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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1159. taco2me61
4:09 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
ok all, Well I'm out for the nite..... I will be checking to see what Jeff has to say about this thing......

Have a great nite everybody and I will chat with you tomorrow....

:0)
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1158. Weather456
12:07 AM AST on May 27, 2008
This what many have been saying....the monsoon trough has moved into the SW Caribbean. Which allowed southwesterlies to enter the Caribbean from the south to meet the already establish trades to induce a circulation.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/tafb_latest/WATL_latest.gif
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1157. Michfan
11:10 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
There we go. Thanks TCW.
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1156. TheCaneWhisperer
4:07 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Western/North Atl Michfan
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1155. Michfan
11:03 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Where is that GFS Map that shows both North America and all of the Caribbean at once on its runs?
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1154. TheCaneWhisperer
4:05 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
GFS is the same so far, sporting stacked highs with no weakness.
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1153. Weather456
11:58 PM AST on May 26, 2008
For now, it is dfficult to determine whether its at the surface or not due to the impartial QuikSCAT pass and lack of surface observations but it appears the circulation is strongest in the lower atmopshere based on the products at the CIMSS and the GFS analysis (not forecast).
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1152. Michfan
11:02 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
That will change MLC i think once they update it.
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1151. Tazmanian
9:00 PM PDT on May 26, 2008
thanks TX

the Ignore will be put in good ues for me this year am up to # 17 on my Ignore


dont for get this tip if you dont like wiscasting this hit Ignore and move on and i be doing that a lot this year
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115455
1150. moonlightcowboy
10:57 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
HPC's not showing much of anything except high pressure thru about the next seven days. LINK
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1149. Tazmanian
8:59 PM PDT on May 26, 2008
tillou i no will be paying $6 to $7 or more
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115455
1148. TexasGulf
3:51 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
The big H is setting up South-East of Bermuda this year. If it remains in that position, storms will tend to move from the tropical Atlantic N-E toward Florida and the East Coast. Those that remain South will tend to move north into the Gulf.

I think everyone is just getting antsy waiting for the tropical season to begin. Patience. The SST in Northern Gulf is still not very warm yet. Gulf and Carribean conditions are not ideal for tropical development, but are getting there.

This year will be active enough for everyone... the wishcasters, the accu-casters and all. People are getting frustrated about a few clouds gathering and a possibility of a low moving into a growth environment. About 4-5 weeks from now, we will be discussing monsters, not a few whisps of clouds.
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1147. tillou
3:58 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
What the heck, I'll say will have something going by Thurs night - Fri morning.

Whatever happens, lets all hope it dosen't get strong enough to shut down the rigs in the gulf.

Could you imagine how much gas would cost if that happens?
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1146. Tazmanian
8:56 PM PDT on May 26, 2008
some one to add to my Ignore i see


the Ignore toy is going to be vary ues full this year
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1145. TheCaneWhisperer
3:55 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
You thinking ground zero 456? There is a closed low looking for convection in the area.
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1144. Tazmanian
8:55 PM PDT on May 26, 2008
No comment
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1143. moonlightcowboy
10:54 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
456, yeah, I can see a swirl at about 13n,80w.
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1142. Drakoen
3:54 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1135. Weather456 3:51 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
has anyone notice the mid-level rotation in the SW CARIB.

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/watl/loop-ir4.html


Yea. Alot of spinning out there in the EPAC and SW Caribbean.
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1141. Michfan
10:54 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
I saw it earlier as well 456. Drak and Kman noted it earlier tonight also i believe.
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1140. Michfan
10:47 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Ok let me put this in bold:

All anyone can do is just monitor the tropics as usual. Asking if anything is going to hit any specific spot at this point in time is fruitless. Your just wasting your breath doing so.
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1139. moonlightcowboy
10:51 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
1132. Michfan 10:47 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
...You started up some good conversations last year :)


Agreed, JP brings a great deal to the discussion!
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1138. TheCaneWhisperer
3:52 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Sure did 456, rather healthy.
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1137. Tazmanian
8:49 PM PDT on May 26, 2008
All-Star Author
Mobile

Posts:550
Points:91,490
Joined:Feb 2008 Message Posted: 5/26/2008 8:02:30 PM Ignore billy44bo Report Abuse

hope there is no storm in the gulf this year. if there is a storm the bozos will let price go over $6.00 /gal



i 2nd that
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1136. moonlightcowboy
10:49 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
1119. Thanks, Drak.
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1135. Weather456
11:45 PM AST on May 26, 2008
has anyone notice the mid-level rotation in the SW CARIB.

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/watl/loop-ir4.html
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1134. moonlightcowboy
10:50 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
1119. Thanks, Drak.
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1133. Tazmanian
8:47 PM PDT on May 26, 2008
so do we no where the big H is going to set up yet ??
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1132. Michfan
10:46 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Too bad JP. You started up some good conversations last year :)
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1131. taco2me61
3:44 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
yes I see JFV.... Now should I be concerned about something this soon or is this just a tease to what is really going to come later this summer?????
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1130. moonlightcowboy
10:42 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
JP, you were too in here! LOL, but yeah, there's no point in anyone sticking their neck out until something actually forms first - then, track is still kind of a crap shoot, too.

I'm still thinking we're gonna see an invest pop up sooner from the twaves out of the cATL before what we all consider climatologically normal. They're just coming earlier, frequently and better organized. The ITCZ has started a more northerly move in in the wATL, and I'm thinking we're gonna see a surprise there. Maybe not.

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1129. Drakoen
3:43 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1125. jphurricane2006 3:42 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
well cautious is the better word, I just have learned that sticking my neck out there when it isnt necessary only gets me railroaded

this year I will just sit back, actually I will likely not be on the main, I wasnt last year and my blood pressure was great!! lol


lol. Its too bad you won't be spending more time here. I won't play conservative this year but I won't play radical either.
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1128. GeoffreyWPB
11:43 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
level-headed is the best jp....i should of invested in Head-On last season!
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1127. weatherboykris
3:42 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1123. moonlightcowboy 3:41 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
101. quasigeostropic 10:25 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
This time of yr, models go through an adjustment in their forecasting schemes(transitioning from winter to summer regimes)....This typically means models have a hard time initiating systems correctly in the tropics this time of year. I really dont think there will be anything in the Western Caribbean, but wouldn't rule out something in the Eastern Pacific since they get their season a little earlier climatologically.

Quasi just posted this over in Bob's blog. Makes sense, I thought


We shall see. He brought up some good points.
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1124. taco2me61
3:40 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
so I need to check the EPAC now huh.....
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1123. moonlightcowboy
10:39 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
101. quasigeostropic 10:25 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
This time of yr, models go through an adjustment in their forecasting schemes(transitioning from winter to summer regimes)....This typically means models have a hard time initiating systems correctly in the tropics this time of year. I really dont think there will be anything in the Western Caribbean, but wouldn't rule out something in the Eastern Pacific since they get their season a little earlier climatologically.


Quasi just posted this over in Bob's blog. Makes sense, I thought.
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1121. Drakoen
3:39 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1120. jphurricane2006 3:39 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
yes sir I am drak

the GFS has been punch drunk the last 3 days, heck it was making more sense last week than it is now, the EURO dropped it, the CMC well nevermind lol


lol thats good. You'll get along with Adrian better lol.
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1119. Drakoen
3:37 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1115. moonlightcowboy 3:37 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
JP, Drak, whomever, sound like the models are hedging somewhat now, too?


Maybe.
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1118. taco2me61
3:36 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Hey everybody, Just checking in and see whats going on out in the tropics
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1117. GeoffreyWPB
11:37 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Easy jp...I will keep the b-day plans on...:)
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1116. Drakoen
3:37 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Jp, you're playing conservative this year.
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1115. moonlightcowboy
10:36 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
JP, Drak, whomever, sound like the models are hedging somewhat now, too?
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1113. GeoffreyWPB
11:34 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
My mom lives just south of Orlando.
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1110. GeoffreyWPB
11:30 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
you live around west palm jp?
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1109. Drakoen
3:32 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
The 00z GFS is starting now.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30833

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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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