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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609. StormJunkie
9:22 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Good points Slvr. I could not agree more.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16872
608. nash28
9:23 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Tallahassee- The dust is forecast to be much less of a factor this year. Much more moisture already than we had at this time last year.
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607. nash28
9:22 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
LOL SP! Yeah, a little of both I think:-)
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606. tallahasseecyclone
9:23 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Hey guys, I'm back for another season of excitement. I plan on issuing my "Nastrodomuscast" at some point :)

You guys know what the African dust is suppossed to be like this year? Seems like that has been spoiling our fun as of lately
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605. stormlvr
9:02 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
569. StormJunkie 9:01 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Good to see ya press

Sorry if my term "real mets" hit a nerve. My point was that Dave Schwartz is not the same as the guys and gals at JPL, GFDL, NEMOC, NOAA, and the NWS; yet they may all carry the "met" title.

Interesting! I wonder how many people really know who their "met" is. Many TV Mets simply have a certificate from places like Mississippi State U. Some have Met degrees from very reputable colleges but if you look closely it was the broadcast journalism track. Though I prefer to remain anonymous, I have been involved in weather since the 60's and have worked with both degreed and non degreed forecasters. Some of the best have been non degreed forecasters with extensive application experience. You can find them in the military, on TV, and working behind the scenes at some private forecast services. A fine example who unfortunately is no longer with us was Gil Patrick from Albany, GA
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604. weathersp
5:20 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
597. nash28 5:19 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Don't worry SP. I am in my mid thirties and I still have a hard time not splitting atoms with some of the bozos on here. :-)


Is that supposed to give me encouragement or hope for the future? LOL! ;D

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603. Stormchaser2007
5:21 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Np, SJ!! Always looking out....
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602. nash28
9:20 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Here here Sheri! That's the point of the blog. The blog is not here for conversation ONLY when a storm is present. Could you imagine the scrambling around here if there were no blogging until the damn thing were there, bearing down on someone!
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601. Bamatracker
9:20 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
oh ok nash...just wanted to clear that up
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 1367
600. StormJunkie
9:19 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Thanks sc07, that is just my mild dyslexia, or overly fast fingers kicking in ☺
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16872
599. nash28
9:19 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
LOL Bama!!!!!

Nah, I glazed the salmon with the bourbon and brown sugar. Then, I had a nice glass of the bourbon:-)
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598. catastropheadjuster
9:16 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
StormJunkie, I totally agree with you. And I myself have learned alot from different folks on here,alot of folks on here know what there talking about and maybe there not mets but I think sometimes they take there time to explain things to us. If that makes any sense. DrM Blog is awsome, and maybe that storm is in the Epac hasn't become nothing yet but the way everyones be talking and getting along this morning has been great. So what if it hasn't materialized yet that doesn't mean you can't talk about it and wonder where it's going or what's going to do or whatever I think that's what the blog is about. It's not wishcasting or anything like that. It's just good ole conversation. Folks on here have made a lot of good points about it.
Sheri
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597. nash28
9:18 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Don't worry SP. I am in my mid thirties and I still have a hard time not splitting atoms with some of the bozos on here. :-)
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596. weathersp
5:17 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
100% agree ZooMiami
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595. Stormchaser2007
5:16 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Sj check that Number again.....its not 529.
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594. Bamatracker
9:17 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
hehe...the cmc has been drinking again:) I think nash gave it some bourbon!!!
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 1367
593. weathersp
5:15 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
587.

I will admit that's a tough concept for me.. I'm a teenager. I tried last year but failed miserably. I think I am doing better this year but there is still some times where I just wanna post where I know I should not.
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592. zoomiami
9:14 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
This blog is a great source of information for those who know a little, and for those who know a lot. I believe that those who come in here taking issue with the conversation are just trying to stir the pot, and they get their fix when the dust up starts.

That said, the one thing that drew me to be a member is that there is more conversation about possibilities, with ideas of what to watch for. Waiting until the newscasters decide it was time to talk about something didn't work when storms were coming 10 days apart.
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591. WPBHurricane05
5:16 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
84 hour NAM Link
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
589. StormJunkie
9:15 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
592. lol, I guess I can not argue that. More annoying as well though!

lmao nash, nice

:~)
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16872
588. Stormchaser2007
5:14 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
I don't need a button. I just use the ignore function in my brain, and that is usually sufficient enough.

Ah what the heck Ill give that a whirl.
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587. nash28
9:13 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I don't need a button. I just use the ignore function in my brain, and that is usually sufficient enough.
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586. Stormchaser2007
5:13 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Sp, whats wrong with 575(mine)?
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585. philliesrock
9:12 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Where's Stormkat with his prediction of a cat. 5 hurricane hitting NOLA?
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584. Stormchaser2007
5:11 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
I use the IGNORE button the most when it comes to these things....
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583. nash28
9:11 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
No surprise on the CMC morning run blowing this up into the Holy!^%$cane! It overdoes everything.
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582. LowerCal
2:07 PM PDT on May 26, 2008
re. 569
Yeah, SJ. Dave Schwartz is funnier. ;^)
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581. StormJunkie
9:09 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
lol press an mel :~)
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16872
580. weathersp
5:09 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
574 and 575.. use the I don't like this comment button. That's what its there for. The comment is minimized for a reason.
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579. FLWeatherFreak91
5:07 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
575. Stormchaser2007 5:06 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
The way everybody is, Im surprised nobody is calling on wind speeds with this frickn not even formed THING yet

Why do you always barge into the blog and just start accusing people of talking about the Apocalyptic-cane??


I see he hasn't shut up yet... I used the almighty H-I-D-E button. LOL
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578. melwerle
9:01 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
No lack of entertainment here...hit the ignore button a few times already. One thing I've learned after being here for a few years is to just watch and see what happens instead of jumping up and down over what the models say at 2000 hours out.

Great to see you SJ, kman, hp, nash etc...
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577. weathersp
5:06 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
If the GFS drops it or runs it into the coast... I use a 5 run rule.. 5 runs of the models before you know its dead.
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576. philliesrock
9:04 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Anyone see this morning's CMC?

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575. Stormchaser2007
5:04 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
The way everybody is, Im surprised nobody is calling on wind speeds with this frickn not even formed THING yet

Why do you always barge into the blog and just start accusing people of talking about the Apocalyptic-cane??
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573. Stormchaser2007
5:02 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Oh god WPB, that would cause some real drama!!
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572. presslord
5:01 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
sj...I have teenagers...you can't offend me....will call ya tonite, dude...
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571. StormJunkie
9:01 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Yea, I said Dave Schwartz...lol :~)
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16872
570. WPBHurricane05
8:57 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I'd hate to see the blog if the GFS no longer predicts that storm.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
569. StormJunkie
8:53 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Good to see ya press

Sorry if my term "real mets" hit a nerve. My point was that Dave Schwartz is not the same as the guys and gals at John Hopkins APL, GFDL, NEMOC, NOAA, and the NWS; yet they may all carry the "met" title.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16872
568. Stormchaser2007
4:56 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
This what I use for my forecasts....never gonna be wrong with this!!

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567. weathermanwannabe
4:58 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Everyone have a good afternoon; I'm out for the day......WW
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566. presslord
4:55 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
there is a direct corelation here between the arrogant pettiness of some bloggers ...and the amount of Pro Activ they consume...
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564. Stormchaser2007
4:54 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Yeah Sp, I think its alright to come out now....
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562. Boatofacar
8:52 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I wunder... how long before the banhammer starts a swinging:}
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561. weathersp
4:53 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Has the blog settled down yet?
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559. kmanislander
8:49 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Keeper

No shortage of entertainment on here LOL

Gotta run now. Will BBL
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.