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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240. cdo
7:17 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
anybody have the spagetti(sp) models for this system? All my links just show the Atlantic systems.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
238. powerofH2
7:14 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
The last few frames of the sat views seem to show a "tightening" of the rotation with what appears to be an extended center. Extended slightly north-south but that extended center is what is tightening up over the frames. The carib... I don't see as much promise in it as I have the last few days, however, it appears that all the epac energy is headed that way.


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235. NEwxguy
7:10 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
...TROPICS...

WE ARE WATCHING A BROAD DISTURBED WEATHER OVER CENTRAL AMERICA FOR
SIGNS OF TROPICAL DEVELOPMENT. MODELS KEEP A BROAD AREA OF
CYCLONIC CURVATURE AND LOW PRESSURE FROM THE CARIBBEAN SEA
WESTWARD ACROSS CENTRAL AMERICA TO THE WEST COAST OF MEXICO THIS
NEXT WEEK BUT ARE IN NO HURRY TO CONVERGE ON A DEVELOPMENT. THE
06Z/28 GFS FINALLY GETS A SYS GOING E OF YUCATAN AT THE VERY END
OF THIS MEDIUM RANGE PERIOD.

Found this tropical update,which makes not sense at all.
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234. Weather456
3:11 PM AST on May 28, 2008
226. DocBen 3:10 PM AST on May 28, 2008
D-Max tonight should be interesting in the Carib. Aren't we at about minimum now?


All depends

Land
Max - Late PM
Min - Sunrise

Water
Max - around sunrise
Min - around sunset
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
232. 0741
7:09 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
220. CJ5 7:08 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
interesting
it look like it form low in carribbean onless i look at it wrong
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231. moonlightcowboy
2:11 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
222. Ivansrvivr 2:09 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
...it is complex systems like this that make the tropics worth watching.



EXACTLY!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
230. Levi32
11:09 AM AKDT on May 28, 2008
211. Weather456 11:03 AM AKDT on May 28, 2008
The EPAC center seems to be tightening up nicely, although it doesn't have much time left over water. I'm wondering if this will turn into a Fujiwara effect, with the two centers rotating around each other, swinging the Caribbean area northwest towards the Yucatan as the EPAC center drifts eastward

I was wondering the same thing....but how will terrain influence with this? I know it can happen over open waters.


That's the tricky part for sure, and it's hard to know exactly how two vortices will react with each other even if it is over open water. Personally I think a lot of this is going to come down to whether the EPAC center makes it across into the extreme southern Caribbean, or gets stuck over Central America.
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229. Ivansrvivr
7:09 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
223. the upper low to the NW is helping promote venting of outflow to the north and northeast of the W.Caribbean system.
228. Weather456
3:10 PM AST on May 28, 2008
218. Ivansrvivr 3:07 PM AST on May 28, 2008
456, the W.Caribbean low looks more like a mid level low. It would be impacted less by land and would have an easier time absorbing 90E. If the W.Caribbean Low gets into the area just east of Belize, topography could help it develop more rapidly.


I thought so
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
226. DocBen
7:09 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
D-Max tonight should be interesting in the Carib. Aren't we at about minimum now?
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225. Weather456
3:07 PM AST on May 28, 2008
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
224. moonlightcowboy
2:08 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
Yeah, JP, but I don't expect it to get in a big hurry doing it. Some strengthening time, a more gradual movement north, breaking more free of some of the complex air movement - still, however, destined for land.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
223. kmanislander
7:02 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
With 90E very near to landfall I doubt it will be upgraded to TD status unless the organization improves some AND it changes course to NW then WNW paralleling the coast.

It is still relatively weak and any motion onshore in that region would likely destroy the low level circulation within 12 hrs but the upper level circulation might survive a little longer.


That would leave the Caribbean system with its chance to organise.
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222. Ivansrvivr
7:07 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
it is complex systems like this that make the tropics worth watching.
221. nash28
3:06 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Not much time left for 90E to move NWD. Currently moving EWD, albeit slowly. I think the NOGAPS may have had this one nailed.
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220. CJ5
7:07 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
interesting...


Link
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218. Ivansrvivr
7:04 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
456, the W.Caribbean low looks more like a mid level low. It would be impacted less by land and would have an easier time absorbing 90E. If the W.Caribbean Low gets into the area just east of Belize, topography could help it develop more rapidly.
217. Weather456
3:05 PM AST on May 28, 2008
214. Ivansrvivr 3:04 PM AST on May 28, 2008

true...watching and discussing...not one knows till the fat lady sings.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
215. moonlightcowboy
2:02 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
There's kind of a collision of sorts of air masses. If you look closely on the loop that Levi posted, one can see a low easterly flow, likely twave-related. Then, on the Pacific side a westerly flow - all converging in that one area. No wonder there's multiple vortices and competition for energies. 90E is still the dominant feature, and will be, unless it does drive eastwards into land. I think 90E will get stronger and start pulling northwards and become the prevalent system.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
214. Ivansrvivr
7:02 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
JP, it is a bit too early for crow just yet. there may be 2 or 3 shifts on the pattern before the book is closed on this one.
213. NEwxguy
7:03 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
I agree with all,this chat is much more enjoyable than yesterdays chat
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212. 0741
7:03 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
ok I will take my crow bites deep fried let me know if it good???????
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211. Weather456
3:00 PM AST on May 28, 2008
The EPAC center seems to be tightening up nicely, although it doesn't have much time left over water. I'm wondering if this will turn into a Fujiwara effect, with the two centers rotating around each other, swinging the Caribbean area northwest towards the Yucatan as the EPAC center drifts eastward

I was wondering the same thing....but how will terrain influence with this? I know it can happen over open waters.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
210. Weather456
2:54 PM AST on May 28, 2008
183. mightywhitemike 2:48 PM AST on May 28, 2008
How mountainous are the mountains in Nicaragua?


The mountains are in the Central-Western part of the country. The mountains are modest compared to bordering Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the South....the highest point is 2,438 m.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
208. ClimateWatcher
6:58 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
EPAC still looks dominant for now but that could change ... hope they somehow don't join forces ... that could get really rough on some areas ... looks like there is a lot of moisture to build a storm with
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207. OSUWXGUY
6:58 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
I have to say as much of a uncertainty headache this system is...it still beats overanalyzing future model scenarios anyday!

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206. hydrus
6:54 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
MIGHTYWHITEMIKE-The central highlands of Nicaragua run 800 to 1900 meters -but there is one mountain over 2300 meters.
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205. Ivansrvivr
6:56 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
195.Hey this is just a little action to take away the boredom of 6 months of nothing to talk about in the Tropical Atlantic. Most of us here know this probably won't amount to much at this point.
204. Levi32
10:52 AM AKDT on May 28, 2008
Here guys this is the best visible loop we can get while the disturbance is this far south. Link

The EPAC center seems to be tightening up nicely, although it doesn't have much time left over water. I'm wondering if this will turn into a Fujiwara effect, with the two centers rotating around each other, swinging the Caribbean area northwest towards the Yucatan as the EPAC center drifts eastward. As others have pointed out already, the weakening of the EPAC center as it moves over land could give the Caribbean center a chance at becoming dominant, will be very interesting to watch.
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203. OSUWXGUY
6:53 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Higher areas around between 3-7 thousand feet. Not nearly as pronounced as in Mexico.

183. mightywhitemike 6:48 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
How mountainous are the mountains in Nicaragua?


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202. 0741
6:53 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
ok we have 90e in east pac and area in sw carribbean that area is now part of 90e we need 90e weaking so sw carribean area can have own air follw that donot have now it fight for both 90e and carribbean area
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201. Ivansrvivr
6:51 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
SSTs are plenty warm to support tropical development in the W.Caribbean. It is a question of land mass and atmosphere as for what the future holds with this situation.

the Upper Low to the north of the system is drawing tropical moisture northward toward Florida. It is already showing up on Key west radar as the deep moisture nears Cuba.
199. nrtiwlnvragn
2:53 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
18Z BAMs are up on WU.
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197. hurricane10
2:51 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Are there 2 different systems in the EPAC and CAR or is it 1 system
cause it looks like one BIG system
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196. Weather456
2:52 PM AST on May 28, 2008
188. Ivansrvivr 2:49 PM AST on May 28, 2008
This is very broad overall circulation that has multiple low level spins and sitting on the fence right now between W-Pac and Caribbean. This storm would make a good politician.


LOL
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
194. cdo
6:52 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
hmmm, wonder what would happen if it stalls over that lake?
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
193. Michfan
1:49 PM CDT on May 28, 2008


850mb vorticity is showing one hell of a mess as well.
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192. hurricane23
2:49 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Might want to check out the 12z Nogaps!

Iam out for a few gotta take the wife to the doctor. Adrian
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191. CaneAddict
6:45 PM GMT on May 28, 2008

171. HouseofGryffindor 6:43 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
So now it looks like our blob in the Carribean might actually become an invest as the EPAC storm moves onshore?

Possibly....it would be surprising to see a nerw circulation form over the far SW caribbean in association with this convection.
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190. Michfan
1:44 PM CDT on May 28, 2008




Might want to look at some maps first SK before claiming that SST's are too low in the GOM. Clearly they are hot enough to support development and any system that moves on the loop eddy would have some TCHP to tap into.

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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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