Tornadoes, floods, and fires continue to pound U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 03:13 PM GMT die 27o April, anno 2011

Share this Blog
8
+

The nation's unprecedented April tornado-fest continued full force last night, with NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logging 57 tornado reports, 295 cases of damaging thunderstorm winds, and 254 reports of large hail. The 2-day tornado count from this latest huge April tornado outbreak is already 102. With another "high risk" forecast for tornadoes today, the tornado total for this week's outbreak may rival the April 14 - 16 tornado outbreak (155 confirmed tornadoes) as the greatest April tornado outbreak in history. It is unprecedented to have two such massive tornado outbreaks occur so close together, and the April preliminary tornado count of 654 is truly stunning. Even adjusting this number downwards 15% (the typical over-count in preliminary tornado reports) yields a probable April tornado total of 550. This easily crushes the previous April tornado record of 267, set in 1974. An average April has "only" 163 tornadoes, so we are already 300% over average for the month, and may approach 400% after today's outbreak. According to a list of tornado outbreaks maintained by Wikipedia, only two other tornado outbreaks have had as many as 150 twisters--the May 2004 outbreak (385), and the May 2003 outbreak (401). One positive note--there has only been one violent EF-4 or stronger tornado this year, despite the fact we've already had about 2/3 of the 1200 tornadoes one typically gets for the entire year. Over the past 20 years, we've averaged 7 violent EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes per year, so we should have had 4 or 5 of these most dangerous of tornadoes so far this year.


Figure 1. Satellite image of last night's storm at 8pm EDT April 26, 2011. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Fortunately, no one was killed in last night's tornado frenzy, but four twisters caused injuries, with 7 injuries in Hesterman, Mississippi, and 3 in Beekman, Louisiana. Over 100 homes were damaged when a tornado struck Edom, Texas, approximately 75 miles East of Dallas. One woman was injured when her mobile home was destroyed. The only killer tornado of the current outbreak occurred on Monday night at 7:30 pm CDT when a 1/2 mile-wide EF-2 tornado struck the small town of Vilonia, Arkansas. Four people died in the town, where 50 - 80 buildings were destroyed. Tornado warnings were issued 30 minutes before the storm hit, contributing to the relatively low loss of life.


Figure 2. Storm chaser video of a tornado yesterday in Ben Wheeler, Texas.

Another very dangerous tornado outbreak expected today
The busiest April in history for tornadoes continues full-force today, as NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has issued their highest level of severe weather potential, a "High Risk" forecast, for Northern Alabama, Southern Tennessee, and adjoining portions of Georgia and Mississippi. This is the second day in a row, and third time this year, that SPC has issued a "High Risk" forecast. The devastating North Carolina tornado outbreak of April 16, which generated 52 confirmed tornadoes that killed 24 people in North Carolina and 2 people in Virginia, was the other "high risk" day. Numerous tornado warnings have already been issued in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Ohio, and Alabama this morning, but today's main action is expected to erupt late this afternoon as the cold front from a low pressure system currently over Arkansas moves eastwards over the "high risk" area. Strong daytime heating in a very moist, unstable airmass will allow a tremendous amount of energy to build up ahead of the front. The arrival of the cold front will force the warm, moist air upwards, allowing the pent-up energy to burst out and fuel supercell thunderstorms.

Related post: Are tornadoes getting stronger and more frequent?


Figure 3. Severe weather threat for Wednesday, April 27, 2011.

Unprecedented flooding predicted on Ohio River
This week's storm system, in combination with heavy rains earlier this month, have pushed the Ohio River and Mississippi River to near-record levels near their confluence. The Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois is expected to crest at 60.5 feet on May 1. This would exceed 100-year flood stage, and be the highest flood in history, besting the 59.5' mark of 1937. Heavy rains of 10 - 15 inches have inundated the region over the past few days, and one levee breach at Black River levee near Poplar Bluff, Missouri, has resulted in the evacuation of over 500 homes. Poplar Bluff has received 15.45" of rain since Friday morning. The greatest rain gauge-measured precipitation from the storm occurred in Springdale, Arkansas, where 19.70" inches has fallen since Friday morning.


Figure 4. The latest River Flood Outlook from NOAA shows major flooding is occurring over many of the nation's major rivers.

Extraordinary intentional levee breach of Mississippi River halted by lawsuit
In a sign of just how extreme this flooding situation is, yesterday the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for flood control efforts on the Mississippi River, announced plans to intentionally destroy a levee protecting the west bank of the Mississippi River in Southwest Missouri. The destruction of the levee is intended to relieve pressure on the levees at Cairo, Illinois, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Cairo is currently under a voluntary evacuation order. The levee to be destroyed, located at Birds Point, is called a "fuse-plug" levee, and was designed to be destroyed in the event of a record flood. The levee protects 132,000 acres of prime farmland along the New Madrid Spillway, which is designed to take 550,000 cubic feet per second of water flow out of the Mississippi and redirect it down a 3 - 10 mile wide, 36 - 56 mile long path along the west side of the Mississippi. An 11-mile long section of the levee upstream at Birds Point, and 5-mile long stretch at the downstream end, are set two feet lower than the surrounding levees and filled with holes to accommodate dynamite. These levees will be destroyed if the Army Corps has its way, but a lawsuit by the state of Missouri is currently blocking the way. The Army Corps has now agreed to wait until Saturday to decide whether or not to blow the levee. The Army Corps' website has an unofficial damage estimate of $100 million for destroying the levees and flooding the New Madrid Spillway. At least 100 people live in the spillway and have been evacuated, and it would likely take many years for the farms to recover after flooding. The levees have been blown and the spillway opened only once before, back during the record flood of 1937.

Midwest deluge enhanced by near-record Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures
The deluge of rain that caused this flood found its genesis in a flow of warm, humid air coming from the Gulf of Mexico. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs )in the Gulf of Mexico are currently close to 1 °C above average. Only two Aprils since the 1800s (2002 and 1991) have had April SSTs more than 1 °C above average, so current SSTs are among the highest on record. These warm ocean temperatures helped set record high air temperatures in many locations in Texas yesterday, including Galveston (84°F, a tie with 1898), Del Rio (104°F, old record 103° in 1984), San Angelo (97°F, old record 96° in 1994). Record highs were also set on Monday in Baton Rouge and Shreveport in Louisiana, and in Austin, Mineral Wells, and Cotulla la Salle in Texas. Since this week's storm brought plenty of cloud cover that kept temperatures from setting record highs in many locations, a more telling statistic of how warm this air mass was is the huge number of record high minimum temperature records that were set over the past two days. For example, the minimum temperature reached only 79°F in Brownsville, TX Monday morning, beating the previous record high minimum of 77°F set in 2006. In Texas, Austin, Houston, Port Arthur, Cotulla la Salle, Victoria, College Station, Victoria, Corpus Christi, McAllen, and Brownsville all set record high minimums on Monday, as did New Orleans, Lafayette, Monroe, Shreveport, and Alexandria in Louisiana, as well as Jackson and Tupelo in Mississippi. Since record amounts of water vapor can evaporate into air heated to record warm levels, it is not a surprise that incredible rains and unprecedented floods are resulting from this month's near-record warm SSTs in the Gulf of Mexico.


Figure 5. Departure of sea surface temperature from average for April 25, 2001. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS.

Fierce winds fan Texas, New Mexico fires
Fierce winds fanned raging fires across eastern New Mexico and Western Texas yesterday, thanks to a powerful flow of air feeding into the Midwestern storm system. Temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s combined with humidities less than 10% combined to make yesterday a nightmare fire day for firefighters attempting to control the worst springtime fires in the history of the region. At 3:53 pm MDT yesterday in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the temperature was 87°F, winds were 38 mph gusting to 46, and the humidity was 8%--a perfect storm for extreme fire weather. In Fort Stockton, Texas near the huge Rock House fire, the temperature was 91°F, winds were 35 mph gusting to 44, visibility was reduced to 5 miles due to haze and smoke, and the humidity was 5% at 5:53pm CDT. According to the Interagency Fire Center, wildfires in 2011 have already burned nearly 2.3 million acres in the U.S. This is the greatest acreage on record so early in the year, and is more area than burned all of last year. The largest U.S. acreage to burn since 1960 was the 9.9 million acres that burned in 2007, so we area already 25% of the way to the all-time record fire year--with summer still more than a month away. The fire weather forecast for today is better then yesterday, with winds not expected to blow nearly as strong.


Figure 6. Major wildfires and smoke plumes as visualized using our wundermap with the "fire" layer turned on.

For those who want to lend a helping hand to those impacted by the widespread destruction this month's severe weather has brought, stop by the portlight.org blog.

Jeff Masters

Rare Sight (Freakofnature1)
I haven't seen a storm like this in quite some time. Still no rain in Seguin, Tx. Pic taken in Seguin storm near Martindale.
Rare Sight
Mississippi @ Burlington (BURGuy)
Seating along the shore
Mississippi @ Burlington
Base of Anvil Cloud 4/26/11 (HuskerMama)
Taken within minutes after the storm cell had passed directly overhead.
Base of Anvil Cloud 4/26/11
Southern Lightning (WeatherRose)
This is a shot of a lightning strike associated with some severe storms moving through this evening in Southaven, MS.
Southern Lightning

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 1423 - 1373

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30Blog Index

Back to the houses thing... this is a topic that comes up every hurricane season.... could better building practices have prevented deaths?

In the case of tornados, it seems to me the number one building thing to do is to minimize or eradicate mobile homes. In the event of a hurricane, mobile home dwellers can evacuate to a shelter. Where do all the residents of a mobile home park go when they have only a few minutes to get away from a tornado?

The other thing that seems to be a lifesaver is a basement. I saw a picture this a.m. that suggested the wooden house which had "disappeared" [3 women were killed in the process] was built on stilts, that is with open space under the flooring, I'm assuming to minimize the effects of flooding. This design is excellent for the kinds of climate problems pple in the area were likely to have dealt with in the past, but not so effective for tornados, which would [and did] lift and toss / shred said house. There was obviously no basement dug into the ground at this house.

Would being made of stone / concrete / brick make such a design less vulnerable to tornados? Would a small "storm basement" in the same yard have helped to protect the lives of those ladies? [I'm keeping in mind that conditions which produce tornados also can produce massive flooding.]

I don't think it's a simple question of "stupid houses'. I'm sure people who are replacing their lost homes want to build better, stronger ones. But what is really going to be best for them going forward still presents a bit of a puzzle...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Morning All
Coastal Carolina just went under a Tornado Watch until 4 pm!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Sad sad day for all affected by these powerful storms, hoping the rescue efforts will bring us some stories of survivals. Clean up will take a great deal of time and effort and money.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1420. emcf30
Incidents Sponsored by Incident Page Network
Incident Description
SEARCH & RESCUE
04/28/11 01:49 (RINGGOLD - ) UPDATE: SEARCH & RESCUE CONTINUES; FIVE ADDITIONAL FATALITIES CONFIRMED - BRINGING THE TOTAL TO SEVEN. [GEO014]
TECHNICAL RESCUE
04/28/11 00:11 (RINGGOLD - ) GSAR WORKING MULTIPLE ENTRAPMENT CALLS ON CHEROKEE VALLEY ROAD [GEO014]
SEARCH & RESCUE
04/27/11 23:43 (RINGGOLD - ) UPDATE: SEARCH & RESCUE CONTINUES; 10-12 COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS HAVE COLLAPSED; 200 INJURED; GSAR ON SCENE [GEO014]
TRAFFIC ADVISORY
04/27/11 22:43 (RINGGOLD - 154.430) POLICE DEPARTMENT ADVISING NUMEROUS TREES DOWN ACROSS ROAD. AVOID AREA. FIND ALT ROUTE [GEO070]
TRAFFIC ADVISORY
04/27/11 22:39 (RINGGOLD - 154.430) POLICE DEPARTMENT ON SCENE ADVISING TREES DOWN ACROSS ROADWAY. AVOID AREA. [GEO070]
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
OK, now I want a basement in Florida.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Aquak9 - You can if you use FEDEX. I get tamales every December from my sister-in-law from New Mexico (if my brother-in-law doesn't eat them all on the way to FEDEX)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1417. emcf30

Dedication to tornado victims.Nellie Vin. Abstract
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
1416. beell
Focus for today's severe should be over coastal NC for the most part.

Northern parts of Florida should see some thunderstorms but shear will be weakening through the day to 30 knots or less.

Maybe even a chance they will fall under some subsidence S of the departing upper jet.
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 143 Comments: 16647
Quoting FLdewey:
What a mess.


Morning, Big D.

Definitely.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


Apr 28, 8:32 AM EDT

South storm death climbs to 193; 128 in Ala.

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1412. IKE

Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i think i need a break maybe i will get a 24 hr rest o well just in case see ya all sometime friday
lol.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Take care, KOTG..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1410. IKE

Quoting BahaHurican:
Re: 1404... Ike, more and more I am realizing that no matter where you live you will have to face some kind of threat from natural events. I guess the thing is to be as smart as you can about it and minimize the effects. Even then you can get surprised...
That is true.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Isn't it kinda early in the a.m. for apple pie talk???? lol
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1408. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
i think i need a break maybe i will get a 24 hr rest o well just in case see ya all sometime friday
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WILMINGTON NC
831 AM EDT THU APR 28 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN WILMINGTON NC HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
MARION COUNTY IN NORTHEAST SOUTH CAROLINA
FLORENCE COUNTY IN NORTHEAST SOUTH CAROLINA

* UNTIL 915 AM EDT

* AT 827 AM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO 7 MILES
SOUTHWEST OF NEW HOPE...OR ABOUT 7 MILES NORTHWEST OF LAKE CITY...
MOVING EAST AT 50 MPH.

* SOME LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE...
FRIENDFIELD...
HYMAN...
PAMPLICO...
GRESHAM...
BRITTON NECK...
RAINS...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Re: 1404... Ike, more and more I am realizing that no matter where you live you will have to face some kind of threat from natural events. I guess the thing is to be as smart as you can about it and minimize the effects. Even then you can get surprised...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1405. aquak9
Rasta- I don't think I can even mail an apple pie to orlando...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1404. IKE

Quoting BahaHurican:
Only other thing I can say this morning is last night really made me understand the power of tornados in a way I never before had.... Let's put it this way; I wouldn't actively choose to live in an area prone to them. Amazing to admit, I think I'd rather deal with the hurricanes, bad as they are. At least you can fool yourself that you've prepared....
Which is why I'm glad I live in the Florida panhandle....tornadoes here are rare and usually aren't the kind that hit Tuscaloosa yesterday. I can jump in my car and run from a hurricane too!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1403. Jax82
CNN Live has a live stream coming in of the Georgia and Alabama damage. I also have to say TWC had great coverage of these tornadoes yesterday. Basically live coverage of the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham tornado. Jeff Morrow had an amazing location at the top of a hill just south of Birmingham and got an amazing shot of the Tornado passing north of the city. He was also showing us debris falling from the sky 30 minutes before the storm even arrived. This was at about 7pm, and there were so many Tornado warnings at once it was hard for them to follow them all. An epic and sad day yesterday.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Only other thing I can say this morning is last night really made me understand the power of tornados in a way I never before had.... Let's put it this way; I wouldn't actively choose to live in an area prone to them. Amazing to admit, I think I'd rather deal with the hurricanes, bad as they are. At least you can fool yourself that you've prepared....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting aquak9:
bless you Keeper- I'd send you a homemade apple pie if I could


LOVE YOU AQUA!....I would send something if I remembered how to bake!..lol
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1399. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting BadHurricane:


I did not want to hurt anyone. Of course I feel sorry for people who have died. I just wanted to say that they would have a better chance to live in better conditions.
nothing withstands the power of nature remember one time they claim a ship was unsinkable and on the maiden trip it was sent to the bottom to show that nothing can withstand the power from this earth and all it took was an oversize icecube to do the deed
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1397. IKE
Live areal images from Ringgold,GA on TWC....from WXIA-TV.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Something else about the "stupid houses". I'll bet some of these pple were living in 3rd generation, maybe 4th generation homes their great grandparents built 100 years ago. Both our knowledge and our climate was different then. Poor houses... did they know 100 years ago that EF-4 tornadoes were going to be a part of their experience????
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1394. aquak9
bless you Keeper- I'd send you a homemade apple pie if I could
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


Member Since: February 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1520
Got to love the ignore feature.

a no longer little list
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1391. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting pottery:
What a lot of Bad News this morning.
I truly hope that the weather that is causing these tornados, changes soon.
Fascinating, Deadly, Terrible.
Noboddy needs this kind of stuff.
its done today pottery it pushes of the coast soon not much longer we are on the backside of the mess now we have strong winds blowing as the centre lifts up and passes me by temps were 17 at 7 its now 11 falling quickly
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I don't know about the other guy, but the "stupid house" thing is a way of blaming SOMEthing in the face of feelings of absolute inadequacy when confronted by the massive power of nature. This is the same comment you see from people... why did you live in the coastal zone when you know hurricanes are coming... why build a nuclear plant in an earthquake zone.... we as humans just don't always fully understand the devastating powers of nature.

And speaking of nuclear plants, I just read "The Browns Ferry nuclear power plant outside of Huntsville, Alabama, lost offsite power and had to use seven diesel generators to power the plant's three units.

The safety systems operated as needed and the emergency event was classified as the lowest of four levels, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said."

So the reality is we are just not as "big and bad" as we think we are as humans. Hubris r us.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
+15,000 Keeper.
Member Since: February 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1520
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
814 AM EDT THU APR 28 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
BALTIMORE COUNTY IN NORTHERN MARYLAND...
HARFORD COUNTY IN NORTHERN MARYLAND...

* UNTIL 845 AM EDT

* AT 809 AM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO OVER
NORTHWESTERN BALTIMORE COUNTY...OR 10 MILES EAST OF WESTMINSTER...
MOVING NORTHEAST AT 50 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
FREELAND...
MARYLAND LINE...
NORRISVILLE...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1380. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting BadHurricane:
Stupid american flimsy wooden houses!!!
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Watching the TWC last night, 30 miles away from the in Birmingham it was raining debris. Prayers go out to all effected. What a horrific event.



Have they got a good idea of how strong it was? It had to be at least a EF-3 and EF-4.
Member Since: February 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1520
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE COLUMBIA SC
805 AM EDT THU APR 28 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN COLUMBIA HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHEASTERN LEE COUNTY IN CENTRAL SOUTH CAROLINA
EASTERN SUMTER COUNTY IN CENTRAL SOUTH CAROLINA

* UNTIL 830 AM EDT

* AT 804 AM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO 12 MILES
SOUTHWEST OF LYNCHBURG...OR ABOUT 8 MILES EAST OF SOUTH SUMTER...
MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
LYNCHBURG
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1373. Jax82
Tuscaloosa, looks like a war zone, i'm sure the death toll will rise as the search continues for survivors.









Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 1423 - 1373

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Haze
72 °F
Canities