What was the biggest weather event in our area during 2011?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Deadly Tornado Outbreak

Sunday was the beginning of a long recovery process for parts of the Southern Plains and Midwest, just hours after deadly tornadoes ravaged the area.  The tornado count stand at 122 from Saturday; this number will likely be adjusted by the National Weather Service over the next few days.
                                                              (Filtered Storm Reports, SPC)
The hardest hit areas, by the tornadoes, were Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa.  The only known deaths were in Oklahoma.  A powerful, long track, tornado blasted through the city just after midnight as many residents were gearing up for bed.  To make the situation worse, the tornado impacted the transmitter which triggers the tornado sirens to alert residents of immanent danger by a tornado.  This caused the sirens to not work properly as the tornado churned through the city at 60mph.  The tornado was rated an EF-3 in parts of the city and destroyed 89 homes and over one dozen businesses.                                (Photo Courtesy: NWS)
Sadly, this EF-3 tornado took the lives of six people in Woodward, Oklahoma; town of about 12,000 people.  The medical examiner confirms the six deaths as well as confirms two of those deaths were children believed to be ages 5 and 7; close to thirty people were injured in Woodward too.  Most of the deaths occurred at the Hidden Valley Mobile Home Park which took a direct hit from the tornado.  (The photo above is from that mobile home park)  The mobile home park does have a community storm shelter, but due to the lack of warning, because of the sirens not functioning properly, many were not able to make it to shelter in time.  (Tornado Timeline, Courtesy Norman NWS)
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency in 12 counties in order to help expedite resources.

Damaging tornadoes ripped through Kansas Saturday afternoon/overnight as well.  Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said "97 tornadoes touched down" in his state; this has not been confirmed by the National Weather Service.  Wichita, Kansas was one of the hardest hit areas in the state overnight.  The NWS has given the tornado a preliminary rating of an EF-3.  The hardest hit areas, in Wichita, were on the southeast side of the city where the large wedge tornado rapidly moved through the city.
                                    (Picture Taken By Brandon Ivey, Courtesy KWCH & NWS)
The tornado in Sedgwick County, Wichita, also hit after dark, but luckily no deaths occurred; close to one dozen people were injured.  Sedgwick County estimates damages close to $300 million!  (Another noteworthy tornado in Kansas was in Ellsworth County and the NWS has given a preliminary EF-4 rating on that tornado.)

Iowa and Nebraska were also hard hit by tornadoes on Saturday.  The community of Thurman, Iowa, town of 300 people, was especially hard hit with 75% of the town being wiped off of the map.

Sunday has featured volatile weather for parts of the country as tornadic storms moved across areas just west of the Mississippi River.  There have been 10 reports of tornadoes.
                                                                        (Preliminary Reports)
These tornadoes were caused by a very potent low, combined with exceptionally moist conditions, and strong windshear near the surface and aloft.  The SPC, and NWS, recognized this outbreak would occur several days in advance of the event and gave adequate warning to the public.  Their hard work and advanced warning helped save the lives of many people.  I commend their very hard work and spot on risk outlook.

I do not want to leave out the Norman, Oklahoma tornado because this was also indirectly caused by the same system.  Norman lucked out as this tornado briefly touched down in parts of the city.  It would have been a different story if this tornado would have stayed on the ground through the whole city.  Norman is home to the University of Oklahoma; there are over 30,000 students who attend the University.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tornado Outbreak!

A dangerous tornado outbreak is in the making for this evening and overnight.  Tornadic supercells have already formed in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska this afternoon with several reports of tornadoes touching down.                                (Preliminary Storm Reports)
Thunderstorms will continue to develop in the Southern Plains as we near the dusk hours which will make for an even more dangerous situation.  The SPC has a high risk for severe thunderstorms from Nebraska down into central Oklahoma.  High risk days are very rare and this needs to be taken seriously.  Violent EF2-EF5 tornadoes are possible this afternoon and overnight; these storms will not weaken overnight!                                                    (Risk Area Per SPC)
The best chance for violent tornadoes will be from Nebraska down into the OKC/Norman Metro areas, but southern Oklahoma and northwest/north Texas need to watch out too because if a surface based storm gets going in one of these areas a tornado will be possible too.  The main limiting factors, for southern Oklahoma/north Texas,  is the CAP and strong forcing being located just north which will help inhibit thunderstorms.
                                                                  (Tornado Probabilities)
All the parameters are coming together at the most dangerous time of the day, so again, please be alert to your weather conditions; these storms will continue into the night and will even be enhanced due to the LLJ which will contribute to the winds changing with height.  This could be a record outbreak for the Southern Plains!  Everybody please be safe tonight and share this to spread the word about this dangerous setup. 

Just a side note, this is the one year anniversary of the deadly Tushka tornado that occurred on April 14, 2011.  We at Texoma Weather/primoweather.com commend the people of that community as the continue the recovery process.