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

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

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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9:08 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
666 Surfmom Do you remember if most of your afternoon seabreeze thunderstorms in the summer of 2004 moved inland, or on average did storms come out of the east and push off shore? It changes with the occasional stray trough, passing ULLs and so forth, and it is different further North or South up or down the coast, but the tendency, (and the point or line E-W across the state where the flow changes) is different year to year.
3 Hr TRMM regional
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689. StormJunkie
1:16 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Evening all :~)

Anything interesting going on out there?

Got a slight break in the action at work, so just popping in.
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688. weatherfromFlorida
1:17 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Navy Site has 01E.NONAME
Well, lets see if it can get to a TS before crossover, theres an Anti-Cyclone waiting on the other side, If it crosses over that is.
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687. HurricaneGeek
9:15 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Hey! Take a look
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686. TerraNova
9:17 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Storm 01E NONAME (Tropical Depression 01E)

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685. pottery
9:15 PM AST on May 28, 2008
679 Stormw.
Wonderful explanation. Real nice........
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684. kmanislander
1:15 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Great explanation Storm. Thanks
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683. Ivansrvivr
1:14 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
679. Storm, am I correct in thinking that the upper level low to the NW of 90E is helping vent the outflow of the system also?
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681. weatherfromFlorida
1:13 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
01E on Navy site!
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680. Levi32
5:13 PM AKDT on May 28, 2008
675. MasterForecaster 5:10 PM AKDT on May 28, 2008 Hide this comment.
Wow I feel dumb. Please disregard my previous comments I am very very dumb.

Lol you are not dumb, and I've felt that way many times. A 200mb anticyclone is basically just the high pressure area at about 40000 feet above this whole area.
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678. kmanislander
1:11 AM GMT on May 29, 2008

Many of us that post here tend to assume that everyone reading the blog understands every term used. That is not the case so you do not have to feel badly about the comment.

Please feel free to raise questions. That is how all bloggers who are not Mets got started.
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676. pottery
9:00 PM AST on May 28, 2008
Looking at the Tropical Discussion for 8:05.
"tropical wave moving across CV Islands along 23/25W south of 18n.......significant deep layered moisture surge extending off Africa to near 30 W.
Scattered showers isolated moderate concentrated south of CV islands from 3-8 n, between 23-33 W."

Looking at the Images for that area, the co-ordinates above are not making sense to me.
Am I reading this wrong?
Any comments please.
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675. MasterForecaster
1:09 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Wow I feel dumb. Please disregard my previous comments I am very very dumb.
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674. MasterForecaster
1:08 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Ok storm what exactly does that mean? If you don't mind me asking lol...
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673. GeoffreyWPB
9:06 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Storm..many posters have stated that the carib. precip. will go north and deluge so. fla. Do you agree with this as conditions appear now?
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672. kmanislander
1:06 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Absolutely not

What I said was that the high pressure system that was previously in the EPAC has migrated further East and is now centered virtually in the SW Caribbean. If you look at the link I posted the center of the high is barely onshore Costa Rica and will likely move over water shortly.

The high is NOT 90E

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671. moonlightcowboy
8:04 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
We're still at about 10n,87w?
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669. MasterForecaster
1:00 AM GMT on May 29, 2008

Are you saying this storm just went from an EPAC system to a SWCARIBBEAN system?
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668. kmanislander
12:52 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
The center of the high that was previously in the EPAC has now worked its way into the SW Caribbean and is expanding to the N

Conditions aloft in the Caribbean are clearly improving rapidly and will aid in the potential development of a low in the basin

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667. hahaguy
8:53 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
penguins all the way lol
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666. surfmom
12:51 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
#663 hmmmmmm ok I get that
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8:51 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Penguins broke the seal. (NHL)
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664. surfmom
12:51 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Well if it can survive those mountains --might be a small wave maker for me...on the gomex
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8:42 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
An observer on the ground in an area under the influence of those different year to year B/A high setups mentioned could notice a difference in their average day to day weather i.e. wind, movement of clouds & thunderstorms, humidity, temperature, etc. even without instruments or remote data.
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662. presslord
8:50 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
now...what would be interesting would be for a real met to explain what it could mean...
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661. surfmom
12:47 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
I know, the thing is they implied it was "odd" to them....that catches my curiosity --it was out of a normal pattern they know for the location and time of year
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659. presslord
8:44 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
surmom...I'm a lifelong offshore sailor...and I've learned to absolutely listen to those guys....they've forgotten more weather knowledge than a roomful of meteorologists will ever know....
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658. pottery
8:41 PM AST on May 28, 2008
Greetings all.
Thats a real mess in the area of 90E.
Complex upper level winds around there as well.
Still dry at my location, but 1" of rain in Port-of-Spain(the capital city) last night.
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656. juniormeteorologist
12:44 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
90E will be classified as a tropical depression in the 11 o'clock advisory, according to satellite images..
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655. Drakoen
12:43 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
The HWRF 18z thinks that 90E could become a tropical storm in the EPAC as well. I wouldn't rule it out.
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654. GeoffreyWPB
8:39 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
646. True...but not weeks or months in the future.
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653. surfmom
12:35 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
My younger son has been diving a lot this week (getting ready for sea camp). Talking weather to the Captains and fishermen I gathered from them something I noticed myself...but I doubted my observations until I found they had the same.(SWFL/Gomex) It's the wind --they all say we've had more wind from March on then any of them remember -- it's the same for me. I do not ever remember such wind before and wonder what was different that we have so much this year?
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651. Drakoen
12:36 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
The GFDL 18z thinks that 90E could reach tropical storm strength before it hits the Nicaraga/Honduras border.
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650. GeoffreyWPB
8:36 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Mangos, Gators and Turtles..oh my!
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649. Weather456
8:35 PM AST on May 28, 2008
646. surfmom 8:34 PM AST on May 28, 2008
I just got confused

They often say unusual animal behaviour is a sign of bad things to come.
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648. Tazmanian
5:35 PM PDT on May 28, 2008
thanks StormW

thanks 456 so i would say E coast of FL/NC and SC tpy set up this year???
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647. HurricaneGeek
8:35 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
I think animals and nature are fairly accurate when it comes to that kind f stuff. They aren't the do-all-end-all, but what nature does is very awesome!
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646. surfmom
12:33 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
I just got confused
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645. HurricaneGeek
8:33 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Good evening everyone!
Take a look here
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644. Weather456
8:31 PM AST on May 28, 2008
639. surfmom 8:31 PM AST on May 28, 2008
456, you've mentioned a correlation between 04 and this year--I assume this is another example to support your theory - of which I am as well. This isn't science, but the last time my mango tree went off like it is this year was 04. LOL

LOL, well I remembered watching something on TV about aligators, turtles and shark in south FL, that their behaviour was odd in June 2005.
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643. Drakoen
12:31 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Its probably going to be a tropical depression.
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642. nrtiwlnvragn
8:32 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
LATM12 = 9.6N LONM12 = 87.1W DIRM12 = 74DEG SPDM12 = 6KT
LATM24 = 9.3N LONM24 = 88.6W
RD34NE = 0NM RD34SE = 0NM RD34SW = 0NM RD34NW = 0NM
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640. Weather456
8:23 PM AST on May 28, 2008
627. Tazmanian 8:20 PM AST on May 28, 2008
456 so is is the Bermuda High set up to where evere storm runs in to FL this year like 2004???

Not every storm but should the high set up similiar to now, yes, FL but also further north along the east coast, as you notice the flow near the Bahamas is easterly in 2004 but have a more southerly recurvature pattern in 2008. Now add the fact that ridge extends further west in 2008 would put the east coast at a higher risk.
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