Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Yet Another Over-Performing Tornado Outbreak Last Night

Severe tornado damage in Oak Grove, Missouri
Photo from television station KCTV 
Yet another outbreak of tornadoes and severe storms hit the nation yesterday and last night, with about 30 preliminary reports of tornadoes from Kansas and Missouri to Minnesota.

So far, I haven't heard of any deaths associated with the tornadoes, which is a good thing, but there were injuries, and lots of destruction.  

That there were no deaths is largely due to timely and accurate warnings from National Weather Service offices, alerts from storm chasers and local media who stayed on top of the situation.

Kudos to all of those folks, for sure!

That said, there's a lot of damage to sort through today.

It appears the hardest hit town was Oak Grove, east of Kansas City, Missouri, which was hit by a powerful nighttime tornado after dark last evening.

I was watching my Twitter feed as the tornado got going, and the good news is Oak Grove residents got plenty of advance warning from local media to hide in their basements as the tornado approached.

That's fortunate, since this is what ended up happening in Oak Grove, according to ABC News:

"Chief Carl Scarborough of the Sni Valley Fire Protection District in Oak Grove, Missouri told ABC News Monday night that between 100 and 200 people had been displaced from their homes, but that figure may increase.

He added that 'dozens and dozens' of homes have sustained moderate to severe damage in Oak Grove, with a significant number of additional sustaining light to minimal damage.

Scarbourough said he is aweare of 12 people who were treated for injuries, three of whom were transported to the hospital. None of the injuries were life-threatening. "

Video from a KCTV chopper this morning showed dozens of smashed and roofless houses in Oak Grove.

The video is one of a few at the bottom of this post.

Elsewhere, several tornadoes caused damage in Iowa.

National Weather Service investigators will check out an area of damage in Minnesota where a tornado is believed to have touched down. If the damage is proven to have been caused by a tornado, it will be the earliest in the season that state has been hit by a twister.

This has been a season of early season tornadoes unusually far north in the United States. Tornadoes struck Pennsylvania and Massachusetts on February 25,

Three tornadoes touched down in Michigan on February 28. The only other time Michigan had a tornado was a single twister on February 28, 1974.

The year 1974, by the way, went on to become a particularly terrible tornado year for the United States. An outbreak of 148 tornadoes, many of them deadly, struck the nation on April 3-4, 1974. That was the most extensive tornado out break in the United States on record until April 26-28, 2011, which was even worse.


There's no guarantee 2017 will end up being an especially bad tornado year. The trend we've had this year of more twisters than usual could sputter.

However, one of many ingredients needed for tornadoes is stronger than ever before.

Generally speaking, storms that produce batches of tornadoes need lots of warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico. Storm systems this winter have taken paths that easily draw on this warmth and humidity. And a lot of these storms have tracked further to the north than they usually do this time of year.

If the Gulf of Mexico waters are unusually warm, it can provide more toasty and wet air than usual to the middle of the country.

Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico have been and still are at all time record highs this winter, so that's feeding additional amounts of fuel to tornado-producing storm systems.

Of course, as noted, that doesn't necessarily mean the United States will keep getting extra tornadoes, and extra strong tornadoes the rest of the spring.

In addition to the warm, humid Gulf of Mexico air, storm systems have to cross over the middle of the nation at just the right locations and directions to create tornado outbreaks.

There also needs to be the proper "spin" in the atmosphere, and it helps to have intrusions of very dry air from the west, and cold air from the north to create tornado outbreaks.

If any one of these critical ingredients is missing, you won't get many tornadoes. That's why the severe weather outlook for the rest of the spring and summer is  so iffy. Still, the warm Gulf of Mexico remains an ominous factor. 


There won't be nearly as much severe weather today in the nation. There could be severe storms, and possibly a brief tornado in and around Mississippi today.

But even without the twisters the weather pattern is very active, and in some spots, potentially dangerous in parts of the nation today and on through the weekend.

There were some terrible wildfires yesterday in places like Colorado and Kansas Monday, and the risk has spread eastward.

A large area in the middle of the nation, including storm-racked Missouri, is at risk of brush and wildfires today.

You'd think the rain from last night's storms would keep things damp, but strong winds, and very, very dry air moving in from the west will raise the fire risk by this afternoon.

A strong blast of cold air coming into much of the nation will suppress the risk of severe weather through this weekend, though the icy air will hit areas that have had an early spring, raising the risk of crop damage in too-early blooming plants and trees.


Here's why you shouldn't stay outside in lightning, as a guy filmed a tornado-warned storm with lots of lightning in Minnesota. Nobody got hurt in this incident:

Here's the KCTV aerial footage of severe tornado damage in Oak Grove, Missouri:

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