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

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290. NEwxguy
8:01 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
284. MichaelSTL 7:57 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
271. NEwxguy 2:39 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
back in 1925 and 1953 there was little or no warning for tornadoes.

On the other hand, you have to wonder why records like this still stand:

I was thinking the same thing,things have changed so drastically as far as warnings,it seems pointless to hold on to such records,but we like to have statistics and records set for everything.
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289. MississippiWx
2:57 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
274. Weather456 2:40 PM CDT on May 28, 2008

Pretty interesting how the models are already trying to form something off of Africa. Has anyone checked the SAL? Just from looking at satellite, it appears to be pretty weak. If it's already weak, that's usually not a good sign.
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288. weatherboyfsu
7:54 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
You know what would be cool.......If this 90E would develop into a minimum tropical storm in the pacific and move fast across central america into the atlantic and then move north a little bit and then stall and move west back into the pacific without killing anyone. Just give welcoming rains to lots of people. How many names would it get? Just two? Drive the NHC crazy........ ;-)
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287. earthlydragonfly
3:55 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
is it me or does there seem to be a low off the coast of Nicaragua? It looks to me to be the dominate .. JMHO
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286. moonlightcowboy
2:47 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
CIMSS site finally coming alive. Some features still not working. Lots of ships out in that mess!

Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29682
282. Ivansrvivr
7:53 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
279. Fox(y) news has the blondest newscasters in the business.
281. all4hurricanes
7:46 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
I think 90E will become Alma but if it does that heads north-west becomes a large cat 1 hurricane and stalls over Mexico or Guatemala could it retire ( retiring is part of the east pacific naming but only three names have ever retired )
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280. Michfan
2:50 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
The tropics are entertaining to say the last today. These are the days i love being an enthusiast.
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279. tornadofan
7:46 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Post 285 - This year *crosses fingers* is NOT on a record-setting pace for tornado deaths

That's what I get for reading CNN. I'll have to just watch Fox now. :)
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278. Weather456
3:45 PM AST on May 28, 2008
Dont know if anyone saw this morning's ascat pass
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
277. Weather456
3:44 PM AST on May 28, 2008
276. OUSHAWN 3:43 PM AST on May 28, 2008

I saw that too...they are sayin north and 90E wants east or northeast.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
7:37 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Honestly, I wouldn't even pay attention to any of the models at this point. None of them have a good grasp at what exactly is happening at this point. They are pretty useless right now and until things start to become a little more clearer in the next couple of days or maybe longer they will continue to be useless. We just need to wait and see what exactly transpires over the next 48-72 hrs and then revisit the models. Just my opinion.

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275. Ivansrvivr
7:40 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
I am not convinced there isn't a second circulation in the E-Pac competing with 90E to it's west also. 90E is quite elongated to the west.
274. Weather456
3:35 PM AST on May 28, 2008
261. StSimonsIslandGAGuy 3:32 PM AST on May 28, 2008
that CV wave is way to far south as yet. I am ignoring it for now.

U are looking at the convection. Look at the wave axis which extends north to 12N. The structure of AEWs are that most of the bad weather and low level convergence occurs southwest of the wave axis and that confuses alot who think its the wave axis when it is actually further off to the northeast.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
273. Ivansrvivr
7:36 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
264, the CLP5 model is just about in the middle of the spaghetti plot for 90E while a north then northwesterly turn doesn't look very likely at this point. That would lead me to believe the rest of the models are using climatology to a large degree.
271. NEwxguy
7:37 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
back in 1925 and 1953 there was little or no warning for tornadoes.
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270. NEwxguy
7:29 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
lol,feel better now,I know one person read it
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269. Weather456
3:30 PM AST on May 28, 2008
Some surface reports down there:

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
268. weatherboyfsu
7:33 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Hello St.Simons,

The homes in 1925 and 1953 were not as strong as todays standards. There was less people but weaker homes.......
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267. Ivansrvivr
7:32 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
261, that is ultimately a bad thing. We want the waves to be emerging farther north. If they keep coming off this far south, the likelyhood that they will enter the Caribbean and ultimately recurve into FLorida or the GOM goes way up.
266. cdo
7:30 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
if this system stays over land that long, it will be nothing when/if it gets back over water (based off the spaghetti spread)
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264. TerraNova
3:28 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
250. Ivansrvivr The models have not yet chosen to rely that much on climatology. If they had, we would have a consensus centered around the CLP5 model, which is specifically designed to assign tracks to systems based purely on climatology. The models are having difficulty 1) With 90E's interaction to land, 2) The interaction between the two lows and what result it could produce.
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263. Levi32
11:28 AM AKDT on May 28, 2008
At this point I don't see the Caribbean mid-level center just taking over and becoming dominant. The EPAC low is clearly dominant having a defined surface circulation with the anticyclone centered directly above it, and the mess in the Caribbean is just a bunch of mid-level vort maxes that have little presence at the surface. That said, everything seems to be converging on the SW Caribbean, and if 90E moves inland, we could see the center try to jump east or northeast back over water, but this time in the Caribbean under one of the mid-level centers. This seems to be what the NOGAPS is showing as well.
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262. Drakoen
7:31 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
I see 90E is getting better organized as it moves of to the Northeast.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 32857
260. Ivansrvivr
7:30 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
GS, I didn't know you are that young. I thought you were older for some reason. (JUST KIDDING)
259. scottsvb
7:27 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
there is a mulitple center vortex over a broad circulation...the actually center jumps around on a broad circulation.
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257. Ivansrvivr
7:28 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
This would be earliest start to CV season I can remember if 456 is right. (it looks like it will be ultimately whether it is this wave or the next one)
256. JRRP
7:24 PM GMT on Mayo 28, 2008

Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 7076
254. Patrap
2:25 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
Let Slip,

The Invests of 08.

From FSU Link
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253. Weather456
3:25 PM AST on May 28, 2008
There is still one more unconfirmed African Easterly Wave located near 3E south of 15N moving west near 15 knots. The wave is rather strong in terms of convection and should ermerge later this week, where some computer models continue to hint development.

from my blog this morning
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
252. Drakoen
7:25 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Good afternoon everyone.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 32857
250. Ivansrvivr
7:23 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
246, there are too many other systems nearby having an influence on 90E for the models to grasp what will happen. When that is so, models use more climatology which doesn't really apply with a system this complex.
249. Patrap
2:23 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
GOES-12 (3 Channel) Gulf and Tropics (Updated every ~1/2 hour) Link
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247. nash28
3:23 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
And look at the lone outlier in that mess...

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246. NEwxguy
7:22 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
models just don't know what to do with this thing.
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245. Levi32
11:19 AM AKDT on May 28, 2008
Here's the only model link I could find....2 of my other ones aren't working anymore for some reason. There aren't many models but you can see they're all forecasting NW movement, which right now doesn't seem to be verifying at all. Link
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244. TerraNova
3:21 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Current spaghetti plots:
(from FSU)

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243. Ivansrvivr
7:20 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
it's a good thing Africa is so quiet now.
242. Ivansrvivr
7:19 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
239. Join the Club. Guessing this one is like picking who will win the next June.
241. JRRP
7:10 PM GMT on Mayo 28, 2008
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 7076
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.
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