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Parkersburg tornado an EF-5; major flooding in Central America likely from 90E

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 03:46 PM GMT am 28. Mai 2008

The tornado that devastated Parkersburg, Iowa on Sunday has now been rated an EF-5 by the National Weather Service. An EF-5 is the strongest possible classification a tornado can receive, and is only given to those tornadoes with estimated winds over 200 mph. The winds in the Parkersburg tornado were estimated at 205 mph. At those wind speeds, total destruction of homes occurs. Even those sheltering in basements are not safe--several of the six deaths from the Parkersburg tornado were from people sheltering in basements.

The Parkersburg tornado cut a path 43 miles long and between 3/4 miles and 1.2 miles wide across Iowa, killing six people, completely destroying 350 buildings in Parkersburg, and injuring 70 people. It was only the second EF-5 tornado this decade in the U.S. The other EF-5 occurred in May 2007, when much of Greensburg, Kansas got leveled. The Parkersburg tornado was the first F5 or EF5 tornado in Iowa since the Jordan, Iowa tornado of June 13, 1976, and was the second deadliest in Iowa since official record-keeping began in 1950. Iowa's deadliest tornado hit Charles City on May 15, 1968, killing 13 while producing F5 damage.

Figure 1. EF-5 damage from the May 25, 2008 Parkersburg tornado. At EF-5 winds speeds (over 200mph), homes are completely destroyed or removed from their foundations. Image credit: Iowa Helicopter. The NWS Des Moines office has posted ground damage photos from their damage survey.

Major flooding likely in Central America from 90E
An area of low pressure (90E) in the Eastern Pacific off the coast of Costa Rica, near 10N 88W, is steadily organizing and appears likely to develop into a tropical depression later today or tomorrow. The National Hurricane Center is currently assigning a "High" probability (>50% chance) that this will be a tropical depression, in its new experimental Tropical Weather Outlook. Satellite loops show that the low has developed a very large and expanding circulation. This circulation is likely to expand across Central America into the Western Caribbean, allowing the storm to tap moisture from the Atlantic and Pacific. Storms that are able to tap the moisture sources of both oceans can be extremely dangerous rainmakers, even if they are weak tropical depressions. Already, 90E is generating very heavy rains in excess of six inches per day near its center. The storm is expected to move northeastward over Costa Rica or Nicaragua by Thursday or Friday, and should being dangerous flooding rains of 5-10 inches to those nations and Panama. Most of the computer model guidance suggests that the storm will then track to the north, spreading very heavy rains across Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, and southern Mexico by Saturday. These heavy rains will cause life-threatening flash flooding, particularly in mountainous regions.

Since 90E is beginning to dominate the circulation pattern of the region, it appears unlikely that a tropical depression will form in the Western Caribbean in the coming week, as some computer models have been predicting. It is possible that 90E could cross Central America and pop out in the Western Caribbean near the Yucatan Peninsula, or in the Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche. However, the crossing of Central America will severely disrupt the storm, and the odds of 90E becoming a depression in the Atlantic basin are low.

Figure 2. Observed precipitation for the 24 hours ending at 12Z (8am EDT) Wednesday May 28, 2008. Rainfall amounts in excess of 2000mm (eight inches, yellow colors) occurred near the center of disturbance 90E off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Image credit: U.S. Navy Monterey.

I'll have an update Thursday morning.

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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1040. HurrikanEB
10:47 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
um i was just curious... if a tropical depression such as TD1 were to form in the eastern pacific and then somehow mannaged to survive a central america crossing without dissipating and then strengthened to storm status in the atlantic would it recieve an atlantic name or pacific?(same question for an atlantic to pacific system)
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1039. Ivansrvivr
10:42 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
If TD1 makes it into the Atlantic Basin at all it would be in the NW Caribbean east of Belize. The upper atmosphere is extremely hostile in the GOM. The Bermuda High which is starting to appear would draw it northward maybe somewhat east of northward. It probably will cause increased chances for rainfall for FL this weekend

Ike I posted this before I looked at that 6zgfs model.
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1038. IKE
5:45 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
6Z GFS........

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1037. trunkmonkey
10:38 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
I've been watching the blog for several weeks now, and take most of the blogs to heart,the models show TD 1 not entering the GOM, I would like your thoughts?
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1036. Thundercloud01221991
10:39 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
does TD1 have an eye or what it looks to be forming one with black convection to the west of it
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1035. Ivansrvivr
10:35 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
1015. actually it may be better if that one developed early so it would recurve into the "Hurricane Graveyard". That is very impressive wave for May. That would be very impressive for August.
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1034. extreme236
10:35 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Well Masterforecaster, it looks more organized to me, maybe thats just because I saw how weak the convection looked last night, but the convection is much stronger and the center has tightened up and it has a nice band on its west side.
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1032. guygee
10:30 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
1028. extreme236 10:17 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Satellite imagery shows TD 1-E very well organized and I would say its a TS now.

I would not be surprised. Even though it is sheared compared to yesterday, the circulation has obviously consolidated and it looks to be still far enough offshore, maybe trending even slightly more left.
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1031. TerraNova
10:33 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
If the intialization is incorrect they don't seem to be affecting the model forecasts, at least not according to the 00z model diagnostic from the HPC...

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1029. MasterForecaster
10:21 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Extreme, can you please explain? It looks a lot less organized than it did 12 hours ago, yet now it's a tropical storm?
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1028. extreme236
10:13 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Satellite imagery shows TD 1-E very well organized and I would say its a TS now.
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1026. MasterForecaster
9:46 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Seems to me the wave coming of africa has a better chance than TD-1E to become something significant.
The system has lost a lot of its organization over night.

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1025. IpswichWeatherCenter
9:44 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
This looks to be fun... G.o.m development from 1e?
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1024. SpaceThrilla1207
9:43 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
nice wave off the coast of Africa
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1023. guygee
8:33 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
I guess my main concerns are that nobody gets hurt out of this thing. Hopefully this storm will not be too extreme of an event for people used to living in mountainous tropical regions. Damage to infrastructure is always an economic burden and a tragedy, but lives cannot be replaced.

For my own part I was simply hoping for a good slug of moisture to come up towards the SE US/FL. With the storm consolidating and moving NW it looks like it will be taking a good part of the moisture away with it.

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1022. guygee
8:19 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Good Morning!
TD1E is looking impressive this morning considering it proximity to land as it slowly parallels the Nicaraguan coast. The system is looking more sheared than yesterday, as it looks to me like the supporting ULH is shunted off more to the east, while the mid/low level storm has persevered against the shear and finally felt the effect of lower-level steering that pulled it more NW-NNW.
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1021. moonlightcowboy
2:46 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
From the 405 TWD:

...Special feature...

Tropical Depression One is centered at 10.2n 86.5w at 0300 UTC and is moving slowly N at 3 kt. The minimum central pressure is estimated at 1003 mb. Maximum sustained winds are 25 kt with gusts to 35 kt mainly in a convective band over the E semicircle. However a large tstm cluster has recently developed near the center over the NW quadrant and another impressive band is developing about 90 nm W of the center within lightning data indicating numerous strikes. Maximum seas are 11 ft. Current guidance suggests the depression will drift on a N track which could move it onshore as soon as 24 hours or as much as 36 hours as the track parallels the Nicaraguan pac coast which is orientated NW to se. The official forecast is for gradual strengthening to a minimal tropical storm prior to landfall in 24 hours. Thereafter...an upper cyclone well to the W near 14n94w is shifting SW with time while a tropical ridge builds W across the central Caribbean. So any remnants of this low is likely to track NW for a couple of days across Central America. Regardless of the wind strength this system will be a major rain maker.
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1020. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
7:55 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
wonder if the JMA got told by the World Meteorological Organization to accurately use the 10 min sustained winds average

since 105 knots = 120 knots (1 min avg)
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1019. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
7:51 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
NRL: 120 knots 933 mb

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1018. moonlightcowboy
2:43 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
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1017. StormJunkie
7:34 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Diurnal max =

Even on a feeble system...

Night y'all :~)
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1016. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
7:07 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
16.2N 135.8E - 105 knots 930 hPa

Tropical Cyclone Advisory #19


At 6:00am UTC, Super Typhoon Nakri (T0805) [930 hPa] located near 16.2N 135.8E has 10 minute sustained winds of 105 knots with gusts up to 150 knots. The storm is reported as moving northwest slowly.

Storm-Force Winds
75 NM from the center

Gale-Force Winds
150 NM southeast from the center
120 NM northwest from the center

Forecast and Intensity
24 HRS: 18.0N 134.7E - 110 knots (CAT 5)
48 HRS: 20.7N 134.6E - 120 knots (CAT 5) <-- OMG!! (in the last two year I've never seen that)
72 HRS: 24.0N 136.1E - 105 knots (CAT 5)

wonder if that means the JTWC will have it up to 160-165 knots
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1015. JLPR
3:02 AM AST on Mayo 29, 2008
Holy *&^%$##
look at this
OMG lol I hope this dissipates soon, this is the first area of thunderstorms to actually hold together after hitting water =O

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1014. Ivansrvivr
6:54 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Mookie??? It's Mo (pronounced -m.oh.key. not Moo kee. Cows say moo. and Mo is climbing up the walls at 3 am because I let her sleep all evening.
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1013. JLPR
1:56 AM AST on Mayo 29, 2008
I dont know what Im doing up lol
but that (wave, convection, low, disturbance) what ever it is that its exiting Africa looks nice

now to sleep =)
until tomorrow
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1012. moonlightcowboy
12:30 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
You gone, too, Catfur? Have a good sleep!
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1010. moonlightcowboy
12:25 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
No worries, FFlyer! 70 percent of the planet is water and we're likely going to slide into it sometime soon anyway! Or we humans are gonna overheat it and make all the water boil. Or a chunk of rock is gonna fly by Mars and Phoenix will take a picture of it as it crashes into the planet and records the explosion. We've already had one report in here today of the crust shifting back in '06 and it's scheduled to do a 180 in 2012 - so, it's A L W A Y S something! Nonetheless, I'm with Catfur, I'd take the basement under the pool table! lol
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1009. forecastFlyer
12:23 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
Yeah. I'm a little further down the coast but we have the same problems.
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1008. forecastFlyer
12:19 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
Sorry. It's late and I should have my glasses on:'). What I meant was that I guess even in a basement you need to still have a "Safe place". I wouldn't mind having an underground shelter if there was a way to weather the water too . Don't know how that could work though.
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1007. moonlightcowboy
12:20 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
Well, I just took that to meant you were headed for the hay. I'm tired, remember?lol, but it's my usual 1/2 awake and 1/2 asleep.
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1006. Ivansrvivr
5:17 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
I said I may be pullin an all niter. does anybody listen to me or am I just talking to a blank screen and imagining there is a blog here
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1005. moonlightcowboy
12:13 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
Have a good sleep, Ivan. Enjoyed the hunt today! Thanks for all your help.
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1004. Ivansrvivr
5:12 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Folks..I'm off to greener pastures. I may be back on later if I feel like pulling an all niter!!!!
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1003. moonlightcowboy
12:03 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
Looks symmetrical on this IR LOOP.
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1002. Ivansrvivr
5:07 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
1K. Find one picture of a swirling blob on here that I posted today and I'll give you $10 grand.
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1001. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
5:08 AM GMT on May 29, 2008

now it is looking pinhole.. this is the non zoom image of Nakri.

Typhoon 2000 has the eye at about 11 NM in diameter. (10 NM or less is pinhole, if I remember correctly)

CATEGORY 4 on Saffir-Simpson Scale (125 knots)
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1000. catfuraplenty
5:04 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Ivan and MLC, ya'll remove those pictures right now or I won't be able to sleep. LOL I'll see swirling blobs everytime I close my eyes. Pretty colors though, even if they are scary.

Is it June yet? ;P
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999. Ivansrvivr
5:04 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
If yankees invented basements, how did they get to Tennessee. Yankees dont last long there :0)
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998. catfuraplenty
5:02 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
Oh, and a basement is one of them darned yankee inventions. LOL I'm just joshing, yanking a few chains, making fun, etc. :) Do not take me seriously. Please.
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997. Ivansrvivr
5:02 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
RAAAAHHHH!!!! (he he...)
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996. catfuraplenty
5:02 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
#988 So you would kind ok need a basement in a basement them. Huh??

But in answer to other questions, Jarrell was located in an area that doesn't see that many tornadoes (relatively speaking). In Texas there are a lot of storm shelters but basements aren't all that common. We suffer from heat more than anything else. Many homes- historically - were built off the ground so that air circulates underneath and helps cool the structure. Newer homes have been built on former farm lands where the ground has a tendency to shift with the wet and dry seasons. A basement would have a hard time not cracking every time the earth, literally, breathed.

I live outside Houston. If you try to dig very far down you'll find yourself starting a pond. This part of the world is flat (extremely flat), was once mostly swamp, has sticky black mud that turns into black concrete once it dries on your shoes and is, to my mind, the most unlikely place I would have thought settlers would have stuck around in. I can see people going to Galveston, but Houston? Nope. No way. {as you can see I'm not a native but I've lived in this part of Texas long enough to understand it has a lure all its own, but the weather is not one of those attractions. LOL}
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10:37 PM EDT on May 28, 2008
next area too watch will be wsw of jamica sse of cuba starting sat for possible dev system
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994. moonlightcowboy
12:01 AM CDT on May 29, 2008
LOL, Ivan! You know I was funnin'! Gettin' tired, too!
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993. JLPR
12:59 AM AST on Mayo 29, 2008
Whoaa Impressive =O

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992. Ivansrvivr
4:58 AM GMT on May 29, 2008
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991. moonlightcowboy
11:58 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
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990. moonlightcowboy
11:57 PM CDT on May 28, 2008
Have a good time, WWB!
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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