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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90. cchsweatherman
1:34 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Just in case you did not see it, here is what the 12UTC NOGAPS has in 108 hours.
Photobucket
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5157
89. stormkat
5:32 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
the nhc will name a storm at anytime if they think its necessary and poses a life threatening situation...stormkat
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88. crownwx
1:32 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
cchsweatherman: The advisories will still be issued at 5 and 11.
Member Since: December 27, 2004 Posts: 3 Comments: 207
86. tornadofan
5:31 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Post 79 - LOL GS.
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84. cchsweatherman
1:29 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Question. Since the NHC has changed the time they issue their Tropical Weather Discussions and Tropical Weather Outlooks from 5 and 11 to 2 and 8, does that mean that they will name systems at those time as well, or will they continue with tradition with 5 and 11 o'clock advisories?
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5157
82. smmcdavid
12:29 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
Okay kids... let's play nice today.
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81. nrtiwlnvragn
1:28 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1100 AM PDT WED MAY 28 2008

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

1. A BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE NEARING THE WEST COAST OF COSTA RICA
AND NICARAGUA IS PRODUCING A LARGE AREA OF DISTURBED WEATHER
EXTENDING FROM THE EASTERN PACIFIC ACROSS PORTIONS OF CENTRAL
AMERICA AND THE ADJACENT CARIBBEAN SEA. THIS SYSTEM IS GRADUALLY
BECOMING BETTER ORGANIZED...AND A TROPICAL DEPRESSION COULD FORM AT
ANY TIME BEFORE IT MOVES NORTHEASTWARD OR NORTHWARD OVER CENTRAL
AMERICA WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS OR SO. REGARDLESS OF ADDITIONAL
DEVELOPMENT... TORRENTIAL RAINS ARE EXPECTED TO SPREAD OVER
PORTIONS OF PANAMA... COSTA RICA...NICARAGUA AND HONDURAS FOR THE
NEXT FEW DAYS. THESE RAINS COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH
FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES.

$$
FORECASTER AVILA/LANDSEA
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78. pearlandaggie
5:24 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
i haven't been around at all this morning...what happened to post #1??? or is that something i should just not ask about.........
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77. groundswell
5:23 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
NW CARIBBEAN N OF 15N W OF 75W
1130 AM EDT WED MAY 28 2008

THIS AFTERNOON AND TONIGHT
S OF 17N E OF 82W E WINDS
INCREASING TO 20 TO 25 KT. SEAS BUILDING TO 6 TO 8 FT.

From NWS-so, if this continues and lifts north as it currently is, the east coast marine forecast for Florida will surely change, another round of onshore flow and rideable waves.
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76. cchsweatherman
1:24 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Photobucket
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5157
74. cdo
5:23 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
no, not really, but it is rather interesting on how your tropical development forcasting has gotten much more conservative then in years past.
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73. Weather456
1:23 PM AST on May 28, 2008
47. jphurricane2006 1:07 PM AST on May 28, 2008
A very unique situation istn it 456?


Very unique...cant remember a dilemna like this recently.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
72. stormkat
5:18 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
there will be no tropical development in the yucatan channel in 72 hours...the shear is forecast to increase in that area...this will not be a threat anywhere along the gulf coast..the most you may get out of it is much needed rain if it makes it into the gulf..stormkat
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71. cchsweatherman
1:20 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
It looks like the 12UTC NOGAPS forecasts Invest 90E to dissipate overland, then sends the remnant energy over to the northbound Southwest Caribbean low. With this energy and interaction with the tropical wave over the Lesser Antilles, it starts to crank the system up and develops a tropical storm moving northward into the Yucatan Channel. Now, at this point, it all depends upon the troughs to the north. At this time, the NOGAPS shows a trough forcing the high back into the Atlantic, which would allow for the storm to turn ENE to NE and target Southern Florida. Of important note is the fact the NOGAPS has been very consistent with this solution and is typically the most conservative model besides the UKMET for tropical development.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5157
70. FLWeatherFreak91
5:23 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
67. crackerlogic 5:22 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
I have a stupid question. if the fue prices keep going up. will this make the NHC less willing to fly into any potential development



Probably not, but the NWS' budget is very low.
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69. nrtiwlnvragn
1:21 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Latest UK Met text forecast.
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67. crackerlogic
5:20 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
I have a stupid question. if the fue prices keep going up. will this make the NHC less willing to fly into any potential development
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66. FLWeatherFreak91
5:18 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
This is unbelievably unaccurate from AccuWeather published today:

Tropics - The GFS continues to show our tropical system coming up the coast next week. As I said yesterday, the system becomes trapped within the westerlies and ends up producing a lot of rain across the eastern part of the country. While I am being vague today, my concern is that the GFS has been so persistent showing that system last next week. If the system comes true, this will be a major cue for the GFS model given that none of the other operational models are showing it.

First of all, I don't see the GFS briging this up the east coast.

Secondly, he says the GFS is the only model showing this- Bull.

This really doesn't help AccuWeather's reputation, especially on the WU network.
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64. cdo
5:18 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
jp doesnt think it will develop, which is odd compared to previous years. 2 years ago he would be all for crossing over and developing.
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63. 882MB
5:19 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
cchsweatherman, can you post the images?
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62. homegirl
5:15 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
90E is starting to look like a comma.

It's still organizing and I wouldn't be suprised to see a TD within 12 hrs...needs to hold convection through the afternoon and wrap it around the NW side

If it continues to organize and stays away from land...TS in 24-36hrs??
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61. Caffinehog
5:08 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
If they get much closer, they won't both develop. Storms close together compete for moisture, and eventually one wins, or they merge. The only way both develop is this:
90E develops, then quickly goes over land. While that low dissipates, the Atlantic one could spring to life. That's just how it works. Sorry, but we probably won't have our first atlantic storm with this one.
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60. cchsweatherman
1:16 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Now the 12UTC NOGAPS shows a strong tropical storm sitting in the Yucatan Channel (right over the Loop Current feed) in 84 hours.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5157
59. FLWeatherFreak91
5:15 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
This is from the Tampa AM discussion:

LONG TERM (FRIDAY NIGHT - TUESDAY)...SIGNIFICANT UNCERTAINTY
REMAINS IN MODEL DATA REGARDING THE POTENTIAL FOR A CYCLONE TO
DEVELOP OVER CENTRAL AMERICA. INTRA AND INTER MODEL INCONSISTENCIES
ARE COMPLICATING THE PROCESS OF CHOOSING A SUITABLE SOLUTION FOR THE
POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF THIS SYSTEM OVER FLORIDA...IF IT MATERIALIZES
AT ALL. A PROMISING SIGN WAS THE LATEST RUN FOR GFS...NAM AND ECMWF
WHICH BECAME SOMEWHAT CLOSER IN TERMS OF THE TIMING AND OVERALL
POSITION OF THE LOW
. WILL KEEP CHANCES OF RAIN IN THE 30 PERCENT
RANGE FOR THE SOUTHERN HALF OF THE STATE EACH AFTERNOON STARTING
SUNDAY AND WAIT FOR UPCOMING MODEL DATA BEFORE ANY SIGNIFICANT
CHANGES ARE MADE TO THE FORECAST
PHILOSOPHY.

This suggests to me that the NWS DOES expect something to develop, but does not expect it to play a big role in the scheme of things.
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58. cchsweatherman
1:12 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Right now, the 12UTC NOGAPS is forecasting a developing tropical system to be in the Yucatan Channel in 72 hours. It appears to be a sheared system.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5157
57. NEwxguy
5:11 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Shouldn't be too many more fronts moving through Florida,the atmosphere is shifting into summer pattern,although wouldn't know that up here in New England,feels like fall today
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55. groundswell
5:09 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
What's this, I go to lunch and come back, and looks like a circulation (or 2) trying to develop in the sw caribbean?
It's probably wax and wane...
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54. crackerlogic
5:11 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
StormJunkie

I have been around, just waiting for my time to surf
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52. weatherbro
5:12 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
[QUOTE]456~ That's from that backdoor cool front that pushed through FL the other day..I've been watching that, it was quite a strong one for this time of year. Made for an interesting blob watch indeed.[/QUOTE]

It appears there forecasting another frontal passage sometime between mid-next week to the second weekend of June.
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51. redrobin
12:11 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
...SPECIAL FEATURES...
SURFACE LOW PRES...POSSIBLE TRPCL CYCLONE WITHIN NEXT 36-48 HRS
...AT 10N88W 1006 MB GETTING MORE LOW LEVEL ORGANIZATION WHILE
SLOWLY IMPROVING UPPER LEVEL OUTFLOW. LITTLE MOVEMENT AT THIS
TIME BUT SYSTEM IS EXPECTED TO DRIFT NE AS SECOND LOW PRES OVER
SW CARIBBEAN INTERACTS WITH IT. ASSOCIATED STRONG CONVECTION
AFFECTS S NICARAGUA AND MOST OF COSTA RICA AND PANAMA.
CONDITIONS BECOMING MORE FAVORABLE FOR FURTHER STRENGTHENING
WITH PLENTY OF WARM MOIST TRPCL AIR MASS INFLUX FROM THE SW.
WIND INCREASING TO 25 KT AND GUSTY WITHIN 150 NM S AND SE
QUADRANTS. HEAVY RAINFALL POTENTIAL EXPECTED OVER MUCH OF
CENTRAL AMERICA S OF MEXICO TO PANAMA WITHIN NEXT 48 HOURS.

INTERACTION BETWEEN BOTH LOW PRES CENTERS ADDS UNCERTAINTY TO
DEVELOPMENT FORECAST AND THEIR TRACKS...BUT PROXIMITY TO LAND
AREAS COULD CURTAIL SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENT OF EITHER ONE FOR
THE TIME BEING. COMPOUNDING THE SCENARIO IS TRPCL WAVE ALONG
80W DISCUSSED BELOW WHICH IS LIKELY BOOST THE PROBABILITY OF
INTENSIFICATION AS MUCH AS TO THE UNCERTAINTY OF ANY FORECAST.
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50. weatherbro
4:37 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
[QUOTE]456~ That's from that backdoor cool front that pushed through FL the other day..I've been watching that, it was quite a strong one for this time of year. Made for an interesting blob watch indeed.[/QUOTE]

It appears there forecasting another frontal passage sometime between mid-next week to the second weekend of June.
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48. nash28
1:06 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
There you have it folks... Both may develop. May not. Alot of uncertainty right now.
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46. Weather456
1:01 PM AST on May 28, 2008
INTERACTION BETWEEN BOTH LOW PRES CENTERS ADDS UNCERTAINTY TO
DEVELOPMENT FORECAST AND THEIR TRACKS...BUT PROXIMITY TO LAND
AREAS COULD CURTAIL SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENT OF EITHER ONE FOR
THE TIME BEING. COMPOUNDING THE SCENARIO IS TRPCL WAVE ALONG
80W DISCUSSED BELOW WHICH IS LIKELY BOOST THE PROBABILITY OF
INTENSIFICATION AS MUCH AS TO THE UNCERTAINTY OF ANY FORECAST.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
45. hawkeye6
12:04 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
The tail end of the Parkersburg storm cell passed 10 miles north of my family on Sunday…all we received was an ominous bank of roiling clouds but absolutely no wind, very eerie.

Here is a picture that appeared in the Cedar Rapid Gazette.





I posted it so that Parkersburg would have a face (other than destroyed buildings). The high school has the highest per capita representation in the NFL. Casey Wiegmann (Denver), Aaron Kampman (Green Bay), Jared DeVries (Detroit) and Brad Meester (Jacksonville) are all graduates of Aplington-Parkersburg High School which sustained heavy damage from the storm.

It has been reported today that Parkersburg had just installed new early warning sirens on the southern end of town just two weeks ago. Little did they know they would be put to use so soon…
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43. Weather456
12:37 PM AST on May 28, 2008
This second wave should ermege later this week. The one further west has already been confirmed.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
42. smmcdavid
11:39 AM CDT on May 28, 2008
Thanks for the update Dr. Masters. The tornado damage pics are really disturbing.

I updated my blog too if anyone is interested.

And why wouldn't 90E develop in the W carib? Not favorable conditions?
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40. nrtiwlnvragn
12:58 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
TCFA alert issued.
Link
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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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