The Deep South Outbreak may have been one of the worst in recent U.
The March 18, event, that included the infamous Tri-State Tornado which alone is believed to cause almost deaths, is the deadliest in recorded U. Also included in the image above is the deadliest March tornado since , responsible for 58 deaths 57 in Mississippi. There is no impact on the events selected as the top 5 all featured many more than tornadoes. In this short analysis, I have not included a hard time constraint other than a general 12 hour break. Grazulis favors a 6 hour break for outbreak end, but many consider additional tornadoes from the same system part of the same outbreak unless there are major spatial differences between events.
I will continue to refine how the term is used here going forward. In , one tornado after a 10 hour break killed 4 but was easily identifiable as the same event. Today, some of these tornadoes are going for ten minutes and longer. It comes in, and it goes up and over the Rocky Mountains, and it subsides and it warms, and that makes southerly winds out over the central part of the United States.
And those southerly winds bring in a relatively warm and moist air off the Gulf of Mexico and overspreads the plains area. This one, over Tushka, Oklahoma, becomes a tornado, killing two people. But that's just the beginning. Over 52 hours, tornadoes touch down in 16 states.
Dr. Kevin Simmons
Thirty-eight people lose their lives, from Texas to North Carolina. This is a shocking start to tornado season, described as one of the largest single system tornado outbreaks in U. Scientists are asking, "Is it an isolated incident or part of a pattern? We saw, around the 16th of the month, a major tornado outbreak in North Carolina.
The questions became, "Can we predict that this pattern will continue? GREG CARBIN: We have, actually, a system that will take a forecast and it will compare that forecast to historic weather events of the past, and so there was a good analogue for this event that had occurred in the past to the forecast pattern that was coming up in the days ahead.
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Greg is concerned that the position of the jet stream, the river of air that circles the earth high in the atmosphere, is affecting the weather. It's shown here in blue. We can see the similarities with this event in jet stream diving across the Rocky Mountains, driving intense thunderstorms across the southeast Tennessee Valley and Ohio Valley.
I sent an email out to the National Weather Service—publicly available through our website—talking about the fact that the upcoming event showed signs of similarity to the outbreak that we saw in November, Some meteorologists believe it could be even worse than the Veterans Day outbreak. A tantalizing clue lies off the coast of Peru.
The eastern Pacific, July, Ocean buoys record unusually cold sea surface temperatures. Scientists can now measure the effect. And the combination of those two provided an environment that was more conducive to large tornadic outbreaks than you might have in other years. NARRATOR: By spring, , the newly intensified jet stream was already contributing to rainfall and floods across the south, plus droughts and raging wildfires in Texas, warning signs of historic weather extremes.
A hundred-forty-eight twisters touched down, in 13 states, from Mississippi all the way up to New York, killing people and injuring thousands. Thirty minutes later, Hackleburg, Alabama is hit, killing 18 people. Then Cullman, Alabama, leaving 19 dead.
Analyzing the 2011 Tornado Outbreaks
Get in a safe place right now! The storm itself actually lasted seven and a half hours, because of the various dynamics, with the storm producing tornadoes along a good chunk of that length. You see regions all across northern Alabama, into northwestern Georgia, even up into western North Carolina.
Tennessee was also affected, so a tremendous number of tornadoes, for this outbreak. Families in trailer homes and timber-framed houses lose everything. And I can't get any of it back; I can't get any of it back.
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Whole blocks are virtually flattened. The rotation sometimes becomes the entire tornado, and that's what was happening down there, and it looked like a fleet of them coming across. Although disaster investigator Tim Marshall sees it often, he is always shocked. I mean, after all, all it is air and water, so how dangerous could that be?
The April 2011 Super Outbreak
An EF-0 is damage to tree limbs, some shingles off of a roof or so. And then EF-1 is more substantial damage, like some roof decking. Less than one percent of all tornadoes get to be that strong and get to produce that kind of intensity. The large Tuscaloosa tornado is rated an EF Many more could have died, had it been an EF Overall, the April, , death toll hits It is heartbreaking.
Some residents here were lucky enough to escape alive, but they lost everything. The warnings in those days were just absolutely terrible. Equipment weren't too…the radars were nice, but just nothing to go with them, no computers. And I can only warn you, because it blew someone else's house away, down the street.
That's how bad the warnings were. It's where most of them come from. In the s, satellites were launched to observe cloud formations and give readings of Earth's temperature. But when Doppler radar was introduced, in , scientists could clearly see the hook echo, signaling that rotation had begun. Powerful computers that could analyze vast amounts of data helped get the tornado lead time to today's minute average.
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This has saved many lives, but could it be better? Most forecasters believe that a breakthrough will come only by unlocking more detail on exactly how a tornado forms. Howie Bluestein and his team intend to do just that. They've developed a new Doppler radar to carry on their truck. If they catch a tornado, it could give them enough data to create a computer model they can use to evaluate future storms.
So, then, you can issue a forecast and say, "There's a 20 percent chance that in your neighborhood, four hours from now you might get a tornadic thunderstorm. And that just means that the wind is coming from different directions and speeds, with height. To turn into a tornado it needs to go vertical. And what that does is it takes the spinning air, and it stretches it in the vertical.
So you can imagine that, say, you had one of those Chinese finger trap toys, and you pull on it on both ends, it constricts that access of rotation. It makes it spin faster. That helps us explain most of how tornadoes form, but we don't have a good handle, necessarily, on, on the mechanisms that create that spin near the ground, though. That's where a lot of the research is focused at the moment. What else can turn a rotating thunderstorm into a tornado? If scientists can work out other possible factors, like wind speed, temperature and pressure, they may be able to, in effect, "reverse-engineer" a tornado.
I cannot discern any rotation visually, but we need to keep a, keep an eye on that. Earlier models scanned the sky about every two minutes; this new radar does it every two seconds. It also scans in minute detail, capturing the actual size of raindrops, hail and debris.
So, we're just going to sit here and wait. Historically, May is even worse than April. Fascinatingly, this particular year, right after the events of April 27, these active, storm tracks broke down. After a record April, as far as tornado events, we were headed for a record May, as far as the fewest tornado events on the record, and then Joplin. And this action, here, produces a spin. The effect of tornadoes on lethality across the day Early tornadoes and fatalities on April Tornadoes with 20 or more fatalities by decade Distribution of tornado-path population changes after a killer tornado 75 viii FIGURES.
We also thank Greg Carbin of the Storm Prediction Center for providing us with preliminary tornado reports from We again thank Jeff Kimpel for encouraging two economists to research tornadoes. Kevin Simmons I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to my wife, Susan, for always being my cheerleader. Dan Sutter I thank my wife, Natalie, for her love and support; my dogs, Norm, Cliff, and Diane, for sacrificing several daily walks while I was working on the manuscript; and my son, Chuck, for obeying his due date so I could finish the book.
Dan Sutter To my beautiful and wonderful wife, Natalie.
Deadly Season: Analysis of the 2011 Tornado Outbreaks
The average number of tornado fatalities has decreased over the decades since then, a testament to the value of that information and its increasing accuracy and timeliness, which enables the public to take shelter. No tornado had killed more than 40 people in the years through In recent years there was some sense that, in the absence of a violent tornado hitting some major outdoor venue, the days of multiscore-fatality tornadoes were largely over. That false hope was shattered in as violent tornadoes took aim on communities with devastating results. They brought fatalities the most in the United States since The tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri on May 22 caused direct deaths and additional indirect fatalities, making it the deadliest individual tornado in the United States since A pair of Alabama tornadoes on April 27 killed 72 and 64 people, ranking them as the next two deadliest tornadoes in the United States since With fatalities, April 27, tied with March 21, as the second-deadliest day of tornadoes, trailing only March 18, the xiii.
The authors have statistically examined just about every conceivable factor that might have contributed to the high death toll from tornadoes in , following decades of progress in reducing tornado lethality. Their analysis includes tornado characteristics, demographic and socioeconomic factors, and warning parameters. Many of the deadliest tornadoes during April occurred in the Southeast, and one chapter of the book examines whether that region is more vulnerable to deadly tornadoes. While the latter is found to be true, a more detailed analysis reveals that the killer tornadoes in often did not follow past tendencies.
This book examines statistics like death rate per million of population to assess whether we are any better off now than in the pre stone age years with no public tornado forecasting. An enlightening part of that analysis includes computing the magnitude of the deaths as an anomaly relative to recent years, and how it stacks up against the anomaly values for deadly years many decades ago.
The year has clearly shown that we are still extremely vulnerable to tornadoes individually and as a society. Development of and advances in numerical modeling and prediction of the atmosphere, sophisticated satellites, Doppler radar, and storm-savvy meteorologists have dramatically improved the forecasting and warning of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.