pick up on that can it because i know weak tropical waves tend to do that sometimes
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660. Orcasystems
10:12 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
652. nash28 10:11 PM GMT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
GFS is usually done with the 18z by 6:30 ET.


Nash, how do I make the GFS model go out further then 168 hours?
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659. chevycanes
10:12 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
in just about all the GFS runs its been hugging the coast for the first few days. then they have it going anywhere from Mexico to S. FL.

just have to wait and see what happens.
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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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