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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309. ClearH2OFla
12:54 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Hey Nash28 How is the weather up the street?
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308. Drakoen
4:54 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I'm interested to see what the NOGAPS has to say since its been the most consistent with track and development.
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307. FLWeatherFreak91
12:51 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
and reform and make another landfall in Southern Florida,

It doesn't show a Fl landfall on this run Jr. Met
Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3631
306. nash28
4:53 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Afternoon all! Happy Memorial Day!
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305. Tazmanian
4:51 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
june 1st is this comeing weekned
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115362
304. Drakoen
4:52 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
302. IKE 4:51 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
296. extreme236 11:48 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
The GFS just wants to let us know that development will happen and while were waiting for it to develop it wants to toss out various scenarios for us to discuss so we don't get bored :)

To keep us coming back for the next model run.....


The GFS is a drama queen. Its likes to be the center of attention.
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303. weatherblog
4:51 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The NHC doesn't seem to notice the EPAC system.

000
ABPZ20 KNHC 261134
TWOEP
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
500 AM PDT MON MAY 26 2008

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER MAINELLI
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302. IKE
11:49 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
296. extreme236 11:48 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
The GFS just wants to let us know that development will happen and while were waiting for it to develop it wants to toss out various scenarios for us to discuss so we don't get bored :)


To keep us coming back for the next model run.....
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
300. FLWeatherFreak91
12:49 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Wow I'm going to be disappointed if this storm doesn't materialize! The weather around here has been the most boring lately and plus I've spent countless hours starring at the screen trying to take in all this info. I hope the weather understands that all of us need something to do very badly lol
Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3631
299. juniormeteorologist
4:46 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
the 12z GFS model is crazy..it expects it to make landfall somewhere in mexico, then go back in the carribean sea, and reform and make another landfall in Southern Florida, well i guess we will have to see what is going to happen! I will update my blog later when it is completely finish, and when someone gives me a good thing to put on there..any ideas? email me at admin@dthamers.com or email me at this blog.
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298. Drakoen
4:49 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The CMC run should be out soon and the NOGAPS 12z is running.
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297. 0741
4:49 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Tropical Weather Discussion for MONDAY, May 26, 2008

were did you get that?
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296. extreme236
4:47 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The GFS just wants to let us know that development will happen and while were waiting for it to develop it wants to toss out various scenarios for us to discuss so we don't get bored :)
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
295. Drakoen
4:44 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I don't like the fact that the GFS keeps it overland so long and keeps it circulation but a path into the BOC is not out of the realm of possibility. The GFS is throwing scenarios at us.
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294. FLWeatherFreak91
12:42 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Ok So I'm pretty sure we can go ahead and completely defenestrate that run. Unless Arthur really likes the Yucat√°n, I don't see it very likely that it will cross THREE TIMES like this models thinks. West East and then West again!
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293. extreme236
4:40 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Conditions in the EPAC are more favorable than in the SW Caribbean at this time from the looks of the shear map.
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292. scottsvb
4:41 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
any model after 72 hrs goes downhill.. after 120 is basically useless
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291. IKE
11:41 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
It's over land 80% of the run...
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290. presslord
12:39 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
weather and jp are tryin to take all the fun outta wishcasting...
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289. FLWeatherFreak91
12:40 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Whoa whoa... crazy GFS! BACK EAST guys
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287. Stormchaser2007
12:38 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
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286. FLWeatherFreak91
12:39 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Here we go:

IF a system does form in the Pac it will have to move into the Caribbean. And IF it survives this crossing it will have to move north. And IF it moves north it will have to miss the Yucatan. And IF it misses the Yucatan I can tell you that it will make landfall from MEXICO to MIAMI!

Perfect! Everything is taken care of now.
Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3631
285. Drakoen
4:38 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
280. IKE 4:38 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Now it has it going back EAST! After 200 hours! OMG!



LOL you noticed too ;P
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284. IKE
11:38 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
And now back west....uh...discount that model run.......
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282. Weather456
12:37 PM AST on May 26, 2008
275. jphurricane2006 12:35 PM AST on May 26, 2008
oh and one more thing folks, it is only May

we have the whole hurricane season to track systems and there will be storms to track, trust me.

lets not get ahead of ourselves, bb


Exactly
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
281. scottsvb
4:35 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
No one should take any model and model-run persay for a grain of salt, until we have a low pressure that forms (if 1 at all).
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280. IKE
11:36 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
Now it has it going back EAST! After 200 hours! OMG!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
279. Drakoen
4:36 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The GFS can't make up its mind about what it wants to do with the system one run it wants west florida, another run it wants mexico, and another run it wants texas. Its just to early to say where the system will go.
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278. TheCaneWhisperer
4:36 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
and an intensifying 1007 low @ 12hrs.
277. IKE
11:34 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
And on the 0Z GFS run it had it going into Texas....too far in advance...from Texas..to FL...to the BOC...
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276. atmoaggie
4:34 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
when I first read Drak's post, I thought it said '...inland into the Vatican..."

No, but that is coming in the 18 Z update. Prolly hit Mongolia as a cat4 tonight for the 0 Z update.
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274. Drakoen
4:32 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Looks like its into the BOC, they delay in the low pressure/shortwave and longer ridge over the GOM. Still too far out to tell whats going to happen and we still have 3 more models to look at. I wouldn't rule out that scenario though.
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273. TheCaneWhisperer
4:32 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I noticed the GFS analyzes a 1009MB low in the SW Caribb, we know that not to be true.
271. extreme236
4:33 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
These models have been predicting development for the past several days in a Dean-like fashion.
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270. IKE
11:32 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
Went from west FL. on one run, to the BOC on the next one....that's a rather wide scope.......
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269. Weather456
12:32 PM AST on May 26, 2008
as I said before...the wishcasters will be out in their numbers this week.
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266. Stormchaser2007
12:32 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
GFS 12z
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265. presslord
12:30 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
when I first read Drak's post, I thought it said '...inland into the Vatican..."
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264. FLWeatherFreak91
12:32 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
I'll provide it b/c it makes drak mad to have to keep posting it... i remember from yesterday :)

GFS
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263. WPBHurricane05
4:32 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Never mind I found it. Link
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261. IKE
11:31 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
Buries it in the BOC at 174 hours.
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260. extreme236
4:31 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Michael, that is something that one station is saying and the first station to say anything quite that skeptical.
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259. Stormchaser2007
12:31 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
In case we need to make the wishcasters happy, the system will hit Florida as a cat 3 then hit SC as a Cat 4.

Nope its already been said, the damage is done...lol
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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.