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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1109. Drakoen
3:32 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
The 00z GFS is starting now.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30563
1108. 7544
3:30 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
dont think there be anychange in the models right now all looks the same as its been so far
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1105. Michfan
10:29 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
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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1104. GeoffreyWPB
11:26 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
jp...same questions from people who were on last year and should know better...ugggggg
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1103. Drakoen
3:26 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1099. GeoffreyWPB 3:24 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Drak...should I cancel the birthday party I have planned for next weekend????? (Get ready for a lot of this buddy :))


No. You should continue to monitor the situation.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30563
1102. Clickerous
3:26 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
What exactly was the nogaps saying?
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1100. moonlightcowboy
10:10 PM CDT on May 26, 2008


TPC takes the ePac 1007mb low slightly to the north. But, look at the 1007mb low over land interacting with that twave. Then there's another twave behind it that's riding much higher. It'll be interesting to see how that tail of that TUTT interacts with that twave.

Water Vapor loop. There's still some easterly flow in the swCarib, but it seems to be breaking as the high pressure to the north sinks further south.

Moisture starting to build in the s and eCarib.
Interesting little, but fast-moving blob of convection tearing up it up moving nw at about 14n,55w. Looks like a fireworks that's been shot! ;)
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
1099. GeoffreyWPB
11:21 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Drak...should I cancel the birthday party I have planned for next weekend????? (Get ready for a lot of this buddy :))
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1097. 7544
3:17 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1092. JFV 3:16 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
which met 7544, cause i too reside in south florida!


hi wsvn met
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1095. Clickerous
3:15 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1089. 7544 3:15 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
well our local met just read the update from the nhc its says the low will develope and nove est in the carb then north . and are forcasting heavy duty rain for se fla for the weekend stay tuned looks like the season is off to early start will this be td 1 before june 1st waht you guys and gals think ?


As long as it doesn't interfere with my girlfriend flying down from chicago to ftl on sunday! I've already told her if things are even kinda iffy its prob wise to not fly down and deal with the hassle

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1094. Drakoen
3:15 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1088. JFV 3:14 AM GMT on May 27, 2008 Hide this comment.
It's currently moving east correct; therefore, do you anticipate the low to cross over the panama canal tomorrow and into the SW Carib or not?


Everything looks to be propagating eastward so its likely an automatic throw out the ECMWF, UKMET, CMC. Now your left with the GFS and NOGAPS. Postive vorticity maximum advection into Panama between Tuesday and Wednesday.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30563
1093. weatherblog
3:12 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
The low in the SWCAR seems like it's moving east. Even though shear is pretty unfavorable, the low is at least moving away from land leaving it in the warm waters. Unless I'm not seeing this right...lol
Member Since: July 10, 2006 Posts: 27 Comments: 1623
1091. smmcdavid
10:13 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Alright kids... it's been fun lurking, but I'm outta here until tomorrow. See you in the a.m. and I hope some of you "pros" have some new info for me. Ha ha.
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1089. 7544
3:12 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
well our local met just read the update from the nhc its says the low will develope and nove est in the carb then north . and are forcasting heavy duty rain for se fla for the weekend stay tuned looks like the season is off to early start will this be td 1 before june 1st waht you guys and gals think ?
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1087. Michfan
10:12 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
BTW just quickly off topic id recommend downloading the new Firefox 3 release candidate. Its pretty damn sweet.
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1086. Drakoen
3:12 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1081. JFV 3:11 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Are you tempted to stay up till midnight waiting for the midnight runs to come out Drak?


No. I need sleep. Sunday was an exception because it was the day before memorial day.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30563
1085. weatherblog
3:09 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Clickerous, he's refering to the EPAC.
Member Since: July 10, 2006 Posts: 27 Comments: 1623
1084. Michfan
10:11 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
1078 as of right now yes. The models are forecasting this low to cross over to the SW Caribbean and develop.
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1083. Drakoen
3:10 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1075. JFV 3:07 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
It's a pretty strong closed low already, isn't Drak? Also, do you think that this is finally the inception of our system?


Yes is it a good elongated closed low. Its not necessarily strong. I thought the pressure would be higher closer to 1008mb. Nonetheless, this is most likely the low we will be tracking.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30563
1082. Clickerous
3:10 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Thanks Mich.. Well I guess we'll have to wait and see what progresses! Tomorrow might be pretty interesting
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1080. Michfan
10:09 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Link

Clickerous
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1079. Drakoen
3:09 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1077. Clickerous 3:09 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1070. Drakoen 3:00 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Here we go folks. The NHC is showing a closed area of low pressure at 1005m

in the EPAC of WC? I cant see the pic


EPAC.
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1078. GeoffreyWPB
11:08 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
We are talking about a Pacific system..correct?
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1077. Clickerous
3:07 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1070. Drakoen 3:00 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Here we go folks. The NHC is showing a closed area of low pressure at 1005m


in the EPAC or WC? I cant see the pic
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1076. Michfan
10:07 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Nice pickups Drak. It also shows it as stationary.
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1074. JRRP
2:55 AM GMT on Mayo 27, 2008
this wave is very to north of what was previously
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1073. SpaceThrilla1207
3:06 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
do you think 90L will develop or go poof?
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1072. Drakoen
3:05 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1071. JFV 3:03 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Drak, what brought you back friend, I thought you where done for the evening here?


I thought I was too but I needed to see that Quicksat pass.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30563
1070. Drakoen
2:59 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Here we go folks. The NHC is showing a closed area of low pressure at 1005mb.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30563
1069. GeoffreyWPB
10:57 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Hmmm...10-day west palm forecast predicts thunderstorms and wind towards the end of the forecast period...
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1068. Drakoen
2:57 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Tonights Quicksat caught what I needed to see from the EPAC. A closed but elongated area of low pressure.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30563
1067. Michfan
9:57 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Next model runs start to pop around midnight EST.
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1066. StormJunkie
2:57 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Great weekend here smmc, beautiful weather, and likewise, got to spend some time with the family!
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1065. StormJunkie
2:50 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Yea Mich. Will be interesting to see what happens. I will likely be up for the models as well, I am sure my head will be spinning from looking at code, but hopefully it won't affect my ability to view them models :~)

Nogaps is always a slow roller. I think it is trying to hang with Sheba!
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1064. pottery
10:52 PM AST on May 26, 2008
Well, I cant stay awake.
Its 10:43 here already............Goodnight everyone, stay safe
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1063. smmcdavid
9:51 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Hi SJ... hope you had a good holiday weekend. I spent lots of time with my family, it was great.
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1062. JUSTCOASTING
2:50 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
what time do the next runs come out ?
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1061. Michfan
9:48 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Have to see how it holds up overnight SJ. Blob watching at its finest! It shows up well on the 850 Vort as well. Ill probably be up to see the next run of models. I hope to god the NOGAPS doesn't take as long as it did last night.
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1060. CaneAddict
2:47 AM GMT on May 27, 2008

Anyone else notice a spin north of Panama or are my eyes deceiving me?


There is most definitely a spin there.... I believe this is the start of the disturbance expected to develop by most models by the end of the week...anyways i have to get to bed..but that area is definitely interesting. It's possible it will be declared an invest tomorrow. Night all!
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1059. pottery
10:43 PM AST on May 26, 2008
TheCaneW post 1042.
From that loop we can clearly see the upper level winds are bringing in moisture from the Pacific. It will need to continue this for a couple more days, I think, for anything to form around that Low. ?? Also, as pointed out earlier by Levi, the wave over western Venezuela could help do that as well.
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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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