Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 14:42 GMT le 07 mai 2007
The huge, 1.4 mile-wide tornado that devastated Greensburg, KS on Friday night, May 4, was an EF-5 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. A preliminary damage survey by the National Weather Service found that the storm likely had 205 mph winds, putting it just above the 200 mph wind threshold for an EF5 rating. This is the first tornado ever rated as an EF5 using the new scale, adopted in February of 2007, and the first tornado to receive a "5" rating since the May 3, 1999 Moore-Bridge Creek tornado that devastated the southern suburbs of Oklahoma City. Had the Greensburg tornado hit downtown Chicago, the death toll could have easily been in the thousands, as I discussed last month in my blog, "Big Wind in the Windy City".
The severe storm action finally quieted down yesterday in Kansas and the Plains; only 11 reports of tornadoes were received, compared to 93 on Saturday and 33 on Friday. The severe weather action should stay at a slow simmer through Wednesday over the Plains; the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has portions of the region under its "Slight Risk" area for severe weather through Wednesday. Flooding is a major concern now; most of eastern Kansas, plus large portions of Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota are under flood warnings. More heavy thunderstorm rains during the week are expected to add to the problem.
We've saved some extraordinary 1 Mb animations of the radar reflectivity and Doppler velocities of the tornado. I asked wunderground meteorologist and tornado expert Rob Carver to comment on what's going on in the animations, and here was his analysis:
This was likely an example of cyclic mesocyclogenesis. In a nutshell, the rear-flank downdraft surges out, wraps around and occludes the mesocyclone (Meso A for short). Meso A then veers to the left and dies, this is why tornado family members curve to the left as they dissipate. While Meso A is dying, a new meso spins up and becomes the dominant meso. Now, while I've seen plenty of simulated cyclic cases where the hook retreats when Meso A occludes, I don't think I've seen anything as dramatic.
Wunderblogger Mike Theiss was out chasing the weekend storms; be sure to tune into his blog over the next few days to read his chase accounts.
Figure 1. Visible satellite image of the May 7, 2007 coastal storm.
Coastal Carolina storm
A powerful non-tropical low pressure system formed off the coast of North Carolina last night, and is bringing tropical storm-force winds as high as 55 mph to the waters offshore the Carolina coast, according to the latest QuikSCAT satellite wind estimates. The North Carolina Diamond Shoals buoy had 17 foot seas and sustained winds of 43 mph at 9am EDT this morning, and buoy 41001 about 175 miles east of Cape Hatteras recorded sustained winds of 62 mph gusting to 80 mph at 1am this morning. Seas were 41 feet at this buoy this morning! The strong winds will bring 10-20 foot seas and significant beach erosion to the shores of North Carolina, South Carolina, and northeast Florida through Wednesday. A 3-5 foot storm surge is expected along portions of the North Carolina coast through Tuesday morning. The latest set of computer model runs have the storm drifting slowly southwest, and bring it ashore between the South Carolina and northern Florida coast on Wednesday. The storm will start to develop thunderstorm activity and a warm core, but will probably not have time to become fully subtropical and become Subtropical Storm Andrea. However, the storm is only expected to weaken slowly, and will have an impact similar to a tropical storm in regards to offshore winds and coastal flooding today and Tuesday. If the storm does indeed make landfall on Wednesday as expected, it will most likely be of tropical depression strength, with top sustained winds around 30-35 mph. Heavy rains of 1-3 inches can be expected to the north of where the center makes landfall, but rains will not be as significant as what a tropical storm would bring.
I'll have an update on this storm Tuesday morning.
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