Killer tornadoes rip Iowa, and Minnesota; tropical depression possible late this week

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:08 PM GMT on May 26, 2008

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The 2008 Memorial Day Weekend tornado outbreak will continue to hammer the U.S. today, even as residents from Iowa and Minnesota clean up from the devastating tornadoes that killed eight people Sunday afternoon. A mile-wide tornado plowed through Parkersburg, Iowa between 5pm and 6pm CDT yesterday, killing five people in that city, and two in nearby New Hartford. It was the deadliest tornado in Iowa in more than 40 years. The tornado passed just north of the airport in Waterloo, Iowa, which recorded sustained winds of 64mph, gusting to 94 mph at 5:37pm CDT. Damage appeared to be at least EF-4 in photos I saw, and possibly EF-5 (over 200 mph). In Minnesota, another powerful twister killed at least one person and injured 9 in the Minneapolis suburb of Hugo.


Figure 1. Satellite image of the supercell thunderstorms that spawned the Parkerburg, Iowa and Hugo, Minnesota tornadoes on May 25, 2008.

The slow-moving low pressure system responsible for all the mayhem began in Colorado on Thursday, when the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) recorded 48 reports of tornadoes, including the EF-3 mile-wide twister that killed one person in Windsor, Colorado. On Friday, an additional 63 tornado reports occurred, mostly in Kansas. The tornado that hit Quinter, Kansas on Friday was the eighth violent EF-4 tornado of the year. Also on Friday, two people were killed in Cairo, Kansas when a tornado smashed a car trying to flee the storm. If you want to see why one should not try to escape a tornado in a car, take a look at what the tornado did to the car. Saturday was relatively quiet, with only 13 tornado reports, but Sunday's tally of 43 brought the 4-day total from the 2008 Memorial Day weekend outbreak to a remarkable 157 tornado reports. Some of these tornado reports are undoubtedly of the same tornado, so the actual number of tornadoes for the 4-day outbreak may be less than 150. BBC has some awesome aerial footage of the weekend tornadoes.



Figure 2. Radar reflectivity image (top) of the May 25, 2008 Parkersburg, Iowa tornado. The position of Parkersburg is marked by a circle with a cross in the middle. Bottom: Doppler velocity image of the tornado, showing a small core of red and blue colors right next to each other, denoting strong winds towards and away from the radar, the classic signature of a tornado vortex.



Figure 3. Radar reflectivity image (top) of the May 25, 2008 Hugo, Minnesota tornado. The position of Hugo is marked by a circle with a cross in the middle. Bottom: Doppler velocity image of the tornado, showing a small core of red and blue colors right next to each other, denoting strong winds towards and away from the radar, the classic signature of a tornado vortex. We've also saved a 12-frame radar animation of the Hugo cell, thanks to wunderground member Todd S.

Tallying up the numbers
The death toll from Sunday pushes this year's tornado deaths to 111, the most since 1998, when 130 were recorded. Assuming that the Parkersburg, Iowa tornado was an EF-4 or EF-5, there have been nine violent EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes this year. This is the most since 1999, when 13 such twisters were recorded. The total number of tornadoes this year is approaching 1100, and we may challenge the all time record for tornadoes in a year of 1817, set in 2004. Could this be a sign of climate change? No, I don't think so, and I'll explain why in a blog later this week.

Severe weather forecast
Severe weather will pound the U.S. again this Memorial Day, with the main action expected to stretch more than halfway across the country--from Texas to New York. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed much of Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle under its "Moderate Risk" category for severe weather, one step below its highest level of concern, "High Risk". Yesterday was also a "Moderate Risk" day in Iowa and Minnesota. The Weather Underground Severe Weather page and Tornado page are good places to go to follow the severe weather. Also, tune in to the chase accounts and awesome storm photos from Wunderblogger Mike Theiss. After today, it appears the severe weather outbreak will finally diminish, with only a slight risk of severe weather expected Tuesday, and no severe weather expected Wednesday.

Possible development in the Western Caribbean or Eastern Pacific late this week
For the past 3-6 days, our most reliable global computer weather forecast models have been predicting the development of a low pressure system near or over Central America by Friday of this week. Given the persistence in the models in developing this low, we need to be alert to the possibility of a tropical depression forming in either the Western Caribbean or Eastern Pacific, on either side of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It is uncertain which ocean basin such a storm might form in, and whether or not there will be a tropical wave around to help kick off development. It may be that the low pressure region will stay anchored over land south of the Yucatan Peninsula, preventing any development. This is the solution preferred by the ECMWF model in its last few runs. However, the GFS, NOGAPS, and Canadian models all predict a tropical depression might form in the Western Caribbean near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. In contrast, the UKMET shows development in the Eastern Pacific, on the Pacific side of Central America. Climatologically, May tropical storms are much more common in the Eastern Pacific than the Western Caribbean, so we should not discount the UKMET solution, even though it is an outlier. All five models predict that the Central American low pressure area will move northward towards the Gulf of Mexico, and wind shear may fall enough to allow a tropical depression to form should the low's center emerge over water. I'll be posting daily updates on the situation this week.

Jeff Masters

Wedge Tornado (MikeTheiss)
A large and violent wedge tornado near Quinter, Kansas. Photo Copyright Mike Theiss
Wedge Tornado
Wallcloud near Lacrosse, Kansas (MikeTheiss)
Photo of a wallcloud crossing road near lacrosse, Kansas on May 25, 2008. Photo copyight Mike Theiss
Wallcloud near Lacrosse, Kansas
Storm Damage (CAPEdcrusader)
These are pictures taken of the storm that went through Forest Lake / Hugo, MN. The tornado passed 3 miles south of us, but we got a pretty vicious shot of hail for about 15 minutes straight. The pictures of bldg damage are west of the worst tornado damage, probably where the funnel cloud was just about to reach the ground.
Storm Damage

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259. Stormchaser2007
12:31 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
In case we need to make the wishcasters happy, the system will hit Florida as a cat 3 then hit SC as a Cat 4.

Nope its already been said, the damage is done...lol
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258. Drakoen
4:31 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
252. JFV 4:31 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Drak, any chnace of this undergoing rapid intensification once it finally establishes itself of course.


There is not enough TCHP for rapid intesification of the system. There is enough TCHP to support a category 1,2,3 hurricane.
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257. WPBHurricane05
4:31 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
251. Michael 4:30 PM GMT on May 26, 2008

Link please?
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255. Stormchaser2007
12:31 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
This should spoil everybody's excitement...

Why would you enjoy that.....
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254. FLWeatherFreak91
12:31 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
252. JFV 12:31 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
Drak, any chnace of this undergoing rapid intensification once it finally establishes itself of course.


not according to Michael's last post...
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253. extreme236
4:30 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
In case we need to make the wishcasters happy, the system will hit Florida as a cat 3 then hit SC as a Cat 4.
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249. FLWeatherFreak91
12:28 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Wow this GFS run really damns the system doesn't it? Maybe the next run will focus more on Alaska lol
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247. Stormchaser2007
12:28 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
BOC low...uh...put away those SC and FL landfalls!

Aw you just sacred all of the Forida-casters away!!
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246. ShenValleyFlyFish
12:24 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
201. simeon9benjamin 12:15 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 This system has the potential to become a hurricane if the environment is right.

IFF a Frog had wings it wouldn't bump it's butt each time it hops.
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244. Drakoen
4:27 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
240. IKE 4:26 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
BOC low...uh...put away those SC and FL landfalls!


lol.
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243. atmoaggie
4:26 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
another 24-48 hrs if it continues to persist and and becomes better organize.

And do not forget the MP requirement.
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242. juniormeteorologist
4:23 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
simeon9benjamin i agree! when will this become an invest?
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241. TheCaneWhisperer
4:25 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Looks like it's the BOC on this run.
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240. IKE
11:26 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
BOC low...uh...put away those SC and FL landfalls!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
239. FLWeatherFreak91
12:25 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
231. JFV 12:24 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
indefinitely or pernamently drak?


Chill out man! These models swing around a lot! I assure you Miami still has a chance. lol
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238. Weather456
12:24 PM AST on May 26, 2008
221. simeon9benjamin 12:22 PM AST on May 26, 2008
The system in the pacific is starting to get better organized. How long before it becomes ann invest.


another 24-48 hrs if it continues to persist and and becomes better organize.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
237. Drakoen
4:24 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
231. JFV 4:24 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
indefinitely or pernamently drak?


The lower to mid level ridge its keep a bit longer than the previous run but the system could still go north with that trough in the Northeast U.S.
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235. Stormchaser2007
12:25 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
chaser you made me spit out my coffee lol

Sorry!! I almost fell on the floor when I saw that!! LOL
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233. JRRP
4:22 PM GMT on Mayo 26, 2008



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232. hahaguy
12:23 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
chaser you made me spit out my coffee lol
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230. ShenValleyFlyFish
12:15 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
201. simeon9benjamin 12:15 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 This system has the potential to become a hurricane if the environment is right.

IFF a Frog had wings it wouldn't bump it's butt each time it hops.
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229. weatherfromFlorida
4:23 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Here comes the Chaos! My Figures are hurting from re-fresh. It forms the system into a Low in the Caribbean on Wendsday
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228. IKE
11:22 AM CDT on May 26, 2008
It's crossing the Yucatan on this run...going further west...BOC?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
227. Stormchaser2007
12:23 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
220. my bad....
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226. FLWeatherFreak91
12:21 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
wow! Look at the new pic Dr. Masters just posted. Those two cylindrical buildings in the background have two humongous dents.... so much for the cylinder being the strongest shape lol
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225. scottsvb
4:22 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
looks like the GFS has this going more west and landfall again in belieze...no catagory 3+ for anyone on the boards!
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224. juniormeteorologist
4:21 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
thanx all!
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223. Stormchaser2007
12:21 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Remember when its crazy around here....

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222. Drakoen
4:22 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The GFS wants to take it inland into the Yucatan.
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221. simeon9benjamin
4:22 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The system in the pacific is starting to get better organized. How long before it becomes ann invest.
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220. Weather456
12:17 PM AST on May 26, 2008
f you recall, IOKE formed in the E PAC and moved into the C PAC but still kept the name IOKE. =)
Action: |


Ioke formed in the Central Pacific...and crossed into the West Pacific.
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218. Drakoen
4:20 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
lol haha.
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217. Stormchaser2007
12:19 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
"We have to have 1000 things happen in order and we are on #7, you are talking about #692."

Dang Im saving that one... lol
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215. FLWeatherFreak91
12:19 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
"We have to have 1000 things happen in order and we are on #7, you are talking about #692."


LMAO
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214. hahaguy
12:17 PM EDT on May 26, 2008

it is alive lol
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213. TEXASYANKEE43
4:17 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Now tell me is this thing goin to make a second landfall in SC?




Calm down Jr. It's not even a storm yet!
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212. HurricaneGeek
12:17 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
206.
okay, my mistake,thanks =)
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210. Stormchaser2007
12:17 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Junior It hasnt even developed yet its impossible to tell....
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209. juniormeteorologist
4:15 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
listen, i really want to know if this thing will make a second landfall in SC because it will be good thing for me because I can do alot of tracking and give alot of forecasts. Now tell me is this thing goin to make a second landfall in SC?
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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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