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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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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1058. StormJunkie
2:47 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Evening smmc, good to see you.
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1057. StormJunkie
2:45 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
No Michfan, it is there. Was noted earlier by kman and Drak. Convection on the die down though, soon to be a naked swirl if it keeps this up.

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1056. simeon9benjamin
2:47 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Who is staying up and waiting on the modles.
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1055. 7544
2:43 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1051. CaneAddict 2:42 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Actually i think that area of low-pressure in the SW Caribbean is the start of our supposed tropical system later this week. Im off night!


yes thats right and we just got our first look in the tropics from our local channels already this early in may they say a low is forming in the carb and will be moving north and give us in se fla heavy duty rain at the end of this week the season is starting early for us
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1054. smmcdavid
9:43 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Good evening all... anything new and exciting?
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1053. caymanjaroo
2:40 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Looks like rain for us in Cayman this weekend which ever whay this things goes this week. Thanks for the links to the different models.
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1052. Michfan
9:42 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Link

Anyone else notice a spin north of Panama or are my eyes deceiving me?
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1051. CaneAddict
2:39 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Actually i think that area of low-pressure in the SW Caribbean is the start of our supposed tropical system later this week. Im off night!
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1050. scottsvb
2:41 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
A weatherlover .. I sent ya mail!
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1049. Michfan
9:37 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Damn looks like Qscat is going to miss the SW Caribbean tonight. Wish it would hit it with the increase in moisture off the east coast of Panama.
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1048. CaneAddict
2:36 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1038. JFV 2:26 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Your thoughts on our tropical situation this evening please CandeAddict?


I am still quite skeptical about the model output tonight, I however feel quite confident in saying that we will have some sort of tropical development in the Caribbean this week...time and location is hard to say at this point though. Before i really begin to judge this situation i want to see an actual disturbance intialize. I am off to bed folks night!
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1047. atmoaggie
2:36 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1 1/2 hours later still back building in the same spot. Those folks have more water than they need, now.

Base reflectivity

storm total
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1046. pottery
10:36 PM AST on May 26, 2008
Looks that way JRRP. The one at 52w.
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1045. TheCaneWhisperer
2:37 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Looks like it Jrrp, it's cruising too.
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1044. Michfan
9:30 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Good evening everyone. I see we are still on Model Watch 2008. Models seem to be on track with their earlier runs at first glance. NOGAPS still taking the system eastward with the GFS on a westward track across the Yucatan.
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1043. JRRP
2:22 AM GMT on Mayo 27, 2008
This tropical wave could be the first one that brings rains to the north of the Carib??
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1042. TheCaneWhisperer
2:36 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Man, SW Caribb is looking healthy tonight.
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1041. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
2:30 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
well.. The JTWC as of 12am UTC is giving Tropical Depression 06W a sustained wind of 25 knots.

odd since the JMA has it at 30 knots
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1040. pottery
10:28 PM AST on May 26, 2008
Yes 77. That wave at 30 w. Bring it here, I say. My tanks are getting critical..........
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1039. stormdude77
10:26 PM AST on May 26, 2008
LOL... Yes, there's a ''good looking'' wave around 29/30W...
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1037. pottery
10:24 PM AST on May 26, 2008
Hi, 77.
I was hoping not to hear that. But I feared that would be the case. Oh well, there's more where that came from LOL
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1036. stormdude77
10:17 PM AST on May 26, 2008
Hi everyone

Pottery, that wave at 54W, 13N will move more WNW (across the northern windwards; so no rain for us yet), beacuse strong southeasterly mid level flow will push the multi-layered cloud mass northwards.
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1035. CaneAddict
2:15 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1028. AWeatherLover 2:02 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Interesting conversation on here tonight. I learned a lot. Will wait and see if the GFS verifies. If it does I suppose someone will have a new girlfriend, and someone will have a new wife in the GFS... lol
Action: | Ignore User


haha, your likely referring to me and 456 :-)
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1034. pottery
10:09 PM AST on May 26, 2008
I'm sittin' back. I'm chillin' > I'm watchin'

heheheh Its all good
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1033. weatherblog
2:06 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Be back in a couple hours when new runs are out.
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1031. pottery
10:04 PM AST on May 26, 2008
OK Levi. I see that now. Good point.
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1030. Levi32
5:59 PM AKDT on May 26, 2008
1024. pottery 5:57 PM AKDT on May 26, 2008
TheCane W. Yep, I'm seeing that at 31 W. Looking good !

Levi, it will have to move fast to catch that low would'nt it ?


Well actually there's time for a couple different waves to catch it. There's another wave over western Venezuela that will be moving into the SW Caribbean in a day or two, and the GFS forecasts this new low to hang around Central America for quite some time, giving the wave east of the islands time to move into that area as well. Again it will be interesting to see how much energy these waves can stack up one after another.
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1029. weatherblog
1:49 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1003. extreme236 1:40 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Well weatherblog it's always good to have someone with a different view point on the blog...otherwise if everyone the same viewpoint we would be saying "I agree" all the time and there wouldn't be much to talk about.


That's for sure, unlike trolls who just say "This thing will go poof by tomorrow you morons", or "OMG IT JOGGED NORTH, NOW IT WILL HIT NEW ORLEANS AS A CAT 5 DUH".

You gotta listen to all the aspects of something and not only think of it as one way or the other, so disagreement is good when being presented in a healthy manner. I bet many people can agree to that.
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1028. AWeatherLover
1:59 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Interesting conversation on here tonight. I learned a lot. Will wait and see if the GFS verifies. If it does I suppose someone will have a new girlfriend, and someone will have a new wife in the GFS... lol
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1027. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
1:57 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
The first advisory from the JTWC will probably be Tropical Depression 06W with 1 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts up to 40 knots.
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1025. Drakoen
1:57 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1023. JFV 1:55 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Will that anticyclone eventually make it into the Southwestern Carib Drak, to help intensify our currently developing system?


Possibly. Depends on where the low tracks.


Anyways i'm off for the night. See you guys tomorrow
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1024. pottery
9:52 PM AST on May 26, 2008
TheCane W. Yep, I'm seeing that at 31 W. Looking good !

Levi, it will have to move fast to catch that low would'nt it ?
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1022. Tazmanian
6:52 PM PDT on May 26, 2008
THE STORM SURVEY INVESTIGATION IS STILL ONGOING AND WILL CONTINUEON TUESDAY FINAL RESULTS ARE EXPECTED TO BE RELEASED LATE TUESDAYAFTERNOON.


i will be mad if they make this and EF-3 that was no EF-3 that hit Parkersburg more here


www.crh.noaa.gov/crnews/display_story.php?wfo=dmx&storyid=14896&source=0
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1021. Levi32
5:54 PM AKDT on May 26, 2008
Hi HG :)
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1020. HurricaneGeek
9:52 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Levi32, hi! :)
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1019. Levi32
5:50 PM AKDT on May 26, 2008
Hey jp, yes it has.

Pottery, that wave will probably follow all the others straight west through the southern Caribbean. It will be interesting to see if a wave such as that one will contribute to the development of the low you're all talking about.
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1018. TheCaneWhisperer
1:49 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
That area is racing pottery, sheesh. Look behind @30W, rather impressive.
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1017. CaneAddict
1:49 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
1014. Levi32 1:47 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Looks more like a 50-knot TS than a 20-knot TD to me lol.


More like a TS real close to hurricane status....they need to get a handle on their forecasts...and analysis..
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1015. pottery
9:43 PM AST on May 26, 2008
Greetings all.
Whats up in the Atlantic this evening ?
A nice flare going on now at around 14n 53w.
Should be over the Islands by Wed.

Any ideas on the track that this wave will follow ? I,m seeing a lot of dry air in front of it .
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1014. Levi32
5:47 PM AKDT on May 26, 2008
Looks more like a 50-knot TS than a 20-knot TD to me lol.

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1013. Drakoen
1:45 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Photobucket
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1012. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
1:45 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Continued advisory from below......

Forecast and Intensity
==========================
24 HRS: 14.7N 137.3E - 35 knots (CAT 1)
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1011. extreme236
1:42 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
Navy NRL now has 06W NONAME
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1010. HIEXPRESS
8:44 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
870. hurricane23 8:20 PM EDT
Has anyone seen this lol...
A BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE EXTENDS...

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1009. extreme236
1:41 AM GMT on May 27, 2008
JMA forecasts 91W (AKA Tropical depression) to become a tropical storm in 24 hours.
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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.