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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559. kmanislander
8:49 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Keeper

No shortage of entertainment on here LOL

Gotta run now. Will BBL
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
558. weathermanwannabe
4:44 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
550. presslord 4:44 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 and, almost without exeption, they blog about what a system IS DOING...not what they think it's going to do...

Bingo; You hit the nail on the head; I am most impressed with those bloggers as well (those folks who post charts, and, draw lines on them to illustrate "what" is prsently going on with the system whether it is dry air intrusion, sheer causing the famous "decoupling", etc.....Good real time observations of what a storm is doing; not, wishcastng as to what it may do 3 days from the present.....

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557. Drakoen
8:48 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
556. nash28 8:48 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Been gone for a couple of hours. Miss anything?


Not really. Waiting on the GFS 18z and the NOGAPS 18z.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
556. nash28
8:47 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Been gone for a couple of hours. Miss anything?
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555. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
4:38 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
hey kman many already need therapy
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554. Drakoen
8:46 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
553. kmanislander 8:45 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
At the risk of fanning the flame


lol...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
553. kmanislander
8:41 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
At the risk of fanning the flame, Bocas del Toro on the NW coast of Panama has a NNW wind and a pressure of 1009 and falling. While the pressures are typically low around Panama, the NNW wind MIGHT suggest a weak surface low just N of Panama attempting to form in that cluster of showers.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
552. Stormchaser2007
4:44 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
The GFS 18z will be coming in soon.

Watch how crazy its gonna get around here.....
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551. Drakoen
8:44 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The GFS 18z will be coming in soon.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
550. presslord
4:39 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
the AMS offers a precise definition of what a meteorologist is and is not...it is a professional designation and frankly, few here make the cut... there are a few REALLY accomplished amateur meteorologists here...and that's who I listen to...and, almost without exeption, they blog about what a system IS DOING...not what they think it's going to do...
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549. weathermanwannabe
4:41 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Thank-you for the free weather data!!! Lol...I think you get my point!
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548. StormJunkie
8:39 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Gr8 to see ya RR :~)

wmw, let me second that Thank-you for the free weather data!!!
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15644
547. weathermanwannabe
4:24 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Also note, per the intro of the NOAA update, that the initial primary indicators of tropical cyclone development are analysis of the primary data coming in from sea bouys and surface observations (air pressure readings), sheer values, and, satellite observations (and thank God that "we" can readily access this information through the Net so we can "watch the blobs" along with NHC.....As such, and as already discussed here last week, the models merely point us in the right direction, then, Mother Nature does the rest with formation factors/steering-intensity factors which can readily fluctuate in any given 5-10 day period......At this time of the year, I basically keep my eyes on the water vapor loops, and, local pressure readings as favorable conditions start to develop in any particular area where cyclo-genesis might occur (whether predicted by the models or not); as we all know here it happens both ways every season....
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546. redrobin
8:34 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Thank you Stormjunkie!!! Back to my lurking :)
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545. StormJunkie
8:33 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Thanks PC, and good afternoon to ya :~)

lol Bay!
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15644
544. PanhandleChuck
8:29 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Being a member for just a short period of time, I agree junkie
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543. weatherboykris
8:27 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I believe the Tampa NWS office sums things up nicely.

.LONG TERM (WEDNESDAY NIGHT-MONDAY)...THE MAIN FEATURE IN THE
MODELS CONTINUES TO BE THE AREA OF LOW PRESSURE THAT MANY DIFFERENT
MODELS ARE FORECASTING TO DEVELOP OVER THE SOUTHWESTERN CARIBBEAN
SEA. THIS LOW ORIGINATES OVER THE EASTERN PACIFIC...THEN CROSSES
INTO THE CARIBBEAN. NORMALLY...TROPICAL DEVELOPMENT WOULD BE QUITE
SLOW DUE TO ALL THE LAND INTERACTION...SO THE GFS LOOKS TOO DEEP
WITH THE LOW. THE ECMWF HAS BASICALLY LOST THE FEATURE...AND HAS A
FRONTAL BOUNDARY APPROACHING LATE MONDAY. WE CAN`T RULE OUT SOME
SORT OF SYSTEM MOVING UP TOWARD THE GULF SINCE SO MANY INDEPENDENT
MODELS HAVE LATCHED ON TO THE IDEA...BUT AT THE SAME TIME...WE ARE
TALKING ABOUT A FEATURE THAT DOESN`T EVEN EXIST YET...OTHER THAN A
MASS OF CLOUDS SOUTH OF CENTRAL AMERICA. FOR NOW...I WILL ASSUME
ANYTHING THAT DOES MOVE NORTH WILL BE SEVERELY IMPACTED BY CENTRAL
AMERICA AND EMERGE AS A VERY WEAK SYSTEM.
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542. StormJunkie
8:16 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Afternoon all, Happy Memorial Day :~)

kman, you made statement last night that I would like to quote and agree with. It basically went something like, if there are rain showers where the models show this system in 3 or four days I will be impressed.

That said, most of the discussion I have seen is more revolving around model verification issues, and not where a system could make landfall or at what strength, so not sure what some are so worked up about.

Next, I have a theory about the folks that come in here and talk about how worthless these blogs are, and how you should ask a "real met" or watch your news. I think some of these folks may be the "real mets" or better stated broadcast mets, and they are quickly coming to the realization that we do not need to sit through hours of Head On commercials, or wait until the last 5 minutes of a local news cast to be able to figure out what our weather will be like. There is so much accurate weather data on the web, not to mention all of the information the NWS puts out, that almost anyone can understand much more about their weather by spending 15 minutes on the web as opposed to 10 minutes watching commercials and 5 minutes of hearing a weather forecast. Real mets are on the research side imho!

Sorry if I offended anyone, but this blog is a great place for Joe Public to learn more then they ever wanted to know about weather.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15644
541. Baybuddy
8:26 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Once, my sister got a volume of "Grays Anatomy" she started to think she had symptoms of half the diseases in the book! This blog reminds me of that. Too much info for some people I guess....
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540. Drakoen
8:25 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
NWS Miami

ALSO... LATE IN THE FORECAST PERIOD, DAY 6+, MODEL GUIDANCE
CONTINUES TO HINT AT A POSSIBLE LOW DEVELOPING IN THE CARIBBEAN
THAT MAY MOVE INTO THE GULF, OR STAY IN THE CARIBBEAN. ATTM, GUIDANCE
BOUNCES GREATLY FROM RUN TO RUN AND MODEL TO MODEL.
OVERALL
CONFIDENCE IN ANY INFLUENCE OUTSIDE SCT THUNDERSTORMS IS LOW.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
539. cdo
8:22 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I think it will be just a tropical rainstorm, and the only major that will be occuring is major disappointment on this blog....lol
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537. cdo
8:19 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I think if I had 20 posts and I did not the person that posted it I could pick ANY of jp's....
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536. PanhandleChuck
8:18 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Hey All

Just got done reading most of the blog.

I really won't be concerned about anything this year in the Panhandle unless Jim Cantore shows up at Pensacola or Navarre beaches.
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535. Rainman32
4:18 PM EDT on May 26, 2008


Over Memorial Day Weekend 2008, severe weather and tornadoes wreaked havoc across the Midwest and Southern/Central Plains, damaging hundreds of homes, injuring dozens, and killing at least 10 people.
Thanks to the forecasters, meteorologists, and volunteers at the National Weather Service, the public had advanced warning and many lives were saved.

We can't stop severe weather, but we can reach out to our communities after the storm.

Please join us in helping the communities of Hugo & Coon Rapids, Minnesota, Parkersburg, Iowa, Pratt, Kansas, Lacey & Douglas, Oklahoma, Windsor, Colorado and others by making a donation to the Salvation Army to help with the relief effort.

SWIFT Weather will match all donations up to $1,000.

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534. kmanislander
8:17 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
JP

If something does come this way I want to save my adrenaline until then LOL
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
533. floridastorm
8:16 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
wow the tropics are getting active
look at the carribean sea
we might have a storm by late this week
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531. weathermanwannabe
4:00 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Hello All......Just finished a long weekend with the extended family (they all left to go back home from out of town a few hours ago and I just got back from a picnic on Lake Seminole in North Florida/South GA)and I see that not much has changed since I was last on Friday in terms of some pre-season "bickering". I did read over the recent NOAA season outlook again this am however and am content with the fact, as many have been saying for a month now, that the Cape Verde season, which is not until August, will be quite active and provide plenty of opportunities for us to discuss and observe, and, to learn from each other which is when the blog is at it's best......Given that we are still in the "pre-season" it's a shame, to me, to see some of the more respected regulars getting into little "snits" which are really Much Ado About Nothing at this point.......We should not be setting this type of example for the "newer" members of the Blog who have come here to learn......IMHO
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530. kmanislander
8:14 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
If the system the models keep vacillating about does not come to pass many of the bloggers will need therapy !
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
529. Stormchaser2007
4:12 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Wonder if they'll mention this in the TWO....

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527. Weather456
4:01 PM AST on May 26, 2008
Visible imagery continues to show a broad area of low pressure with one or two vorticities. The most define circulation is just west of Nicaragua (roughly the same latitude as Lake Nicaragua), and remains quasi-stationary due to weak steering flow but there are indicators that suggest the area is drifting west towards land (based on the westward shift in convergence and vort maximum). In addition, this is not a good sign of development with multiple vorticies but one will eventually dominate so the area will be monitored.

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526. scottsvb
8:11 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
anything that forms near the CV will be fizzled out till after the 4th of July.. only areas of warrent are west of 55W mainly near the bahamas,gulf. carribean.
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524. weatherblog
8:03 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Okay, I think we will have a year similar to 2005: Not in terms of number of storms (or strength either [aka Wilma]), but in the terms of early development near the coast of Africa. This year we could have some tropical waves develop near Africa as early as July...just like Dennis or Emily. We have significantly above average SST's off of Africa, below average wind shear, and generally low dust/SAL amounts preventing development. A quick start with our CV season should be considered.
Member Since: July 10, 2006 Posts: 27 Comments: 1623
523. scottsvb
8:08 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
chance of something forming from that wave near 50W is less than 1%
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520. Stormchaser2007
4:07 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
people need to use common sense and dont allow themselves to get "MISLED" by this blog for petes sake
some of you delude your selves when you think the whole country is just sitting and waiting to see what THIS blog has to say
get real


Exactly...k8
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519. weatherboykris
8:07 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
517. scottsvb 8:07 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
haha I thought I was on ignore kris!



I emptied my ignore list last night...I prefer to see what others are saying about me.
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518. cchsweatherman
4:03 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
509. jphurricane2006 4:02 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
i know cchs, my issue isnt with you

hey I think im going to market that quote and use it when need be, just like the Apollo 13 quote lol

"just because we have freedom of speech, doesnt mean we should speak without thinking first"


Don't think that anyone has copyrighted that phrase yet. You make an excellent point and I will now back off since I think that I myself was crossing the line with my comments. For everyone here, I apologize for causing this pointless dialogue and I apologize to JP for calling him out.
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517. scottsvb
8:06 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
haha I thought I was on ignore kris!
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516. K8eCane
8:05 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
people need to use common sense and dont allow themselves to get "MISLED" by this blog for petes sake
some of you delude your selves when you think the whole country is just sitting and waiting to see what THIS blog has to say
get real
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514. Stormchaser2007
4:04 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Hey! We could open up a discussion on whether global warming is increasing the frequency and intensity of hurricanes kris :)

LOL!!
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513. weatherboykris
8:03 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
LOL SSIG...don't open that can of worms...
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512. scottsvb
8:03 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
omg kris is here
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510. Stormchaser2007
4:02 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
I'm really dreading this hurricane season on the blog. We've got a "maybe TD" 5 days away, and already the top dog wannabes are at each other's throats. Calm down already, and simply voice your opinions.

Uhh...the fightings been over....
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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.