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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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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439. TerraNova
6:37 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Topography of Central America (Jet Propulsion Laboratory - NASA):

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438. TampaSpin
6:38 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
It looks like development has occured on the tail end of a front also......the weakness is why it is moving NNE also.
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437. CaneAddict
10:37 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
430. stormkat 10:36 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
ok nash we will see...you need to read the new data...look at the low in the rockies ...nash the temps in the eastern GOM are even cooler then the westwern GOM...it just wont support a storm nash....its just to early....stormkat
Action: | Ignore User


Actually, let me make it as apparent as i can..because personally your starting to piss the whole blog off thinking you KNOW exactly what's going to happen....For your information the WHOLE GULF can support tropical development at this time in terms of SST's maybe not in terms of TCHP where the depth of the warm water is not that great, however SST's are plenty enough for tropical formation. I think your going to make it to be the third addition to my Ignore List in 2 nights.
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436. extreme236
10:38 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
So whens that Cat 5 gonna hit NOLA?
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435. extreme236
10:35 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
.
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434. extreme236
10:35 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.


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433. TampaSpin
6:36 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
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432. kingy
10:32 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
this is still a small storm to survive the northern land crossing, I would be interested to see this storm develop, but first it has to survive. On the other hand, given some of the unfavourable factors, the storm has done well to get this far ...and the satellite imagery is increasingly impressive.
CCHS - what do you think ?
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431. moonlightcowboy
5:31 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
stormkat, I have NOT once said anything was going to develop in the GOM, in fact quite the opposite.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
430. stormkat
10:33 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
ok nash we will see...you need to read the new data...look at the low in the rockies ...nash the temps in the eastern GOM are even cooler then the westwern GOM...it just wont support a storm nash....its just to early....stormkat
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429. CaneAddict
10:31 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
424. stormkat 10:30 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
nash and moonlight cowboy i told you this morning nothing was going to develop in the GOM in the next 96 hours because of the increasing shear and the marginal sst....we are going to have to wait for the low over the rockies to kick that cool front down in the GOM and maybe we may have a chance of something developing on the southern part of the front...that is not forecast to happen for at least another 8 days.....everything is locked in place the weather is slow to move....stormkat


If you knew even thwe slightest thing about the tropic's or even just weather in general you would know that NOTHING is ever written in stone or as you said LOCKED in place.
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428. TerraNova
6:31 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
421. kingy 6:29 PM EDT on May 28, 2008

Shear has been dropping in the Caribbean for the past 24 hours (in some areas by as much as 20 knots), and 90E has upper level support from an anticyclone. Also, dry air has been largely pushed out of the Caribbean due to the upward MJO pulse and the interaction of the two features with an incoming tropical wave. SST's are above 80, anough to sustain a complete warm-cored cyclone.
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
427. nash28
10:31 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
SK- Shear will begin to lessen once that Upper Level Trough moves out. I don't think it is gonna take eight days for that to happen. While I agree that situational development, especially early in the season is probable, don't take your eyes off this just yet.
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426. extreme236
10:30 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
LOL its stormkat...and just to tell you stormkat shear in the GOM is decreasing and favorable in the eastern gulf.
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425. nash28
10:29 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Shear tendencies are decreasing some. SST's are plenty warm enough to support a warm core system. Nothing too deep obviously, as the waters aren't warm enough deep enough to support that.
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424. stormkat
10:25 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
nash and moonlight cowboy i told you this morning nothing was going to develop in the GOM in the next 96 hours because of the increasing shear and the marginal sst....we are going to have to wait for the low over the rockies to kick that cool front down in the GOM and maybe we may have a chance of something developing on the southern part of the front...that is not forecast to happen for at least another 8 days.....everything is locked in place the weather is slow to move....stormkat
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423. TerraNova
6:28 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Ok... Don't have the time or patience to read back 150 posts, but from what I can gather quickly, 90E is becoming more impressive, closing off and about to run head first into land. About right?

Right! I think, were this to be in the Atlantic, the NHC would have given it a name already. That's how impressive it appears on visible satellite imagery,
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422. TampaSpin
6:28 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
418. extreme236 6:28 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
How I see this is or when 90E moves inland, the circulation weakens and makes it easier for the Caribbean low to develop. Caribbean low looks much more organized than yesterday but the convection is off the NE of the low due to some shear, however shear tendency is decreasing in the area.


Don't tell me its going to leap over bodies of water again this year.....that happened last year......lol
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421. kingy
10:24 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
h'mm, I'm not sure if these central american storms will survive too long guys.
Yes, it would be interesting to see what happens, will the storms merge/shear/die whatever....?. But this is still very early season. We have shear, dry air, cool SST's etc. By Friday we will have a better feel for what is left of the storm(s) and how it might move
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420. extreme236
10:28 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
If it continues moving NE this thing will move inland by morning.
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419. moonlightcowboy
5:28 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
Nash, sounds accurate.
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418. extreme236
10:26 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
How I see this is or when 90E moves inland, the circulation weakens and makes it easier for the Caribbean low to develop. Caribbean low looks much more organized than yesterday but the convection is off the NE of the low due to some shear, however shear tendency is decreasing in the area.
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417. TampaSpin
6:26 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
HI Nash did you make any magical computer gensis work today.....lol
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416. nash28
10:26 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Ok... Don't have the time or patience to read back 150 posts, but from what I can gather quickly, 90E is becoming more impressive, closing off and about to run head first into land. About right?
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415. moonlightcowboy
5:24 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
It looks much prettier, more organized now on visible. And, that nw side is finally closing up.
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414. TampaSpin
6:23 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
MLC pretty impressive circulation starting to get much better organized. Looks like its heading NNE by that loop.
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413. TerraNova
6:24 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
It would be nice to see NHC track guidance on this (assuming it develops).
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412. nash28
10:21 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
As of 132hrs. doesn't look like GFS has changed its tune much.
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411. moonlightcowboy
5:20 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
TS, here's a couple of quick loops for you.

RAMSDIS IR3 WV LOOP

RAMSDAIS Thermal IR loop

RAMSDIS Visible Loop
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
410. guygee
10:18 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Very nice images Drak.

This is old news by now but since nobody posted it, and in anticipation of the update in a couple of hours, here was the model initial conditions used for the
EAST PACIFIC OBJECTIVE AIDS FOR
DISTURBANCE INVEST (EP902008) 20080528 1800 UTC
[...]
...INITIAL CONDITIONS...
LATCUR = 9.8N LONCUR = 86.4W DIRCUR = 80DEG SPDCUR = 7KT
LATM12 = 9.5N LONM12 = 87.7W DIRM12 = 75DEG SPDM12 = 8KT
LATM24 = 9.3N LONM24 = 89.5W
WNDCUR = 25KT RMAXWD = 150NM WNDM12 = 25KT
CENPRS = 1006MB OUTPRS = 1009MB OUTRAD = 200NM SDEPTH = M
RD34NE = 0NM RD34SE = 0NM RD34SW = 0NM RD34NW = 0NM

They initialized direction slightly north of due east at 7 kts, so if the direction and speed were correct, that would have put the broad center roughly 42 nautical miles away from landfall on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.

Looking forward to the updated info...



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409. nash28
10:20 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Off to check the 18z GFS.
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408. nash28
10:19 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Evening all. Just got home from work. Haven't been on much today. Anything new other than the same ol EPAC/CB duel?
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407. moonlightcowboy
5:16 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
TS, it's been a really interesting disturbance to follow, especially being the first hunt this season! lol

Seriously, though, there've been those two surface lows battling it out. And, it seems 90E, in the last round at the bell, may come out the winner. There's too much shear further north for what was a fairly impressive rotation earlier off the east coast of Nicaragua.

90E has struggled, but may be making an improvement sign, just about the time some land gets in its way. Not much wind likely, but apparently lots of rainfall with MJO, ITCZ convergence - it's built up quite a bit of moisture.
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406. TampaSpin
6:17 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Junior i need a donation to my spin club you think you can donate to see which storm spins faster..........LMAO
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405. TerraNova
6:16 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
TNova, when does that put it on land at that speed and direction? Guess?

(I just did the math) Assuming it remains at a constant speed and keeps going in a constant direction, 90E will come ashore in NW Costa Rica in about 7.5 hours. (6 knots = ~6.9 mph, distance from center coordinates to land to the northeast is roughly 52 miles using google earth). Not that I'm saying that I think it will remain at a constant speed and direction ;)
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404. juniormeteorologist
10:17 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
wats up koritheman! haven't seen u in a while either...so how old r u again..lol
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403. juniormeteorologist
10:15 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
masterforecaster i promise that i will not forecast every storm to hit south carolina, and know that i took a close look at the models, i think this storm will miss south carolina.
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401. KoritheMan
10:15 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Wow, it's juniormeteorologist. Here's one I haven't seen since the formation of Dean.
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400. TampaSpin
6:14 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
MLC hadn't looked at anything just got home from work.....so the Pacific has taken over..i thought that might happen after looking at things this morning.
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399. moonlightcowboy
5:14 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
395. LOL, and I'm "still searchin'!" If you have some questions after reading that, please ask Quasi. He'll be glad to try and answer them - good fella-just graduated college with met degree, etc!
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398. MasterForecaster
10:12 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
389. juniormeteorologist 10:11 PM GMT on May 28, 2008

hey guys..i am doing a weather fundraising...it iz online magazine fundraiser...i want u guys to support me...visit the site...also in the meantime, i think i just might use some funds to buy a weather unit for 7500 and do a live weather report for my community...


I'll promise to donate if you proimise not to forecast every storm to hit SC lol...

Anyways it looks like if this thing continues moving E or ENE by tomorrow it would be in the carribean where steering currents are a bit stronger.
397. IKE
5:13 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
Jeez...fund raisers on Dr. M's blog??????

7500 as in...$7,500?????
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396. juniormeteorologist
10:12 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
wateva, i just thought i should let you guys know, because they are some people that care bout the public...anyway, back to tropics..

Iz there suppose to be a storm develop out of 90E when it hits the Atlantic Basin or Carribbean Basin?
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395. taistelutipu
1:08 AM EEST on May 29, 2008
Cool link, mlc. Thank you very much. I'll finish my day reading it.

I wonder why google didn't find it despite the fact that both search keys are in the text. You're a better search engine for weather related stuff than google then :-)
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394. moonlightcowboy
5:13 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
TS, I think it's got 2 chances - slim and slimmer.
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393. TampaSpin
6:11 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
389. juniormeteorologist 6:11 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
hey guys..i am doing a weather fundraising...it iz online magazine fundraiser...i want u guys to support me...visit the site...also in the meantime, i think i just might use some funds to buy a weather unit for 7500 and do a live weather report for my community


Take this somewhere else......wow
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392. moonlightcowboy
5:09 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
THE SYSTEM IS MOVING NORTHEASTWARD AT 06 KNOTS.

TNova, when does that put it on land at that speed and direction? Guess?
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391. TampaSpin
6:10 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Hello everyone, any chance of development in the Carrib.
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390. HIEXPRESS
6:06 PM EDT on May 28, 2008

329. FLWeatherFreak91 8:53 PM GMT
Is there any way to change your handle without signing up for a new account? I hope so bc I have a paid account and I don't want to have to make another...

I asked before, to get rid of the CAPS, and I was told it was not possible. got to admit, the CAPS do GROW on you after AWHILE.
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156

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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.