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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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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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188. Ivansrvivr
6:47 PM GMT 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.
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187. scottsvb
6:47 PM GMT on May 28, 2008

The whole area is a mess in the carribean. A upper trough of low pressure that came down a couple days ago pulled up the ITCZ as a elongated trough from the EPAC to the WCAR.. on the sw side of the trough (in better upper air support from the trough hanging down over central america) a low pressure system formed and is been migrating underneath the trough. The trough though is now weakening and pulling out as a ridge builds in from the eastern carribean. The low pressure system over the EPAC near 10N and 86W will get pulled NNE and into central america. Another weaker low is situated off the east coast of Nicaragua near 12N and 81W. This low dont have the upper level enviroment due to the EPAC low proximaty. With the EPAC low moving inland on Thurs.. the weaker low off Nicaragua should get pulled into Honduars or Belieze by Friday. Now with that said a tropical wave of low pressure may develop near Jamaica as upper level winds calm down as 1 the upper trough is now out of the way and the EPAC low is now a trough over central america. This wave will have a chance to develop and move WNW towards the Yucitan and S Gulf.. There is nothing really to pull anything in the near term north to florida or anywhere in the gulf right now ...and besides anything after 3 days has a growing amount of error.

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186. moonlightcowboy
1:45 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
I took another couple of looks, too. LOL, interesting first system to say the least.

Obs now is that the banding features of the elongated 90E will ulimtately "sweep" the swirling low in the Caribbean into Nicaragua. 90E absorbs more energy before almost coming ashore, strengthens slightly before moving a bit more northwards - it, too, ultimately running into land.
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183. mightywhitemike
6:43 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
How mountainous are the mountains in Nicaragua?
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182. hydrus
6:37 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
HURRICANE23-I see that the pacific low is not nearly as organized as it was earlier,I to think it is moving north towards land.That might allow the low in the carribean to intensify sooner than expected.Especially if it pulls some energy from 90E.That tropical wave interacting with all of this should aid in this situation.iop.
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180. Weather456
2:44 PM AST on May 28, 2008
Remember the models were predicting the disturbance to move from the EPAC near Panama and into the SW Caribbean for days before today. Its basically the same situation except its location differs.

Check out my blog post from Monday
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179. ATS3
6:44 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
any coastal radars is the cb near the low
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178. Ivansrvivr
6:43 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
It looks (to me) like there are multiple vortices competing in the E-Pac which would explain why the W.Caribbean mid level low is winning out. 90E has possible competition to it's WSW which has kept it weak enough for part of it to get absorbed by the Caribbean thing. It may warrant designation as an invest by tomorrow morning.
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177. smmcdavid
1:44 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
I'm going to sit back and let you guys battle it out...

I'll be lurking of course, so keep me posted. LOL
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175. hurricane23
2:44 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Here they are!

Might run out of real estate.

1830 UTC WED MAY 28 2008



DISTURBANCE INVEST (EP902008) 20080528 1800 UTC

...00 HRS... ...12 HRS... ...24 HRS. .. ...36 HRS...
080528 1800 080529 0600 080529 1800 080530 0600

BAMS 9.8N 86.4W 10.9N 86.5W 12.0N 86.9W 13.2N 87.4W
BAMD 9.8N 86.4W 11.1N 86.5W 12.6N 87.6W 13.8N 89.2W
BAMM 9.8N 86.4W 11.0N 86.3W 12.3N 86.9W 13.7N 88.0W
LBAR 9.8N 86.4W 10.9N 86.0W 13.0N 86.6W 15.3N 87.7W

...48 HRS... ...72 HRS... ...96 HRS. .. ..120 HRS...
080530 1800 080531 1800 080601 1800 080602 1800

BAMS 14.4N 88.3W 15.9N 90.5W 16.0N 93.6W 15.6N 97.2W
BAMD 14.6N 91.1W 14.3N 94.8W 12.6N 98.3W 12.0N 101.7W
BAMM 14.6N 89.3W 15.2N 92.1W 14.4N 95.2W 14.3N 98.7W
LBAR 17.3N 88.8W 19.0N 90.6W 19.3N 92.1W 19.7N 94.5W

LATM12 = 9.5N LONM12 = 87.7W DIRM12 = 75DEG SPDM12 = 8KT
LATM24 = 9.3N LONM24 = 89.5W
RD34NE = 0NM RD34SE = 0NM RD34SW = 0NM RD34NW = 0NM


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174. CaneAddict
6:40 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
164. Weather456 6:39 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Some more interesting analysis....Just put on an visible animation

Looks to me like the Caribbean low is sucking in the EPAC low...possibly merging together in the Caribbean like some models hinted at.
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172. Weather456
2:40 PM AST on May 28, 2008
This is putting the best of my skills to the test. I mean...I have gone back from EPAC to CARIB to EPAC to CARIB to EPAC...and only God knows where this merry-go-round will end.
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170. 0741
6:39 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
do it look like storm in sw carribbean taking more space plus getting strong from tue?????? storm W
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169. hurricane23
2:39 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
That would be correct 456...

Its picked up some speed according to some models i just looked at.

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167. Ivansrvivr
6:38 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
MLC go back to 148, look at Adrians visible floater of the E-Pac. 90E is clearly very close to Nicaraguan Coastline but if you look very closely just to the left, there are hints of another circulation. that would explain why 90E is so elongated.
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166. moonlightcowboy
1:40 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
RAMSDIS Visible Loop Can easily see the movement on this loop.
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165. CaneAddict
6:38 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
After analysis....90E is nearing the coast and may not even make depression status....This would support the thinking of the Caribbean low developing...

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
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164. Weather456
2:18 PM AST on May 28, 2008
Some more interesting analysis....Just put on an visible animation

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163. nash28
2:37 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
The EPAC low appears to be losing the fight between the two. Just my obs....
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162. hurricane23
2:38 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Just about to come onshore as it drifts east with weak steering currents in the area.

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160. Ivansrvivr
6:35 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
23, if that mid level circulation can move northward to get offshore Belize, it could burrow to the surface quickly there.
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159. moonlightcowboy
1:35 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
Ivan, is that not 90E trying to get vertical?
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157. Ivansrvivr
6:34 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Hello StormW. there is just enough going on to keep us occupied today.
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155. hurricane23
2:34 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
90E looks like its about to come onshore soon and if thats the case it should halt futher intensification in the near term.Our disturbance in the caribbean may win out if thats the case.
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153. Ivansrvivr
6:23 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
23, looking closely at the IR of the E-Pac it looks like there may be dual circulations in the E-Pac. One nearing the coast of Nicaragua(10N,85-86W) one farther to the west (around 7-8N 87-88W). Look at the squall line heading for the coast that looks like an outflow boundary from collapsing thunderstorms. If that is the case, competition between those two would allow caribbean system to win out. Especialy if possible circulation farther west was to take over.
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152. NEwxguy
6:32 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
Afternoon SW
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148. hurricane23
2:22 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
Development in the EPAC will keep any chances for development in the Caribbean on the low side since wind shear will increase as the outflow becomes established with 90E.You can see here how banding features continue to improve with this system as it drifts around with weak steering currents in the area.All in all its a very complex situation with both lows interacting with each other.Look for this entire mess to drift northward and bring south florida a good soaking in the coming days.For now its a wait and see approach for us in the atlantic side.

PS!I will say this convection has been on a steady increase in the carribean.SEE HERE
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147. stormkat
6:17 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
we will see moonlight cowboy...at most the sst is 82 degrees and thats down by the yucatan...im getting off now ill be back when the shear slackens...good luck everyone and play nice....stormkat
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146. hurricane23
2:18 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
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6:09 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
As far as the Caribbean Low, I am interested in its interaction with the tropical wave moving west near 80°W.

This wave is pretty linear meridionally...no wave breaking genesis likely...more of an enhancement of convergence with the preexisting weak low.

I'd say there is a fair chance (maybe 20%) of development in around 72 hours from this interaction. Large scale low level vorticity advection from 90E could help the genesis process as well...though the large scale steering of 90E isn't well resolved by the models.
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143. nrtiwlnvragn
2:15 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
28/1745 UTC 10.0N 86.3W T1.5/1.5 90E
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142. moonlightcowboy
1:14 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
SSTs not a problem anywhere - all areas will support tropical development.

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141. stormkat
6:12 PM GMT on May 28, 2008
im glad you find it amusing gs...stormkat
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140. JRRP
6:10 PM GMT on Mayo 28, 2008
the convection in SW carribean has winds more than 40knots
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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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