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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508. scottsvb
8:00 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
IM sure Dr Masters doesnt check the message board but there are moderators that do.
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507. Stormchaser2007
4:01 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
well stormchaser, that is what some were asking

will this be a CAT 1 WHEN it hits florida

meanwhile the system hasnt even formed yet

just because you have free speech doesnt mean you shouldnt think before you speak


I agree with you completely now JP.....
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15776
506. weatherboykris
8:01 PM GMT 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.
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505. cchsweatherman
3:47 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
478. jphurricane2006 3:42 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
cchs, my point is that we get some ridiculous questions

there is nothing wrong with discussing, but when someone out of the blue ask will this hit florida as a CAT 1, or question that they should very well know the answer to, then it gets a bit crazy


JP,
You should know that I have stated time and time again that it remains too early to tell and that we need to wait for actual tropical formation before we can start referring to the models, but the way you made that comment just was not right. Noone should be directing people on these blogs.

But, you make a valid point. There are some bloggers here who, without credible sources or careful research, will post false information on here that can mislead others. This is a huge problem, but we must remember that the Administrator (Dr. Masters) is the only one who can judge other people's comments, not us bloggers.

Sorry if I offended you in any way. You know that I have come to respect your contributions and knowledge here, but I felt that I needed to express my opinion.



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503. louisianaboy444
7:53 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I agree weatherblog i mean anyone can stand in front of a map and tell whats going on with the weather but Meteorology is the art of predicting whats going to happen in the future....that is what makes Mets so great and that is what i'm going to college for 6 years to be able to do...but the one thing i learned is the only way you can be wrong in weather is if you speak about something with 100% certainty...i be careful now i dont do that anymore because i learned that nothing is absolute in weather especially not the tropics....
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502. Stormchaser2007
3:54 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Well I live and Florida (West Palm) and I know that we need the rain....the whole "wish a weak TS would brush us so we could get rain" is all good.I mean the posts like, "Is a Cat 3 gonna hit us next week" gets me peeved because I live in Florida and I dont wanna get hit anymore...
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15776
501. dees006
7:54 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I am going to get nailed on this one but- the reason I check these blogs is for discussion about possible development. Some say it is premature and they are correct but it is what we all want to talk about. Predicting intensity and a Florida landfall is ridiculous but without the discussion I would not be interested. Most of those that lurk like I do are the same way.
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499. TerraNova
7:54 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
thank you terranova

You're welcome.
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498. MrSea
7:53 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
thank you terranova
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496. louisianaboy444
7:49 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
That isn't always the case though Stormchaser some people in Florida really need the rain that might be why they are wanting it to go there it is the best case scenario as of now...They need some relief down there....Haha florida can have some of our rain over here in Louisiana we flooding out this gulf moisture would definately be an unwelcomed visitor
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495. TerraNova
7:50 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
anyone have a link to current SST anomolies?

Atlantic anomalies
Eastern Pacific anomalies
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
494. weatherblog
7:36 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
453. louisianaboy444 7:19 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I wouldn't put any money on this storm hitting Florida....with all due respect to everyone in here this storm hasnt even formed yet...i mean i know a weak storm hitting florida right now would be the best case scenario but it's still early....Models have trouble picking up weak systems...and weak steering currents...Lets wait a day or two and see if we get an invest then we can look at the models and go from there...Anyone thats been doing this a long time have seen models jump 500 miles in a matter of an afternoon so just try not to speak with any certainty in here as of now...With all respect to our new comers someone who doesnt understand models might take your "guesses" seriously...


Nobody's assuming this is going to hit Florida automatically. We are just discussing the possibilities. But as of now there's still not full confidence a storm will even form. The reasons why Florida seems a likely target, is because many troughs are present around this time and climatology favors a track there. Also, it's a bit alarming to see the NOGAPS have a hurricane hitting Florida because that actually can happen due to the warm SST's near Fl. But, once again, this storm may not even develop.
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493. MrSea
7:49 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
the NHC is just an opinion as well
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492. TerraNova
7:41 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
do you guys know when there is going to be a low development in th SW Carribean?

The low (as in the "L" you see marked on a map) will form very soon (possibly by tomorrow night we'll have a low marked on the surface charts), in fact, some 0 hour model analyses already show a low (GFS) although it does not appear on surface maps yet. Quickscat doesn't show a closed circulation in the Atlantic yet.

If it's the actual cyclone you're refering to...
(based of FSU Phase Diagram times)

GFS = 54 hours out
NGP/NOGAPS = 36 hours out
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
491. MrSea
7:47 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
anyone have a link to current SST anomolies?
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490. scottsvb
7:47 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
If anyone really wants to know what may happen to any system... just ask a MET or wait for the NHC to release a statement. Otherwise anything on any sites message boards are just basic opinions.
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489. Stormchaser2007
3:46 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
people dont predict beacuse they "wanna cause trouble"

You just described a wish-caster or a doom-caster
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488. Stormchaser2007
3:46 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
484. WPBHurricane05 3:45 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
Question asked, question answered.

Someone asked someones opinion about a blob, and the person gave there opinion.


Dang straight!!
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487. MrSea
7:45 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
people dont predict beacuse they "wanna cause trouble"
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486. louisianaboy444
7:43 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Models dont do to well when there isnt an actual low present...someone correct me if i'm wrong but i dont think there is a LLC present already is there? And plus like someone said earlier the steering currents are really weak down there right now and models dont do well picking up on weak steering currents....so we will have to see...the most important thing is to see where the LLC initially forms...I'm more worried about what basin it will be in
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485. stoormfury
7:44 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Catl wave

Link
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484. WPBHurricane05
7:43 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Question asked, question answered.

Someone asked someones opinion about a blob, and the person gave there opinion.
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483. Stormchaser2007
3:43 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Well its no ones fault, we get some of these younger folks who wish-cast everything into Florida and just wanna cause trouble here on the blogs....
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481. whirlwind
7:41 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
ahh... listen to all this.

Everyone is so anxious with this year's season.

Realize how many times the models showed something in the past, and nothing formed.

Kinda like.. 'Fuzzy math.. fuzzy models.. lol
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480. weathersp
3:41 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
I think the blog is getting a little tense...
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479. scottsvb
7:40 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
weatherman he is right though...too much hype on these boards give alarm to people who dont know better.

How many times have you heard someone at home or work or wherever say.. I heard there is a hurricane coming...but that person they heard it from was clueless cause they got bad info.
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477. Stormchaser2007
3:40 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
464. jphurricane2006 3:31 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
wow now we have confidence ratings on how much we think this will be a TD LMAO

arent we getting just a little ahead of ourselves? but alas I have said this about 10 times today and some dont listen, they are too amped up for the start of the season, chill out, have a cocktail and dont jump to conclusions, also dont ask questions in which the answer may be jumping to conclusions, its amazing how some just dont listen

Even though I agree with your points, you have no authority on these blogs. People do not necessarily have to listen to what others have to say. Last time I checked, there is such a thing as freedom of speech. If people on these blogs want to chat their heads off about the computer models, they have every right. And, if like you, rather remain settled and level-headed about the computer models and want to discuss something else, you have that right as well. Just don't go saying "its amazing how some just don't listen" or "don't ask questions that may jump to conclusions". By saying those things, you're invading others freedom of speech.



Oh dang here we go again.....
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476. Drakoen
7:41 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I agree with post #472.
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475. MrSea
7:40 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
anyone have a link to SST anomolies?
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474. floridastorm
7:33 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
do you guys know when there is going to be a low development in th SW Carribean?
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473. louisianaboy444
7:39 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
yeah i try to say that we are getting a little ahead of ourselves in a nice way and people want to blow up on me for it haha i love this blog...weather can be both a sudden mechanism or a very slow one like in the tropics so its natural to wanna get ahead of yourself...but you need to have patience if you want to track tropical weather lol that's what kills me i have no patience.... :)
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472. cchsweatherman
3:34 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
464. jphurricane2006 3:31 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
wow now we have confidence ratings on how much we think this will be a TD LMAO

arent we getting just a little ahead of ourselves? but alas I have said this about 10 times today and some dont listen, they are too amped up for the start of the season, chill out, have a cocktail and dont jump to conclusions, also dont ask questions in which the answer may be jumping to conclusions, its amazing how some just dont listen


Even though I agree with your points, you have no authority on these blogs. People do not necessarily have to listen to what others have to say. Last time I checked, there is such a thing as freedom of speech. If people on these blogs want to chat their heads off about the computer models, they have every right. And, if like you, rather remain settled and level-headed about the computer models and want to discuss something else, you have that right as well. Just don't go saying "its amazing how some just don't listen" or "don't ask questions that may jump to conclusions". By saying those things, you're invading others freedom of speech.

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470. scottsvb
7:35 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Finally alot of you are finally realizing its too early to predict anything!!!
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469. HurricaneGeek
3:35 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Yeah I agree with comment 460 & 465. The models, from what I gather, have a lot better grip on things when a closed circulation has formed, and until then, if it EVER happens (we don't know), it's a wait and see deal. But we still know that regardless of what happens, it could be the last "reminder" that hurricane season is around the corner before things get underway for real!
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468. stoormfury
7:33 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
an interesting blow up of convection near 10n 48w in association with a tropical wave. the islands will get a respite from the dry and hot conditions with the passace of the wave. there is some cyclonic turning at the mid level. wind shear is high in the vicinity of the wave and development is not anticipated
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467. hurricane23
7:36 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
All in all the strength of the upper level ridge will determine were the feature the models are developing tracks.For now i'll hold off on any futher thoughts until i see futher evidence of tropical cyclone formation.We'll see if convection continues to bubble down there.

Here is what the NHC had to say per there afternoon discussion.

THE CARIBBEAN SEA...
A TROPICAL WAVE IS OVER THE CENTRAL CARIBBEAN SEA WITH NO
SHOWERS OR THUNDERSTORMS OVER THE CARIBBEAN SEA. SEE ABOVE.
A 1010 MB LOW IS LOCATED N OF HAITI NEAR 21N73W. A COLD COLD
FRONT EXTENDS SW FROM THE LOW TO N OF JAMAICA NEAR 19N78W.
SCATTERED SHOWERS ARE WITHIN 60 NM OF THE FRONT. ELSEWHERE...
SCATTERED MODERATE TO ISOLATED STRONG CONVECTION IS N OF PANAMA
FROM 9N-12N BETWEEN 78W-83W. SCATTERED SHOWERS ARE ALSO OVER
THE LEEWARD ISLANDS N OF 15N BETWEEN 60W-70W. IN THE UPPER
LEVELS...ZONAL FLOW PREDOMINATES. SIGNIFICANT UPPER LEVEL
MOISTURE IS OVER CENTRAL AMERICA AND THE SW CARIBBEAN SEA S OF
16N AND W OF 78W. EXPECT... THE COLD FRONT TO DISSIPATE OVER THE
CARIBBEAN SEA WITHIN 24 HOURS




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466. Drakoen
7:35 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
465. Weather456 7:35 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
460. cchsweatherman 3:24 PM AST on May 26, 2008

Ur right...all this model talk and nothing has truly manifested as yet. I dont understand why. And when u look at it...yes the models show something in the west caribbean but at the same time the circulation is in the EPAC so why not monitor the situation and see if the models are right or wrong. Imagine if this think forms in the EPAC and stays there.


The blog will go back to how it was in February lol.
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465. Weather456
3:30 PM AST on May 26, 2008
460. cchsweatherman 3:24 PM AST on May 26, 2008

Ur right...all this model talk and nothing has truly manifested as yet. I dont understand why. And when u look at it...yes the models show something in the west caribbean but at the same time the circulation is in the EPAC so why not monitor the situation and see if the models are right or wrong. Imagine if this thing forms in the EPAC and stays there.
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463. HurricaneGeek
3:26 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Ok, thanks for your answer. =)
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462. cchsweatherman
3:24 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
458. HurricaneGeek 3:23 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
cchsweatherman, on a scale of 1-10, how good of a chance would you give anything becoming a TD? Thanks.


8

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461. weathersp
3:21 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
454.

Yes I agree with you. This is such a broad area of low pressure that the models deviate on where the center of the low is. Some have 2 centers of low pressure.

Nothing should be said past "A weak tropical system is expected to develop over the SW Caribbean and move towards the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico." Anything after that is a educated guess and might cause alarm.
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460. cchsweatherman
3:21 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Even though I realize that I have gotten caught myself in this "Tropical Storm Hype", we must understand that the models cannot possibly predict the track and intensity without an actual low present. Until something actually develops, I will not put great faith into the computer models' projections.
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459. Drakoen
7:23 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
455. TheCaneWhisperer 7:21 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
So, at the end of the day. The GFS, CMC and ECMWF all showing similar tracks. It's expected with no closed low to track.


Nope. The GFS has a different track than the CMC and ECWMF. They just happen to end up in the same place.
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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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