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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1309. hurricane23
10:03 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
JP from the view at those maps the caribbean has the best convergence at the moment.Upper level winds are not to favorable right now but they may slacken off a bit by late week.
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1308. sporteguy03
2:02 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
Adrian,
The chart you posted shows Convergence on both sides in the ATL and Pacific??
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1307. TerraNova
9:52 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
If there is someone who can find any buoy and ship data from the area, could you please post it for us?

NBDC Ship and Buoy Observations (within a radius of 400 miles from 14N, 78W).

I found one that seemed interesting...coordinates = 11.70 -80.10

Report time (GMT) - 1200
Wind Speed (kts) - 14.0
Wave Height - 1.6 ft
Pressure (inches) - 29.80
Pressure tendency - 0.02
Air temperature (F)- 75.2
Dew Point (F) - 72.7
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
1306. TampaSpin
10:02 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
Sheer is dropping in that area
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1305. NEwxguy
1:58 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
1292. KrazyKaneLove 1:50 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
NEGuy, I hope you aren't referring to me..I just know from experience that trying to evacuate can be more dangerous at times than staying put. Most floridians can attest to that , after finding there is no gas to be found on the turnpike or I-95, and gridlock traffic from those who have run out of gas..florida is a peninsula that can experience hurricane force winds throughout the entire state, everyone heads north from panic and then cannot find lodging up in georgia, etc.It is a very precarious situation if we do have a large cat 5 coming towards us, the sheer population alone en masse exodus would be catastrophic.
No,not referring to you,evacuation is one of those things,you have to judge according to your on situation and the conditions.
I was referring to people trying to outrun tornadoes or trying to drive across a flooded out road,moving under a tree in a thunderstorm,things like that.
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1304. displacedFloridian
1:42 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
KrazyKane, I lived in Melbourne through Jeanne and Francis too, and I think it gave me a really distorted view of hurricanes in that I thought they were "fun" to ride out. However the wind and rains were nothing like they had in Stuart. Heck, I never even lost my directv connection. The gusts around 80 mph were scary and I can't imagine what 150 mph would feel like.

It's tough to leave when you are looking at a Cat2, but it can become a Cat3 or 4 before you know it.
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1301. crownwx
9:57 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
CIMSS wind shear analysis chart shows 20 to 40 knots of shear over the southwest Caribbean convection. Personally, I don't think we'll see development out of it for at least the next couple of days.

Link
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1300. hurricane23
9:58 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
1295. jphurricane2006 9:53 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
03 a low has already formed, this is a complex system

its two lows in close proximity of each other, one usually wins out

the SW Car low looks more impressive, but the EPAC low has better conditions and is favored by the models

Might want to look at THIS from CIMSS.
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1299. sporteguy03
1:56 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
JP,
I will email him back then, and let him know about a low forming, he sent the email during Daybreak this something, he might not of caught up on everything yet :)

Hopefully we he will update on Eyewitness News at 12.
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1298. IKE
8:56 AM CDT on May 27, 2008
NOGAPS 6Z run kind of loses it.....

Link
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1297. TampaSpin
9:51 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
Newest visible view
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1294. cchsweatherman
9:48 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
We need to have QuikSCAT pass over the Southwest Caribbean disturbance. If there is someone who can find any buoy and ship data from the area, could you please post it for us? It would help very much in determining if tropical development may be occuring there. I may have to change the tropical update I posted about two hours ago that I just posted here.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
1293. sporteguy03
1:47 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
JP,
Brian Shields from WFTV/WDRQ wrote me back he said the models do show a weak low developing although not as impressive as before. He said the models showed development in the middle of next week, he add maybe the season will kick off with an early storm.
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1292. KrazyKaneLove
1:41 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
NEGuy, I hope you aren't referring to me..I just know from experience that trying to evacuate can be more dangerous at times than staying put. Most floridians can attest to that , after finding there is no gas to be found on the turnpike or I-95, and gridlock traffic from those who have run out of gas..florida is a peninsula that can experience hurricane force winds throughout the entire state, everyone heads north from panic and then cannot find lodging up in georgia, etc.It is a very precarious situation if we do have a large cat 5 coming towards us, the sheer population alone en masse exodus would be catastrophic.
Member Since: September 7, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 429
1290. TampaSpin
9:47 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
JPHurricane,
Invest coming sooner than later IMO
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1289. cchsweatherman
9:23 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
Tropical Weather Discussion for TUESDAY, May 27, 2008.



Throughout the entire Tropical Atlantic, there is one feature that I have begun to watch very closely in the Southwest Caribbean and extreme Eastern Pacific. Based upon the latest satellite imagery, it appears that two defined low-level circulations have developed within a few hundred miles on either side of Costa Rica. Both seems like very-well developed lows, but a tropical system cannot form when there are two lows in such close proximity to one another.

Like I have been discussing the past few days, the computer models continue to develop a tropical system in the Western Caribbean with the merging from these two lows. Thus far, I have not seen any signs merging will take place and would not be surprised if this does not occur at all. We could see a rare case here where we have two tropical systems form from the respective lows as they both are forecasted to move northward in the coming days, but that remains highly unlikely.

Right now, I will not be forecasting a tropical storm in the Northwest Caribbean at week's end as we do not even have a defined system to track. But, if and when we do get a defined system to track, I will have much more to offer as to possible tracks and strength. For now, there is no reasoned to worry about the computer models as the system the computer models show has not even come together, although there is some active weather occuring in the area where the models forecast development to begin occuring.

Apart from the featured area, we have several tropical waves throughout the tropics, none of which that show any signs of tropical development. At this time in the year, I do not expect tropical development from tropical waves, although it would not be unusual to see.

Stay tuned to further updates on the situation possibly brewing in the Southwest Caribbean/Eastern Pacific region.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
1288. TampaSpin
9:45 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
KrazyKane, taking advice from some of the Regulars on WU isn't bad advice either. Most regulars on here are very level headed and would give you good advice.
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1287. sporteguy03
1:40 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
KrazyKane,
Were you asked to evac? Another tip is to go to Town Hall and ask to speak about to a official who handles those areas. I've done that, they can give you information about your flood zone and give you examples of things of when you should go, preparing and education are the great tools to deal with adversity in weather.
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1286. TampaSpin
9:39 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
Its better difined in the Carr. than EPac. in my opinion. If you look at visiblie 1k closeup looped.

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1285. hurricane23
9:40 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
Hurricane Wilma only brought Cat1/2 conditions to Miami/Fort Lauderdale/West Palm Beach and still managed to become the 3rd costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
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1283. KrazyKaneLove
1:33 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
yeah i know sportguy, but my dad lives in Melbourne, so often we don't know till its too late who is going to be affected worst, like with frances and jeanne. We don't live in a mobile home and so far have been thru frances, jeanne, and wilma, with no roof damage, at least...but after Wilma am a lot concerned about what a cat 4 or 5 would do..whole different ballgame..and often, even with advance warning these things can change course drastically at last minute, like Charley, and even Wilma.
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1282. hurricane23
9:37 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
Could very well stay in the E-pac but we'll see.

I see 2 areas one in the e-pac and one north of panama.
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1281. NEwxguy
1:31 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
GM,all
I like that comment from Patrap about common sense.Too many people don't use common sense in dangerous weather.Reading the story of the guy out in the midwest who died when he tried to outrun a tornado in his car.
That commercial comes to mind.
WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!
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1280. TampaSpin
9:35 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
The circualation in the Carribean is better defined than in the Pacific currently, but does not mean it will stay that way.
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1279. TerraNova
9:34 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
The visible loop is showing some good spin starting

Spin on IR and visible bands.
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1278. TerraNova
9:32 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
Morning everyone.

Current IR/GFS overlay for the East Pacific:

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1277. TampaSpin
9:32 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
The visible loop is showing some good spin starting......invest90l coming soon...
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1276. sporteguy03
1:30 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
KrazyKane,
You can also stay with relatives that is what I did during Charley, Frances and Jeanne, if you live in a mobile home that is what I would do if I lived inland most officials advise people who live far enough from the coast to do that as opposed to evacuating.
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1275. hurricane23
9:31 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
Going through Andrew's 150-160mph winds in 92 my best advice is BE GONE.Thankfully they are rare events.Remember you dont need a cat5 to do extreme damage as even a cat1/cat2 can do significant damage.The most deadly aspect of tropical cyclones stems from inland flooding, which often occurs when the system is much weaker over land. It could simply be the remnants that induce inland flooding.
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1274. KrazyKaneLove
1:25 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
k, thanks, you have all answered any lingering thoughts I had on the subject..I sure hope it doesn't occur this year, though..many people couldn't afford the evac., I fear..and unfortunately, many companies expect their employees to stick around it seems here in florida, they still take these things in stride..somewhat.
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1273. TampaSpin
9:28 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
No Ghost anymore in the SW Carribean..wow check out visible satelite......Link
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1271. sporteguy03
1:22 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
KrazyKaneLove,
You should evac only when told to do so, go to a shelter if need be in your area. If you are in a low-lying flood prone area a mobile home park or the local officials tell you to leave do so. To evac for no particular reason is silly and it clogs up the roads more and prevents those who need to leave from doing so.
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1270. KrazyKaneLove
1:22 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
west palm beach news talked about the possibility last night
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1269. nash28
9:23 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
KrazyKane- There is only one answer. Evacuate. CAT 5? Anyone who stays is begging to die. There is no home or possession in the world worth a life. And with hurricanes, you have days of warning. Those that get stuck for 18hrs are usually those that wait until the last minute to get out.

Sorry to sound flippant, but it's true.
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1268. smmcdavid
8:21 AM CDT on May 27, 2008
I would always evac if I thought my family would be in danger... but then again I have a baby who will be turning 1 in about a week and a half. I might be a little more cautious than most.
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1266. ajcamsmom2
8:02 AM CDT on May 27, 2008
I am very prepared for hurricane season...very prepared to leave that is. I will not be staying...What use is it to have some drinking water when your roof comes off? What good does all that extra food do you when you have 3 feet of water in your kitchen...if it is still there that is? Who cares if you have a generator when your bed has just floated down the road? Better to be safe then sorry, get a plan to get out...Board up if you want, put your precious memories you can't take with you in sealed, plastic containers with your cell phone number and name in them...tie down anything loose...do what you have to do...then, leave...don't take any chances...just leave...these storms bring not only hurricane force winds and storm surge...they also bring tornados, lightning, downed powerlines, sewage and other yucky stuff in the flood waters...you name it...I will always be thankful I got in my car and left for Katrina...Make no mistake...evacuate..
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1265. Keys99
1:21 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
Eyw Weather just mentions more moisture at this time in the long term,they are not saying anything about tropical systems yet. The thing that worries me now is if NWS even mentions a system heading into the gulf there will be a run up of Oil prices. We can get out of the way of a storm but you cant run away from the Oil prices
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1264. KrazyKaneLove
1:14 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
random question: Let's say a large cat 5 threatens central and s.fla., causing mass pandemonium and endless traffic on evac. routes (all heading north)..you live inland, do you risk evac, or do you ride it out? After the Houston evacuation, I wonder about that sometimes..my dad tried to evac during floyd, and it took him 18 hours to reach savannah(double the normal time).Comments..
Member Since: September 7, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 429
1263. Michfan
8:17 AM CDT on May 27, 2008
Good morning all. I see things haven't changed too much. Blob watching glasses are on for today.
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1261. presslord
9:14 AM EDT on May 27, 2008
...as I explained to my new neighbor...an integral element of my preparedness plan is a Browning Automatic 12 guage shotgun and a drawer full of shells.....
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1259. KrazyKaneLove
1:11 PM GMT on May 27, 2008
ty tampa, forgot about the weakness factor with steering..
Member Since: September 7, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 429

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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.