Parkersburg tornado an EF-5; major flooding in Central America likely from 90E

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:46 PM GMT on May 28, 2008

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The tornado that devastated Parkersburg, Iowa on Sunday has now been rated an EF-5 by the National Weather Service. An EF-5 is the strongest possible classification a tornado can receive, and is only given to those tornadoes with estimated winds over 200 mph. The winds in the Parkersburg tornado were estimated at 205 mph. At those wind speeds, total destruction of homes occurs. Even those sheltering in basements are not safe--several of the six deaths from the Parkersburg tornado were from people sheltering in basements.

The Parkersburg tornado cut a path 43 miles long and between 3/4 miles and 1.2 miles wide across Iowa, killing six people, completely destroying 350 buildings in Parkersburg, and injuring 70 people. It was only the second EF-5 tornado this decade in the U.S. The other EF-5 occurred in May 2007, when much of Greensburg, Kansas got leveled. The Parkersburg tornado was the first F5 or EF5 tornado in Iowa since the Jordan, Iowa tornado of June 13, 1976, and was the second deadliest in Iowa since official record-keeping began in 1950. Iowa's deadliest tornado hit Charles City on May 15, 1968, killing 13 while producing F5 damage.


Figure 1. EF-5 damage from the May 25, 2008 Parkersburg tornado. At EF-5 winds speeds (over 200mph), homes are completely destroyed or removed from their foundations. Image credit: Iowa Helicopter. The NWS Des Moines office has posted ground damage photos from their damage survey.

Major flooding likely in Central America from 90E
An area of low pressure (90E) in the Eastern Pacific off the coast of Costa Rica, near 10N 88W, is steadily organizing and appears likely to develop into a tropical depression later today or tomorrow. The National Hurricane Center is currently assigning a "High" probability (>50% chance) that this will be a tropical depression, in its new experimental Tropical Weather Outlook. Satellite loops show that the low has developed a very large and expanding circulation. This circulation is likely to expand across Central America into the Western Caribbean, allowing the storm to tap moisture from the Atlantic and Pacific. Storms that are able to tap the moisture sources of both oceans can be extremely dangerous rainmakers, even if they are weak tropical depressions. Already, 90E is generating very heavy rains in excess of six inches per day near its center. The storm is expected to move northeastward over Costa Rica or Nicaragua by Thursday or Friday, and should being dangerous flooding rains of 5-10 inches to those nations and Panama. Most of the computer model guidance suggests that the storm will then track to the north, spreading very heavy rains across Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, and southern Mexico by Saturday. These heavy rains will cause life-threatening flash flooding, particularly in mountainous regions.

Since 90E is beginning to dominate the circulation pattern of the region, it appears unlikely that a tropical depression will form in the Western Caribbean in the coming week, as some computer models have been predicting. It is possible that 90E could cross Central America and pop out in the Western Caribbean near the Yucatan Peninsula, or in the Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche. However, the crossing of Central America will severely disrupt the storm, and the odds of 90E becoming a depression in the Atlantic basin are low.


Figure 2. Observed precipitation for the 24 hours ending at 12Z (8am EDT) Wednesday May 28, 2008. Rainfall amounts in excess of 2000mm (eight inches, yellow colors) occurred near the center of disturbance 90E off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Image credit: U.S. Navy Monterey.

I'll have an update Thursday morning.

Jeff Masters

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490. CaneAddict
11:08 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
450. stormkat 10:46 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
extreme you still remember that i guess no one on here will forget i had it right on but i would like to forget about it....thats the past last 2 years i been right on the money with 2 dull seasons...where is my buddy lefty....i am so sure we wont have to worry about a cat 5 this year if their is one i think its going to hit the east coast...currents have changed and the azores high has set up much further north this season....we should have little activity in the GOM...i would be worried if i lived on the east coast though....stormkat


Do you want a cookie? You came to this blog with the wrong attitude to try and impress other bloggers....We are'nt interested in someone that thinks they know more than everyone else including the NHC....take the crap somewhere else.
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489. Levi32
3:07 PM AKDT on May 28, 2008
You guys are treating the Caribbean low as if it's a separate entity, but it's not even close. 90E is the dominant and only surface circulation embedded in a larger elongated mid-level circulation....which is oriented SW to NE through the Caribbean, where there are about 3 vort maxes at 850mb and 500mb. It is just about impossible for there to be twin cyclones here, and in my opinion if any cyclone at all is gonna develop, it will be 90E. Even if something forms in the Caribbean, I think it will be the result of 90E moving inland and its center jumping northeast under one of the mid-level centers in the Caribbean. My point is the Caribbean vort maxes are just an elongation of the main disturbance, and are not a separate entity that can develop on its own.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
488. TampaSpin
7:06 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Low Convergence
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487. nash28
11:09 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Slow, but one that can occur:-)
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486. TerraNova
7:07 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
What are this disturbances?

Those look like QPF bombs like me. The GFS has a tendency to exagerate convection regardless of the condition of the atmosphere and so you can get these feedback blobs on the GFS from tine to time, especially on the long range. In other words, it's a blip.
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
485. stormkat
11:03 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
i defeinitely agree with hurr 23 on this one ...it will be a very slow process with all the shear.....stormkat
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484. moonlightcowboy
6:00 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
474. Anytime a tropical system interacts with land it's most likely to weaken. There are exceptions. Warm water is "fuel" and necessary for cyclogenesis and a storm's longevity for strength, etc. Land is a killer for a storm as general rule. In the cAmerican scenario we have with 90E, there's been some thought that if it gained enough strength over water, that it might could survive the journey over a short area of land and revive itself in the Caribbean. But, it's not really strong, and not very likely to happen. But, it could. We're still watching and waiting to see.

I think where you're maybe confused is about the land and surface temps. Land does not retain heat well, period, but heats best up in the late day - land dimax and loses most of its heat through the night to early morning - land dimin.

Water on the other hand, retains heat very well. During the day the air is much warmer and compares to the surface - water dimin, so there's not as much lift in the warm air as there is at night when the air is cooler aloft and warm air from the surface lifts. - water dimax

That's why we generally see a storm strengthen at night often, and less strengthening during the day.

LOL, hope that helps!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
483. Weatherkid24
11:07 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
It's like some kind of boxing match


482. CaneAddict
11:06 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
441. TampaSpin 10:43 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
CaneAddict i was off shore 75 miles in the GOM off the Ocala area yesterday and the gulf temp was 83deg.
Action: | Ignore User


High enough for development lol....There is some northern parts of the Gulf that would have a very hard time producing development but how often does development occur right near the Florida panhandle or off the northern gulf coasts? Rarely....how have ya been anyhow Tampa?
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481. DocBen
11:06 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
It seems like the entire central carib is covered with clouds now. If that can organize out in the water who knows what might develop.
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480. nash28
11:06 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Yeah, it's interesting. I just want some damn moisture from this at some point. Give me the NOGAPS solution!!!! Or, the 18z GFS! WE NEED RAIN!
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479. Weatherkid24
11:04 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Hey everyone...interesting situation out there huh?
478. nash28
11:01 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
It will change. You can see that even with 90E sukcing the energy away from the CB, the CB Low still hangs around. If/once that Low can break away from 90E, it has plenty to work with.
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477. TampaSpin
7:00 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
MLC what are you doing on this time of day you are usually on at 2am........lol
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476. extreme236
11:00 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Right now 90E is consuming most of the energy but if it does make landfall I think that would change.
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475. juniormeteorologist
10:53 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
What are this disturbances?

474. taistelutipu
1:42 AM EEST on May 29, 2008
oh, looks like I finally get a look at THE (in)famous stormkat of whom has been told a lot *lol*

thanks again for the link, MLC. I read through the blog. It's really helpful and well-written. I think I understand the dynamics of convection a little better now.
So the gist out of it is that, apart from the topography of Central America, the moment of "landfall" influences to some degree the future of 90E. If it moves ashore during daytime it will not weaken as much as during night time because of the convection over land during the day. Correct me if I'm wrong with that.
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473. moonlightcowboy
5:57 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
462. Agreed, Adrian. 90E is consuming most of the energy now. I don't think we'll see anything in the Carib from that, but I could very easily be wrong.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
472. TampaSpin
6:57 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Thanks MLC
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471. extreme236
10:57 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
No problem JFV...but I do insist that StormW and Drak are likely much smarter than me lol
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470. TerraNova
6:56 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
447. extreme236 6:45 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
An when he was still STORMTOP he said Alberto would move west without a doubt and he knew that would happen...and that didn't happen.

And TN I also noticed that the GFS was showing that type of system. The CMC is on board I believe so it has some model support lol


LOL no surprise there!
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
469. moonlightcowboy
5:53 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
- TS, (459) good point and perspective. Sometimes one needs to "zoom out" to get a clearer picture. I've been zoomed in most of today. Excellent obs.

Also, 90E on this VISIBLE LOOP looks to be gaining some forward speed, too, with its better organization.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
467. extreme236
10:55 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Seems to be some circulation or cyclonic turning according to ASCAT.

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465. nash28
10:53 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
I could be off base, but I think in addition to the CB Low needing to show consistency for 24 hrs, the Navy will probably hold off on a 90L designation until it is clear that it is seperated from the circulation in 90E.
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464. TampaSpin
6:53 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
I suggested 5 days ago that i thought something would develop out of the trough/stalled front when the GFS was showing something....
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463. extreme236
10:54 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
This is a very awkward situation and we will have to see how it pans out over the next couple days.
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462. hurricane23
6:51 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
As of now i see no clear cut evidence of TC development in the carribean.If anything were to come about it will be a slow process.The winds north panama are straight easterly from current obs.

What a mess for sure.
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461. extreme236
10:51 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Based on that discussion, I wouldn't be surprised it they made 90E a TD on the next advisory or at 2 AM, however they do also mention it could be short lived and forecasting a peak of 30 knots from the sound of it.
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460. moonlightcowboy
5:50 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
- Press, blind squirrels find a nut now and again.

- Nash, yeah! Mistake I think. Everybody's getting the dust and chill knocked off, the fine-tuning will commence before long. Unfortunately, I think we'll have plenty to sharpen and scrutinize over soon. But, hey, this first one has been impressive thus far, very interesting watching, following.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
459. TampaSpin
6:49 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Gang you can see from the below imiage why it is moving NNE the weakness is in the trough that extends into the Pacific into the Bahamas.
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458. extreme236
10:48 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Well JFV I am not as knowledgeable as Drak or StormW on the exact situation here but it would seem that the Caribbean low looks more impressive but so does 90E. The convection has weakened with both systems due to the diurnal cycle. However, it would seem that 90E is running out of time to form and I don't foresee it developing unless just briefly, and I know the NHC doesn't like to declare systems that will only be around for 6-12 hours or so. Caribbean low still has much more organization to do before it can become a cyclone.
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457. TropicalExpert
10:50 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
...SPECIAL FEATURES...

THE BROAD AREA OF SURFACE LOW PRESSURE CONTINUES TO SHOW A MEAN
CENTER NEAR 10N86W WHERE A SURFACE LOW 1006 MB IS ANALYZED.
CONVECTION CONTINUES TO BAND OVER THE SE SEMICIRCLE AND IT
APPEARS A TROPICAL DEPRESSION IS DEVELOPING.
THE LOW IS VERY
CLOSE TO THE POSITIONS THAT HAVE BEEN DEPICTED IN OUR MARINE
PRODUCTS FOR THE PAST FEW DAYS. CURRENT GUIDANCE SUGGESTS THE
LOW WILL DRIFT ON A N TRACK WHICH COULD MOVE IT ONSHORE AS SOON
AS 12 HOURS OR AS MUCH AS 48 HOURS AS THE NICARAGUAN COAST LIES
ALMOST DUE N TO S ALONG 86W. THE STRONGEST WINDS CONTINUE OVER
THE SE SEMICIRCLE OF THE LOW WHERE THE GRADIENT HAS BEEN
SUPPORTING 25 KT...AND I FORECAST A SLIGHT INCREASE TO 30 KT ON
PREVIOUS HIGH SEAS PACKAGE.
AN UPPER TROUGH OVER THE NW
CARIBBEAN IS SHIFTING W WITH TIME AS A TROPICAL RIDGE BUILDS W
ACROSS THE CENTRAL CARIBBEAN...SO ANY REMNANTS OF THIS LOW MAY
TURN NW IN A COUPLE OF DAYS ACROSS CENTRAL AMERICA. REGARDLESS
OF THE WIND STRENGTH THIS IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO BE A MAJOR
RAIN MAKER.
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455. nash28
10:46 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Has to be a mistake. I know the steering currents are weak, but there is not a blocking ridge extending that far W to push the system back out into the EPAC.
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454. presslord
6:46 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
mlc...pretty impressively observant....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10479
453. extreme236
10:45 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Well MLC it seems to show the low off the Belize coast then takes it east...perhaps the weak steering currents cause it to drift around or perhaps a trough moves toward it causing it to shift direction...don't know for sure though.
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452. TampaSpin
6:45 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Something has to happen big time....the TAMPA BAY RAYS WON AGAIN TODAY AND HAS THE BEST RECORD IN BASEBALL.....so there you have it....stock the shelves..lol
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451. FLWeatherFreak91
6:43 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
I love how we are always waiting and hoping a Storm develops in our basin... but when a Storm develops in another basin and may threaten our basin, we hate it and want it to run into land!

We're fun people.
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450. stormkat
10:39 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
extreme you still remember that i guess no one on here will forget i had it right on but i would like to forget about it....thats the past last 2 years i been right on the money with 2 dull seasons...where is my buddy lefty....i am so sure we wont have to worry about a cat 5 this year if their is one i think its going to hit the east coast...currents have changed and the azores high has set up much further north this season....we should have little activity in the GOM...i would be worried if i lived on the east coast though....stormkat
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449. juniormeteorologist
10:44 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Terranova, i have notice that also, but maybe this will not develop.
448. nash28
10:44 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
18z GFS still brings the Low from the CB toward SW FL.
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447. extreme236
10:44 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
An when he was still STORMTOP he said Alberto would move west without a doubt and he knew that would happen...and that didn't happen.

And TN I also noticed that the GFS was showing that type of system. The CMC is on board I believe so it has some model support lol
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446. JLPR
6:44 PM AST on Mayo 28, 2008
yeah I noticed that maybe we could have something there with all the tropical waves that are forming
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445. moonlightcowboy
5:39 PM CDT on May 28, 2008




The 48hr sfc map shows the low inland in the Gulf of Honduras; then, the 72hr map has the low back out at sea. Mistake?
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
444. TerraNova
6:43 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Anybody notice that the new GFS is showing a Melissa-like system out by Cape Verde early next week?
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
443. JLPR
6:40 PM AST on Mayo 28, 2008
Hola a todos =)
90E looks interesting
is bad the people in Central America are going to get soaked, I hope they don't have any major problems with this one =)

I see this blog is turning a little more active since the season starts in a few days
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442. extreme236
10:41 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
CaneAddict, you need to remember that Stormkat predicted with his new data that Dean would move north of Jamaica and move into the gulf, so we definatly have no reason to doubt him :-)
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441. TampaSpin
6:40 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
CaneAddict i was off shore 75 miles in the GOM off the Ocala area yesterday and the gulf temp was 83deg.
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440. CaneAddict
10:39 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
434. extreme236 10:38 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Almost looks as if the two are connected. Caribbean low and 90E are both more organized and I thought it was interesting for the NHC probability map including part of the SW Caribbean.


Almost like one big disturbance with a huge broad area of low-pressure...with the exception of numerous circulations.
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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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