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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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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458. HurricaneGeek
3:22 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.
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457. cdo
7:21 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
dont worry lousianaboy(sp), your comments are hidden so nobody will be alarmed.
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456. cchsweatherman
3:18 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
449. hurricane23 3:10 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
You can almost see the begins of what what the models have been chirping about with some convection popping in the SW caribbean.


In my opinion, there is some small signs that organization is occuring with that convection as there appears to be a low-level circulation off the Nicaraguan coast. Not saying that tropical development is occuring, but there is some organization.

Going back to the Eastern Pacific low, in any satellite imagery, the upper-level anticyclone and low-level circulation have become quite apparent signifying that tropical development should soon follow. Quite a favorable setup now for this Eastern Pacific low.
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455. TheCaneWhisperer
7:19 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.
453. louisianaboy444
7:14 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...
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452. Weatherkid24
7:16 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
sea go to weatherchat!!!
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451. Weatherkid24
7:14 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
whats up sea!!!If you had to guess when will it hit???
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450. MrSea
7:08 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
yo weatherkid!
if i had to guess, i would say that Arthur will hit FL (and arthur will develop from this east Pac mess)
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449. hurricane23
7:06 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
You can almost see the begins of what what the models have been chirping about with some convection popping in the SW caribbean.
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448. cchsweatherman
3:01 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
444. MasterForecaster 2:58 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
So cchs you think that blob in the S.CARRIB is what's going to eventually be the system to watch?


No. But, my current thinking is that this Eastern Pacific low and the Southwest Caribbean low will merge sometime in the next 48 hours. Once they merge, the recent front that came through South Florida let yesterday will have stalled at this time. It will advect this merged low out from the Eastern Pacific and into the Western Caribbean. It will all depend on how strong this MJO impulse is and whether the merged low can clear the Central American landmass that will determine the future of this possible system. Beyond that, I will not and refuse to speculate since there is too much uncertainty involved.

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447. Drakoen
7:03 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Not much from the ECMWF 12z run. Showing something like what the CMC 12z has.
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446. Weatherkid24
7:01 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Anyone have any idea when this thing could come close to florida if it develops at all???
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445. Drakoen
6:57 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
When I look at the ECMWF 00z run I see a 500mb ridge over Mexico that extends outward to the Bahamas, thinking that the ridge will weaken later with the trough that moves through. The Nogaps show the same ridge but only expands it to Texas/Louisiana border; between the two ridges a trough is present which is why the NOGAPS has that track towards SFL.

The delay in the trough on the ECMWF 00z run is the same delay the GFS 12z has.
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444. MasterForecaster
6:56 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
So cchs you think that blob in the S.CARRIB is what's going to eventually be the system to watch?
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443. Stormchaser2007
2:56 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Shear dose not look that favorable around there...your thoughts Adrian. TIA
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442. hurricane23
6:53 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Models ive looked at do indicate a trough which will most likely steer what ever is down there towards florida in the coming week.Climo tracks ususally take anything down in that region towards florida this time of the year.
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441. Stormchaser2007
2:49 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
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440. cchsweatherman
2:43 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Based upon my latest analysis, here is the only bottomline that I could derive that will explain everything so well.

ONLY MOTHER NATURE KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN!!! It has become quite evident that noone (or nothing referring to the computer models) know what will happen here.

But, for some true analysis, it appears that we have two tropical lows attempting to organize. Right now, there is one low just off the Nicaraguan coast with some impressive convection appearing to cluster over and around the low while another low exists about 150 miles west of Costa Rica with some deep, but rather disorganized convection attempting to circulate around the low. IMO, the Nicaraguan low is much more organized and may be deeper than the Eastern Pacific low at this time. This looks like the GFS model, but 36 hours faster.
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439. FLWeatherFreak91
2:47 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Gracias
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437. FLWeatherFreak91
2:45 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
436. Drakoen 2:44 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
I want to see what the ECMWF does with this.


When is the next run?
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436. Drakoen
6:44 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I want to see what the ECMWF does with this.
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435. FLWeatherFreak91
2:41 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Very messy area isn't it.

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434. HurakanPR
6:27 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Something appears to be spinning around 50 Longitude, 9 Latitude approaching the SE caribbean, and the shear forecast for the next few days is favorable.....even though i know is to early in the season.
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433. hurricane23
6:37 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
What the nogaps see's is if what ever developes in the caribbean is near cuba or near the tip of the yuacatan later this week friday/saturday time frame then my best guess is a trough could very well kick it towards southeast florida.Obviously we are still a few days out and things will change as we get into next weekend but for now its just a wait and see thing until we actually see something pop down there.

Convection is already starting to bubble down there.

VIEW HERE



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432. FLWeatherFreak91
2:35 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
427. Skyepony 2:35 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
Cuba knocked Charley from a Cat 3 to a 2. My point is the NOGAPS isn't showing any breif or more loss of strength after Cuba. NOGAPS was on the bottom last year for preformance. Might not be this year, but that stands out as it's not getting all the enviromental factors in that run.


You're right, but the nogaps isn't the only model handling the storm strange either. The GFS has it sustaining its strength while over the mountains of central America for more than a day. I'm just going to go ahead and say a storm will form from this mess, but your guess is as good as mine to where it will go.
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431. Drakoen
6:36 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
427. Skyepony 6:35 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Cuba knocked Charley from a Cat 3 to a 2. My point is the NOGAPS isn't showing any breif or more loss of strength after Cuba. NOGAPS was on the bottom last year for preformance. Might not be this year, but that stands out as it's not getting all the enviromental factors in that run.



The model run has it barely skirting the western tip of Cuba.
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430. leofarnsworth
6:36 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Warning- Amateur Alert.

That said:
Does anyone want to explain the circulation centered at 71W 23N? Why can't that develop into a storm?
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429. Weather456
2:31 PM AST on May 26, 2008
425. TerraNova 2:31 PM AST on May 26, 2008
The time of the pass is at the bottom of the QuikSCAT image in UTC. The time at the top is the buffer time or the time the image was generated.

So this was generated less than an hour ago but the data within was collected earlier today?


The website takes time to process and issue the passes about 2-3 hrs. However, the time at the top changes as passes are added. The last pass was added 18:14 UTC. If u click other areas across the globe u would notice that all passes have this "18:14 UTC" time at the top. But the time of the pass at the bottom will be unique to each image.
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428. msphar
6:26 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
the wave currently at 52W seems to be climbing towards Caribe latitudes.
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427. Skyepony (Mod)
6:29 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Cuba knocked Charley from a Cat 3 to a 2. My point is the NOGAPS isn't showing any breif or more loss of strength after Cuba. NOGAPS was on the bottom last year for preformance. Might not be this year, but that stands out as it's not getting all the enviromental factors in that run.
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426. Stormchaser2007
2:30 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
LOL

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425. TerraNova
6:29 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The time of the pass is at the bottom of the QuikSCAT image in UTC. The time at the top is the buffer time or the time the image was generated.

So this was generated less than an hour ago but the data within was collected earlier today?
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423. Weather456
2:26 PM AST on May 26, 2008
418. TerraNova 2:24 PM AST on May 26, 2008

that is where the greatest vort and convergence is....also in visible imagery. I am still puzzled by why the TPC choose to put the low so far west.
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422. Drakoen
6:28 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I had to laugh when I see the cyclone phase diagram of the UKMET. Looks like something a 3yr old drew...
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421. moonlightcowboy
1:26 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
409. Skyepony 1:13 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
See the Cape Verde cmc picked up on & the gfs hints at it. Less consensus this run but they look nervous.


Yep, just got this notion we're gonna see something earlier from that corner of the world. And, yes, "nervous" is a good term for it!
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420. FLWeatherFreak91
2:26 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
417. Skyepony 2:22 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
I wonder how much the NOGAPS is seeing the mountains there over Cuba. Unless it threads the needle right on~ Cuba tends to knock the strength down atleast for 12 - 24 hrs after.


Charley
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419. Weather456
2:24 PM AST on May 26, 2008
The time of the pass is at the bottom of the QuikSCAT image in UTC. The time at the top is the buffer time or the time the image was generated.
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418. TerraNova
6:21 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The last Quickscat scan detects a low level circulation off Nicaragua (however old it may be). I don't think this has been posted yet...

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417. Skyepony (Mod)
6:20 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I wonder how much the NOGAPS is seeing the mountains there over Cuba. Unless it threads the needle right on~ Cuba tends to knock the strength down atleast for 12 - 24 hrs after.
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415. Drakoen
6:19 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
850mb Streamline showing an elongated area of low pressure east of Nicaragua
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414. Drakoen
6:16 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
408. hurricane23 6:11 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Nogaps has been pretty consistent with its idea of bringing something northward then bending it into southeast florida bringing what be a welcome site in regards to some tropical rains in the area.

Lol after another look at the 12z nogaps its intensity is running close to a hurricane


It is a hurricane you have to use the MLSP on the NOGAPS. There is a small isobar of 29.30inches which is 992mb.
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412. TerraNova
6:12 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
12z NOGAPS out 120 hours...


132 hours...


144 hours...
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411. Weather456
2:11 PM AST on May 26, 2008
456 the second activity of storms is it that the models are predicting ?

it appears so
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410. Tazmanian
11:11 AM PDT on May 26, 2008
more commets from storm chat

if its truly 90/77 at alva, the cape is probably 6000+
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409. Skyepony (Mod)
6:07 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
See the Cape Verde cmc picked up on & the gfs hints at it. Less consenses this run but they look nervous.
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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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