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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209. juniormeteorologist
4:15 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
listen, i really want to know if this thing will make a second landfall in SC because it will be good thing for me because I can do alot of tracking and give alot of forecasts. Now tell me is this thing goin to make a second landfall in SC?
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208. Drakoen
4:16 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The tropics are waking up!!! lmfao...
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207. simeon9benjamin
4:17 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
This system has the potential to become a cat 1 hurricane if the environment is right.
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206. Stormchaser2007
12:15 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
f you recall, IOKE formed in the E PAC and moved into the C PAC but still kept the name IOKE. =)
Action: |


Actually Ioke moved through two basins The Central pacific and West Pacific. When it was in the West Pacific it was called Typhoon Ioke.
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205. IKE
11:15 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
200. Drakoen 11:15 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
192. IKE 4:12 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Is the GFS stuck@90 hours? Bangs hand against computer desk.

Calm down Ike. Its moving...


lol.
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204. Drakoen
4:16 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The system is slightly more organized on this run.
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202. IKE
11:13 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
Exact same location at 120 hours from where it was at 126 hours on the last run.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
201. simeon9benjamin
4:11 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
This system has the potential to become a hurricane if the environment is right.
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200. Drakoen
4:13 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
192. IKE 4:12 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Is the GFS stuck@90 hours? Bangs hand against computer desk.


Calm down Ike. Its moving...
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199. HurricaneGeek
12:09 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Well, let's say it develops in E PAC, then crosses Central America,... if it's circulation remains trackable, it will still be called Alma,even into the ATL and visa versa. However, if it forms in the the E PAC and crosses C America and it's circulation becomes so disrupetd, it is no longer trackable, but it's energy contributes to the formation of a TS in the ATL, then it will be called Arthur. If you recall, IOKE formed in the E PAC and moved into the C PAC but still kept the name IOKE. =)
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197. Weather456
12:12 PM AST on May 26, 2008
172. extreme236 12:06 PM AST on May 26, 2008
So 456 the disturbances that could spawn a TD are starting to form now perhaps?


It is very slow to organize but showing signs.
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196. Stormchaser2007
12:13 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
I dont think its stuck its getting ready to spit out 30 hours all at once....
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195. extreme236
4:12 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
If TD One-E were to form and move into the Caribbean and become named it would be Arthur but if Alma formed in the EPAC and survived into the Caribbean it would still be Alma.
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194. Stormchaser2007
12:11 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
actually Terra, that is not true

If a system develops in a basin and then crosses into another, as long as it keeps its circulation and does not get its name taken away, it would keep the same name even if it moves to another basin


FLweather your idea still lives!!
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193. Drakoen
4:12 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
188. jphurricane2006 4:11 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
actually Terra, that is not true

If a system develops in a basin and then crosses into another, as long as it keeps its circulation and does not get its name taken away, it would keep the same name even if it moves to another basin


Right. Assuming it becomes a tropical storm and not a tropical depression.
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192. IKE
11:11 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
Is the GFS stuck@90 hours? Bangs hand against computer desk.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
191. Weather456
12:04 PM AST on May 26, 2008
24 hr Atmsopheric pressures are falling over a large area of Central, the greatest fall was from Limon, Costa Rico on the order of -2mb.

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190. FLWeatherFreak91
12:11 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
188. jphurricane2006 12:11 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
actually Terra, that is not true

If a system develops in a basin and then crosses into another, as long as it keeps its circulation and does not get its name taken away, it would keep the same name even if it moves to another basin


No, Terra is correct, the name changes according to the basin
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189. HurricaneKing
12:09 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
The only difference really will be wether it's named Alma or Arthur, if it's named at all.

Afternoon HG. Systems that switch basins are renamed according to that basin's list...so if the EPAC low manages to develop into Alma then crosses into the Atlantic, it will become Arthur. Ya, that's assuming it even gets named!


I thought if they could track the center across it kept it's name. If it was just some leftover convection that developed into another storm it got a new name.
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187. extreme236
4:09 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
It looks like the GFS develops two lows but at 54 hours shows a storm north of Panama in the Atlantic.
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186. Drakoen
4:09 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
182. TerraNova 4:08 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The only difference really will be wether it's named Alma or Arthur, if it's named at all.

Afternoon HG. Systems that switch basins are renamed according to that basin's list...so if the EPAC low manages to develop into Alma then crosses into the Atlantic, it will become Arthur. Ya, that's assuming it even gets named!


I doubt it will become a tropical storm in the EPAC the way the models are going.
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185. TheCaneWhisperer
4:08 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Faster would change everything!

"Head On, Apply Directly To The Forehead"
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184. Stormchaser2007
12:08 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Everybody hitting refresh on the GFS....lol

You better believe it....My fingers already sore!!
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183. Drakoen
4:08 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
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182. TerraNova
4:04 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The only difference really will be wether it's named Alma or Arthur, if it's named at all.

Afternoon HG. Systems that switch basins are renamed according to that basin's list...so if the EPAC low manages to develop into Alma then crosses into the Atlantic, it will become Arthur. Ya, that's assuming it even gets named!
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
181. TheCaneWhisperer
4:07 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I didn't catch the 06Z, just seemed to be heading that way.
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180. FLWeatherFreak91
12:05 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
167. HurricaneGeek 12:04 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
The only difference really will be wether it's named Alma or Arthur, if it's named at all.


OMG! That's weird. In 1966 a Hurricane formed in the same areas as we're talking now, moved into the gulf and hit the panhandle.... it's name was Alma! So let's just say this storm does get named ALMA in the pacific and then follows the path of the '66 Alma.... how rare would that be!
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179. IKE
11:07 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
Everybody hitting refresh on the GFS....lol
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177. Drakoen
4:07 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
173. IKE 4:06 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Appears to be evolving slightly faster with the latest run at 90 hours...it's on about the same track as the last run...just slightly faster.....


Exactly.
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176. Drakoen
4:06 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
169. TheCaneWhisperer 4:05 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Looks to be heading that way out of the Caribb @ 90hrs.


Its doing almost what it did in the 06z run.
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174. Stormchaser2007
12:02 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Not even 54 hours!! Theres a low with associated convection in that area in 42 hours!!
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173. IKE
11:05 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
Appears to be evolving slightly faster with the latest run at 90 hours...it's on about the same track as the last run...just slightly faster.....
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
172. extreme236
4:05 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
So 456 the disturbances that could spawn a TD are starting to form now perhaps?
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171. HurricaneGeek
12:05 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
162.
Yes that does mean Palm Beach County, two counties north of Miami, FL
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169. TheCaneWhisperer
4:04 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Looks to be heading that way out of the Caribb @ 90hrs.
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168. KrazyKaneLove
4:00 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
there is so much dry air in the gulf...where is this moisture supposed to come from again? The developing storm itself, or something else
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167. HurricaneGeek
12:02 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
The only difference really will be wether it's named Alma or Arthur, if it's named at all.
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166. TheCaneWhisperer
4:01 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Back to the EPAC for the GFS?
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162. FLWeatherFreak91
12:01 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Is PBC Palm Beach County? I've seen that a lot and don't know what it is.
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161. Weather456
11:49 AM AST on May 26, 2008
Just got a ship osbervation out there, winds are light but the circulation remains clearly evident:

There is also a secondary circulation near the ithmus of Panama and this was also seen on this morning's QuikSCAT pass:


Also, pressures remain constant or slightly falling at stations along the coast.



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159. FLWeatherFreak91
11:56 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
155. cchsweatherman 11:54 AM EDT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
The 12UTC GFS model now shows the tropical system forming in 54 hours in the Southwest Caribbean.


So it's pretty much happening guys- no more long-term. We already have a disturbance/mess thingy in the Pac... now we wait for the depression in the Caribbean.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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