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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58. juniormeteorologist
2:44 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
hey guys! I just updated my blog. Take a look at it and tell me if you liked it or i missed something.
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57. weathersp
10:45 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
What the heck model is that H23?
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56. hahaguy
10:45 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
that is interesting adrian
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54. Drakoen
2:43 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
48. weathersp 2:43 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Thanks for answering my question Drak..

But doesn't that only happen with stronger systems.. or can it happen with any kind of area of low pressure as long as the conditions are right?


It depends on whether or not an upper level high is already in the vicinity of the weak area of the low pressure. Generally stronger systems have the ability to create their own upper level outflow (upper level high)since their circulation has more vertical depth within the atmosphere.
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53. hurricane23
10:43 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
Probably over doing a bit but interesting to look at lol.

Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13807
52. atmoaggie
2:43 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Yes. Low pressure spins clockwise at the surface

Say what? Low=counterclockwise.

Dang, got beaten in this. Not trying to beat you up over it, Drak, nor steal your lunch.

Cheers.
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51. weathersp
10:43 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
47. kmanislander 10:41 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
Drak

I think you mean counterclockwise for the low


He sometimes has memory lapses and thinks he is in the southern hemisphere..
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50. Stormchaser2007
10:42 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
CMC is forecasting this thing to start in the East Pacific in 12 hours.

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49. Drakoen
2:42 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
47. kmanislander 2:41 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Drak

I think you mean counterclockwise for the low


Yea I did lol. I have been repeating myself alot with the upper level high and low pressure systems so I didn't realize.
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48. weathersp
10:40 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
Thanks for answering my question Drak..

But doesn't that only happen with stronger systems.. or can it happen with any kind of area of low pressure as long as the conditions are right?
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47. kmanislander
2:39 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Drak

I think you mean counterclockwise for the low
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15842
46. atmoaggie
2:27 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
"The 2008 Memorial Day Weekend tornado outbreak will continue to hammer the U.S. today"

Good I have nails that need a-driving ;-)

Thanks, Dr. Masters.
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45. Drakoen
2:36 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
43. weathersp 2:35 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Weather Definition Clarification here..

Anticyclone = High Pressure

those maps are form 850mb to 250mb so would that represent a high that forms over the area of low pressure like a Hurricane does that generates the outflow?


Yes. Low pressure spins clockwise at the surface and mid levels and then in the upper levels with an upper level high, the outflow is clockwise.
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44. HurricaneGeek
10:35 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
Wow, MasterForecaster, earlier this year it was 3.79, so in less than 6 moths, it has gone up 15 cents... it's crazy! I know to fill up a car here it can cost like in the range of $55
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43. weathersp
10:35 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
Weather Definition Clarification here..

Anticyclone = High Pressure

those maps are from 850mb to 250mb so would that represent a high that forms over the area of low pressure like a Hurricane does that generates the outflow?
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42. TheCaneWhisperer
2:34 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
That would be one heck of a way to start the Season Drak.
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41. MasterForecaster
2:30 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
34. HurricaneGeek 2:27 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Good morning everyone!! =)
So when you are at the pump, FritzRoy, you pay $11.22 or $9.32 per gallon of gas? WOW! So it would cost over $100 to fill up, or there about, right? In America the National average is somewhere in the $3.80 range


I just saw a piece on FOX, the national average is $3.94...ugh...at least its not 11.22 a gallon, yet.
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39. hurricane23
10:33 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
For now theres scattered thunderstorm over the area with little signs of development.That could change though as upper level conditions could become somewhat more favorable over next next couple of days.

For now get out and enjoy the holiday!

Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13807
38. HurrikanEB
10:31 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
23. FitzRoy 10:23 AM EDT on May 26, 2008 In terms of US gallons that is £4.71, or $9.32!!!

OMG!! it's like $3.95 to $4.30 here in the hudson valley of new york
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37. Drakoen
2:31 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
NOGAPS:
Photobucket

GFS:
Photobucket

CMC:
Photobucket
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36. TheCaneWhisperer
2:25 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
My mind went blank FL Weather, sorry, no not Barry. I remember now, it actually never got a name, it was just a TD. It was supposed to ride the gulf coast and make landfall in New Orleans but made a right and made landfall in the panhandle.
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35. IKE
9:28 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
Hey KMAN....
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
34. HurricaneGeek
10:25 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
Good morning everyone!! =)
So when you are at the pump, FritzRoy, you pay $11.22 or $9.32 per gallon of gas? WOW! So it would cost over $100 to fill up, or there about, right? In America the National average is somewhere in the $3.80 range
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33. hurricane23
10:26 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
Here's a piece from the NWS discussion up in melbourne earlier this morning.

BY FRI 12Z...ALL GLBL MODELS SHOW A GENERAL BROAD LOWERING OF SLP
ON BOTH THE EPAC AND CARIB SIDE OF CTRL AMERICA. THEN THRU SUN/MON
...THE GFS/NGP/GGEM CONTINUE THEIR TREND IN AGGRESSIVE SPINUP OF A
T.C...EVENTUALLY BRINGING A SYSTEM NWD TO NEAR/NORTH OF THE YUCATAN
WITH SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN DEEP LYR MOISTURE...ESPECIALLY OVER
SOUTH FL. ON THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTURM ARE THE UKM/ECM...WHICH
ARE GENERALLY SUPPRESSED MUCH FARTHER SOUTHWARD...AND AS A RESULT
NOT NEARLY AS AGGRESSIVE WITH NWD MOISTURE RETURN. SHOULD BE OF
SOME INTEREST TO WATCH HOW THIS SYSTEM PROGRESSES...IF AT ALL.
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32. kmanislander
2:21 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Hi Ike,

No, not on vacation but only posting periodically until things heat up. I was on last night discussing climatology versus computer models.

I am very curious to see how things play out by Saturday this week.

Climatology would dictate that with current conditions a tropical system would not likely spin up within the next 6 days ( all that dry air etc )but the computers keep insisting to the contrary.

Personally, I do not place too much reliance on models unless I see consensus about 48 hrs out coupled with actual conditions that support the consensus evolving
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31. Weather456
10:25 AM AST on May 26, 2008
Tracking Possible Development by Thursday and on June 1 off the west coast of africa
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30. IKE
9:24 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
Suppose to be a blocking ridge in the plains...from the Dallas,TX. extended discussion...

"The weekend through early next week should be warm and humid with
high pressure aloft and boundary layer moisture in place. Rain
chances should be very low with strong large scale subsidence and
a cap in place.".........


Must be a trough in the east?
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29. FitzRoy
2:24 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
It's the Government's fuel price escalator - a sneaky form of taxation :(
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28. FLWeatherFreak91
10:25 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
England is a small place with small cars, you don't have to drive much. LOL
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27. IKE
9:23 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
Jesus Christ...$9.32 a gallon! OMG.
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26. hahaguy
10:23 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
oh ok thanks drak
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25. StormHype
2:11 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Amazing and way too close video of the Qunitar Kansas tornado. (Not from Mike Theiss)

Link



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24. Drakoen
2:22 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
17. hahaguy 2:20 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
If this disturbance does develop would there still be that weakness in the ridge?


The weakness in the ridge is based on a 500mb trough not the system itself.
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23. FitzRoy
2:22 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Sorry to hear about the terrible storms you're having - I've been intermittently lurking for some weeks now.

We are also sharing your fuel price squeeze in the UK. Here, one UK gallon costs £5.67, or $11.22. In terms of US gallons that is £4.71, or $9.32!!! What do you pay?

Take care of yourselves.
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22. hurricane23
10:22 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
Here is the newest anomalies map.

The situation across the basin looks to be in a warming trend sst wise which looks to be on track as we move into this season.

Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13807
21. IKE
9:21 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
12. weathersp 9:17 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
10. IKE

If where he lives is vacation for us where would he be for vacation? lol.


Lol...good point...he lives in paradise.....
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20. FLWeatherFreak91
10:21 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
Are you referring to Barry, cane?
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19. TheCaneWhisperer
2:18 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Thanks for the update Dr. Masters. Your input will be greatly appreciated this week.

From the last blog:
From what I can understand Cane, it will be a broad area of low pressure that spans the EPAC and over into the Western Caribbean. In which a center can relocate anywhere within the area. Similar to what happened last year. I can't remember the storm name but it hopped over Florida.
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18. juniormeteorologist
2:17 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Thanks Dr. Masters for the update! Good Morning Everyone! Anyway, I just took another look at the 6z Model Run for the GFS and I seen that it is predicting that thing to hit SC on Wednesday June 04 and Thursday June 05
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17. hahaguy
10:19 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
If this disturbance does develop would there still be that weakness in the ridge?
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16. Drakoen
2:19 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
15. hurricane23 2:18 PM GMT on May 26, 2008

All in all this will probably end up being a lobsided tropical cyclone hopefully bringing much needed rainfall to the state of florida.


Why does it have to be lopsided if an anticyclone is above the system?
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15. hurricane23
10:16 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
All in all this will probably end up being a lobsided tropical cyclone hopefully bringing much needed rainfall to the state of florida.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13807
14. Drakoen
2:18 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
This week will be interesting.
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13. MasterForecaster
2:14 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Well let's see how many comments this blog can go without a fight. My guess is 112. We make it past 112 without a fight an I'll buy a round for everyone lol

Thanks for the update Dr. Masters the upcoming days will be very interesting.

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12. weathersp
10:16 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
10. IKE

If where he lives is vacation for us where would he be for vacation? lol.
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11. weathersp
10:15 AM EDT on May 26, 2008
Thanks Dr.Masters!
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10. IKE
9:14 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
I'm surprised KMAN isn't posting...he must be on vacation.......
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
9. Drakoen
2:13 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
thanks for the update jeff...
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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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