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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1088. fmbill
12:02 PM GMT on May 29, 2008
Launch Forecast

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1086. weathers4me
11:49 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Anyone know the weather forecast for the upcoming launch at the Cape? Looks like high pressure will keep the weather pretty tame this weekend.
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1084. MrSea
11:50 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Cheers to TD One-E, let's hope this is an exciting, but SAFE hurricane season!
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1083. Ivansrvivr
11:45 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
1081. Climatology would suggest same thing as Bermuda high builds to our east and draws moisture northward out of Caribbean.
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1082. Ivansrvivr
11:43 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
the windward (pacific) side will get the worst. That side doesnt usually get hit like this. Usually the storms move Westward and brush that area. A direct hit is totally different.
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1081. IKE
6:43 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
From the long-range Jackson, Mississippi discussion...

"Otherwise...middle and upper ridging rebuilds from west to east across all of
the Gulf states for the first half of next week. Some early hints at
a tropical system of sorts in the vicinity of the Yucatan Peninsula
by later in the week with 200mb ridge building into Florida from the western
Carribean and upper troughing diving into the lower MS valley from
the southern rockies. In any case...the overall pattern will be losing the
Continental U.S. Blocking appearance of the past two weeks."
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1080. IKE
6:39 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
1078. leftovers 6:37 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
Wrong side Ike the west coast of Nicar. has not been hit in along time.

But they got moisture off of Dean and Felix. I know this one is the PAC vs. Atlantic side.
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1077. fmbill
11:31 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
NWS in Melbourne seems to think the high pressure will stop any systems from heading this way for the next week or so.

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1076. Ivansrvivr
11:32 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
1070. I was referring to the mid level low that was "competing" with TD1 in the W Caribbean. As TD1 dissipates, that low will have a chance to develop. Any convection firing in the Caribbean will help that low sustain itself as it's competition weakens. There were 2 different entities yesterday. TD1 won out but it has only been 12 hrs since it formed. Given TD1s NE movement, it looks like the mid level low is still there. I believe that is what GFS is seeing.
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1075. crownwx
7:31 AM EDT on May 29, 2008
Find it interesting that the 06 UTC GFS model tracks the system near Africa all the way across the Atlantic over the next 10-12 days and keeps it intact. Link
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1074. IKE
6:33 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
The same area that got hit so many times last year...slightly further south, but still, I bet their sick of tropical systems....
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1073. guygee
11:30 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Re: 1070. jphurricane2006

I was thinking in terms of a general low pressure area surviving, but maybe as Ike says the GFS is latching onto something totally different.

Anyways, gotta go...
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1071. guygee
11:29 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Re: 1068. Ivansrvivr

True. There is also the issue of the upper-level support. TD1E helped generate a large ULH. To some extent it looks to be decoupling from the ULH now, but if something else is to form it will need to be near the center of the left-over ULH, otherwise the farther from the center the greater the shear.

Morning duties call, got to get the young ones off to school, BBL.
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1069. IKE
6:21 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
From the 2 am PDT discussion on TD 1E...

"Atmospheric conditions appear favorable for strengthening...with the
only obvious negative factor being land interaction. The intensity
forecast calls for gradual strengthening until landfall...followed
by weakening and dissipation over the mountains of Central America.

It is possible that the cyclone could get stronger than forecast if
it remains over water longer than currently forecast. However...
unless the system gets significantly stronger than forecast...the
primary threat with this system will be life-threatening flash
floods and mud slides associated with heavy rains...which could
reach 20 inches over the higher terrain of Central America...
especially in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.".......

Looks like the low the GFS is spinning up that heads toward Florida is something else...maybe I'm wrong though.
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1068. Ivansrvivr
11:12 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Just because convection is gone doesn't mean low is gone. TD1 will move inland shortly and some remnant will emerge or redevelop in the W.Caribbean eventually. If that low is still there even in very weak state that would be a likely trigger for convection from remnant moisture.

There appears to be new convection developing south of the Caymans already.
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1066. trunkmonkey
11:13 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Thanks folks, your all very dedicated, this if very informative!
keep up the great work.
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1065. guygee
11:06 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Morning jp. Good point about the people there. 20 inches of rain in the mountains is just devastating. I hope everyone finds high ground.

As for the droughtbuster, I am definitely more pessimistic than yesterday. TD1E may actually be drawing more moisture away and raining it out than contributing, especially if it tacks more left. We will see.
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1064. Ivansrvivr
11:09 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
1055 whether it is an eye or not is unimportant. Winds will not be major factor in Nicaragua. floods will and could kill alot of people there.
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1061. HurrikanEB
11:08 AM GMT on May 29, 2008

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1060. Ivansrvivr
11:05 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
JP i believe it would be more likely TD1 would dissipate over Nicaragua and the mid level low that was in the W.Caribbean yesterday would reappear. It is likely still there just the convection associated with it collapsed as TD1 strengthened.
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1055. Thundercloud01221991
11:01 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
I think it may be an eye as the convection is in a perfect ring around it and is really increasing in intensity
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1054. guygee
10:48 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
The 06Z GFS seems to lose TD1E at 36 hrs then forms a low south of Cuba at 138 hrs that deepens to 1000 mb over Key West at 180 hrs and then weakens to 1004 mb as closes in towards Mobile at 218 hrs.

For what it is worth.
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1053. HurricaneKing
6:58 AM EDT on May 29, 2008
I know it looks like an eye but it's just a dry spot right? Anyway it looks like the storm has turned NNE to me. I'll be back later.
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1052. Ivansrvivr
10:58 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
1050. Given the topography of the crossing TD1 must make, that scenario is highly unlikely. Better chance of winning the Lotto.
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1051. extreme236
10:59 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
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1050. HurricaneKing
6:54 AM EDT on May 29, 2008
If the center remains intact for the entire crossing it keeps its name. So if this was to become Alma and cross over while keeping its center it would stay Alma. If it was just some leftver convection which develops it would get a new name (Arthur.)
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1049. Ivansrvivr
10:54 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
1046. "for now"

When I see "for now" in the forecast I suspect those writing it expect it to change.
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1048. Ivansrvivr
10:53 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
No Joke. The GFS read my mind (how can it read a blank slate?)
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1047. Thundercloud01221991
10:52 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
1040. HurrikanEB 10:47 AM GMT on May 29, 2008 Hide this comment.
um i was just curious... if a tropical depression such as TD1 were to form in the eastern pacific and then somehow mannaged to survive a central america crossing without dissipating and then strengthened to storm status in the atlantic would it recieve an atlantic name or pacific?(same question for an atlantic to pacific system)
Action: | Ignore User

they changed the rules this year and it will still remain with the Pacific Ocean Name or the original Basin name
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1046. IKE
5:53 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
Long-term discussion from Miami,FL....

"Then as we move into the middle and latter part of the week ensemble
data suggest upper level ridge begins to weaken across the area with
the result being moisture increasing from the south. Operational
GFS develops a low pressure system across the western Caribbean
later next week off whatever is left behind from the current
system affecting Central America. The European model is slower and
quite does not develop this feature. It just keeps a weak system
down across the Yucatan region. The GFS ensemble mean develops
the system but is also weaker. None of them develop the system for
the time period covered by this forecast (through wednesday). So
yes we could be dealing with some kind of low pressure system
affecting the local area late next week but the uncertainty is two
large at this time to be any more definitive about this. For
now...will only reflect a slight increase in rain chances for the
latter part of the extended period."
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1045. Ivansrvivr
10:51 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
1041. That could be the drought buster we need to kick start the rainy season. If we don't get one, a repeat of last summer is possible.
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1044. MasterForecaster
10:45 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Thanks extreme
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1043. IKE
5:49 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
1039. Ivansrvivr 5:46 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
If TD1 makes it into the Atlantic Basin at all it would be in the NW Caribbean east of Belize. The upper atmosphere is extremely hostile in the GOM. The Bermuda High which is starting to appear would draw it northward maybe somewhat east of northward. It probably will cause increased chances for rainfall for FL this weekend

Ike I posted this before I looked at that 6zgfs model.

You're right on with the GFS! lol.

Interesting model run.
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1042. all4hurricanes
10:47 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
It would receive a new name like hurricane Caesar
crossed Nicaragua and became hurricane Douglass Caesar retired and Douglass became a Cat 4
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1040. HurrikanEB
10:47 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
um i was just curious... if a tropical depression such as TD1 were to form in the eastern pacific and then somehow mannaged to survive a central america crossing without dissipating and then strengthened to storm status in the atlantic would it recieve an atlantic name or pacific?(same question for an atlantic to pacific system)
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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