Dangerous tornado outbreak expected Saturday; Gulf of Mexico SSTs warmest on record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 02:57 PM GMT on Travanj 13, 2012

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A dangerous tornado outbreak is expected on Saturday over the Plains, says NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC). Warm, moist air flowing northwards from a Gulf of Mexico that has record-warm waters will collide with cold air funneling down from Canada, creating a highly unstable air mass capable of creating strong thunderstorm updrafts. An impressive upper-level low, accompanied by a jet stream with 105 - 125 mph winds at middle levels of the atmosphere, will create plenty of wind shear, giving the air the spin it needs to form tornadoes. SPC has has issued their highest level of alert, a "High Risk," for much of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska for Saturday. Included in the "High Risk" area are the cities of Wichita, Oklahoma City, and Lincoln. This is the second time SPC has issued a "High Risk" forecast this year; the first "High Risk" forecast came for the March 2 tornado outbreak, which killed 41 people and did $1.5 - $2 billion in damage. It is very unusual for SPC to issue a "High Risk" forecast more than a day in advance of a suspected tornado outbreak; according to Wikipedia, today's "High Risk" forecast is only the second time SPC has ever done this. The other instance was for the April 6 - 8, 2006 tornado outbreak focused over Tennessee, which generated 73 tornadoes that killed 13 and did $1.5 billion in damage. People living in the threatened area need to pay close attention on Saturday to this dangerous severe weather situation.


Figure 1. Severe weather risk for Saturday, April 14, 2012, from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

Gulf of Mexico water temperatures the warmest on record
Temperatures in the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico were the 3rd - 7th warmest on record during the first three months of 2012, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. This allowed Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) in the Gulf of Mexico (25 - 30°N, 85 - 90°W) to climb to 1.4°C (2.5°F) above average during March 2012, according to a wunderground analysis of the Hadley Centre SST data set. This is the warmest March value on record for the Gulf of Mexico, going back over a century of record keeping. During the first two weeks of April, Gulf of Mexico waters remained about 1.5°C above average, putting April on pace to have the warmest April water temperatures on record. Only one year in the past century has had April water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico more than 1.1°C above average; that year was 2002 (1.4°C above average.) All that record-warm water is capable of putting record amounts of water vapor into the air, since evaporation increases when water is warmer. Because moist air is less dense than dry air, this warm, moist air flowing northwards from the Gulf of Mexico into the developing storm system over the Plains will be highly unstable once it encounters cold, dry air aloft. The record-warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico are a key reason for the high risk of severe weather over the Plains this weekend.


Figure 2. Departure of Sea Surface Temperature (SST) from average for April 12, 2012, as computed by NOAA/NESDIS. SSTs in the Gulf of Mexico are at their warmest levels on record for this time of year.

Follow Weather Underground on twitter for the latest on this potential severe weather outbreak.

Jeff Masters

April Storms (llpj04)
this storm greeted me as I came out of the grocery store, chased me home and got to my driveway the same time I did.
April Storms
Lightning Up the Pond - Oklahoma (mbryan777)
Last night we had a pretty spectacular lightning storm. I put the camera on the tripod in time-lapse mode and laid on my back on the hillside above the pond taking in an amazing show. When it got more exciting than I was comfortable with, I ran for the house.
Lightning Up the Pond - Oklahoma

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Is there a webcam or any kind of visual we can get on the ground in Witchita?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2206. Speeky
Quoting Bluestorm5:
No, Wichita is definitely not okay. This COULD rivals Joplin or Tuscaloosa at this rate.


Witchita's population is 6 times the population of Joplin

Witchita 324,000
Joplin 50,000

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Who confirmed this wedge???
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mconnelle air force base about to take direct hit
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Keep an eye out in west texas again too. A new line of storms is beginning to fire. Doesn't appear to be supercell based yet, but may become that way as it works across TX in to OK.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Crossing I-35 turnpike in witchita...downtown is in trouble!!!! This is very bad!!!!
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Large wedge in south Wichita confirmed. On I-35 heading NNE.
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2200. LargoFl
TORNADO WARNING
KSC053-113-159-150400-
/O.NEW.KICT.TO.W.0033.120415T0310Z-120415T0400Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WICHITA KS
1010 PM CDT SAT APR 14 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN WICHITA HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHEASTERN ELLSWORTH COUNTY IN CENTRAL KANSAS...
NORTHWESTERN MCPHERSON COUNTY IN CENTRAL KANSAS...
NORTHERN RICE COUNTY IN CENTRAL KANSAS...

* UNTIL 1100 PM CDT

* AT 1005 PM CDT...A CONFIRMED LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO
WAS LOCATED NEAR LYONS...AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

THIS IS A PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION!

HAZARD...DAMAGING TORNADO.

SOURCE...EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT CONFIRMED TORNADO.

IMPACT...MAJOR HOUSE AND BUILDING DAMAGE LIKELY AND COMPLETE
DESTRUCTION POSSIBLE. NUMEROUS TREES SNAPPED. MAJOR POWER
OUTAGES IN PATH OF TORNADO HIGHLY LIKELY. SOME ROADS
POSSIBLY BLOCKED BY TORNADO DEBRIS. COMPLETE DESTRUCTION
OF VEHICLES LIKELY.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
GENESEO...LITTLE RIVER...LYONS AND KANOPOLIS STATE PARK.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

THIS STORM HAS A HISTORY OF PRODUCING LARGE TORNADOES! TAKE COVER IN
A BASEMENT OR STORM SHELTER NOW!

TORNADOES ARE DIFFICULT TO SEE AND CONFIRM AT NIGHT. TAKE COVER NOW.

TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER CONTACT YOUR NEAREST LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY.
THEY WILL SEND YOUR REPORT TO THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN
WICHITA.

&&

LAT...LON 3868 9802 3849 9777 3826 9819 3840 9834
TIME...MOT...LOC 0310Z 228DEG 37KT 3841 9816

TORNADO...OBSERVED
TORNADO DAMAGE THREAT...SIGNIFICANT
HAIL...1.75IN

$$

SCHMINKE
Member Since: Kolovoz 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42045
Quoting weatherh98:


Miranda I'm coming for you baby!!

Wichita looks like they will be okay!!
No, Wichita is definitely not okay. This COULD rivals Joplin or Tuscaloosa at this rate.
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0319UTC scan: NROT value now almost 2.5 for the 0.6 deg scan. This corresponds to about 500ft elevation... this basically is sampling the tornado itself, a somewhat rare occurance. Radar sampling suggest possible circulation width of 0.5-0.6 miles. Debris appears to be causing a reduction in the rho/cc values near I-35 at Haysville. Bad bad bad.
Member Since: Rujan 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3318
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2195. GBguy88
Quoting RTSplayer:


You won't see it on a web cam.

It is too big.

It will take up the entire horizon.


I just realized that the shot is three days old, also. My mistake.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
my new radar update showing a whole swath of lofted debris from the tornado.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
PURPLE TVS!
Meh its yellow now. Was probably just bad radar. BUT, there was a Red tvs before the purple.
Member Since: Srpanj 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
2192. ncstorm
massive power flashes according to the sherrif dept..this is going to be bad
Member Since: Kolovoz 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16222
Quoting GBguy88:
http://www.wunderground.com/webcams/newtonks/1/sh ow .html


Webcam out of Wichita, looking southwest...is that the tornado..?


You won't see it on a web cam.

It is too big.

It will take up the entire horizon.
Member Since: Siječanj 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
PURPLE TVS!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
This is very strange.


path of 1999 Wichita tornado.


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2188. ncstorm
the funnel is rain wrapped..can only see the light flashes..
Member Since: Kolovoz 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16222
Why is this storm such a left mover?!?!
Member Since: Kolovoz 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Miranda Lambert concert in Wichita suspended due to tornado. Crowd told to stay in arena. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!


Miranda I'm coming for you baby!!

Wichita looks like they will be okay!!
Member Since: Lipanj 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2184. ncstorm
sherrif dispatch is seeing flashes south and west in wichita..funnel spotted
Member Since: Kolovoz 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16222
We have a purple tvs on Wichita storm.
Member Since: Srpanj 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
Quoting ScottLincoln:


A red TVS in GR2Analyst is rare. A purple TVS is very very rare. Unless there is a substantial dealious failure or other radar problem, I have only seen purple TVS detections occur with strong or violent tornadoes. I'm telling you this as someone who has looked at dozens if not 100 tornado cases with the program.


Speaking of which, the current purple TVS detection near Haysville appears to be based on bad velocity data from the 1.9 degree tilt. It might go away once the 1.9 tilt is replaced with fresh data.
Member Since: Rujan 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3318
Purple TVS!!!

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2180. redux
kudos to NWS for sounding the bell when it wasn't even supposed to hit Wichita.
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2179. GBguy88
http://www.wunderground.com/webcams/newtonks/1/show .html


Webcam out of Wichita, looking southwest...is that the tornado..?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Large destructive wedge tornado CONFIRMED in southWitchita. Transformer blowouts / power flashes confirmed in Hayesville.
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2177. Speeky
This could be worse than the Joplin tornado in terms of possible deaths.

Witchita population: 324,000
Joplin population: 50,000

this situation isn't good
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ScottLincoln:


A red TVS in GR2Analyst is rare. A purple TVS is very very rare. Unless there is a substantial dealious failure or other radar problem, I have only seen purple TVS detections occur with strong or violent tornadoes. I'm telling you this as someone who has looked at dozens if not 100 tornado cases with the program.
Omg.
Member Since: Srpanj 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
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Took a right turn or the storm just wrapped up a little bit!!! I can't tell
Member Since: Lipanj 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Going to go straight into S Wichita.

Confirmed large wedge tornado.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
What? Do you send them outside?
No, are you kidding me as in "WHY IS THIS CONCERT TONIGHT IN WICHITA???" as in I can't believe they are both happening at same time.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
the lyons storm looks to be heading to salina or abilene next.
Has a while to go, so well see.


Lyons may have been hit or sideswiped within the last 30 minutes.
Member Since: Rujan 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3318
CNN reporting a Tornado emergency in Wichita now. Guess GR3 hasn't updated with the warning yet. Geez, this thing is quick and timely. Not.

Edit: still not seeing an update on the warning...can anybody confirm?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2169. LargoFl
TORNADO WARNING
KSC053-113-159-150400-
/O.NEW.KICT.TO.W.0033.120415T0310Z-120415T0400Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WICHITA KS
1010 PM CDT SAT APR 14 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN WICHITA HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHEASTERN ELLSWORTH COUNTY IN CENTRAL KANSAS...
NORTHWESTERN MCPHERSON COUNTY IN CENTRAL KANSAS...
NORTHERN RICE COUNTY IN CENTRAL KANSAS...

* UNTIL 1100 PM CDT

* AT 1005 PM CDT...A CONFIRMED LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO
WAS LOCATED NEAR LYONS...AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

THIS IS A PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION!

HAZARD...DAMAGING TORNADO.

SOURCE...EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT CONFIRMED TORNADO.

IMPACT...MAJOR HOUSE AND BUILDING DAMAGE LIKELY AND COMPLETE
DESTRUCTION POSSIBLE. NUMEROUS TREES SNAPPED. MAJOR POWER
OUTAGES IN PATH OF TORNADO HIGHLY LIKELY. SOME ROADS
POSSIBLY BLOCKED BY TORNADO DEBRIS. COMPLETE DESTRUCTION
OF VEHICLES LIKELY.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
GENESEO...LITTLE RIVER...LYONS AND KANOPOLIS STATE PARK.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

THIS STORM HAS A HISTORY OF PRODUCING LARGE TORNADOES! TAKE COVER IN
A BASEMENT OR STORM SHELTER NOW!

TORNADOES ARE DIFFICULT TO SEE AND CONFIRM AT NIGHT. TAKE COVER NOW.

TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER CONTACT YOUR NEAREST LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY.
THEY WILL SEND YOUR REPORT TO THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN
WICHITA.

&&

LAT...LON 3868 9802 3849 9777 3826 9819 3840 9834
TIME...MOT...LOC 0310Z 228DEG 37KT 3841 9816

TORNADO...OBSERVED
TORNADO DAMAGE THREAT...SIGNIFICANT
HAIL...1.75IN

$$

SCHMINKE
Member Since: Kolovoz 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42045
large wedge tornado just reported on the ground just south of wichita
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Wichita may be spared it is taking a more right turn this frame. Also large wedge tornado reported.
Wichita is a large and spread out metro area; a large tornado wouldn't need to track directly through downtown to cause tremendous damage.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
WEDGE TORNADO mvoing into Hayesville & Witchita. This is going to be history!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Report of a large wedge!!!
Member Since: Kolovoz 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
U missed the Greensburg Red TVS. It also had a Purple TVS for a little while.


A red TVS in GR2Analyst is rare. A purple TVS is very very rare. Unless there is a substantial dealious failure or other radar problem, I have only seen purple TVS detections occur with strong or violent tornadoes. I'm telling you this as someone who has looked at dozens if not 100 tornado cases with the program.
Member Since: Rujan 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3318
Wichita may be spared it is taking a more right turn this frame. Also large wedge tornado reported.
Member Since: Srpanj 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
2161. redux
this is surreal.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hearing that the WFO in Topeka has taken over responsibility from Wichita. Not sure if this is new or not.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ScottLincoln:


Well, it WAS weakening. It just recycled in the last couple minutes. It quickly (within a few scans) went from nothing to strong tornado. He's not really wrong, just behind by 5-10 minutes.


Yes you are right I saw the same but what do I know
Member Since: Lipanj 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
the lyons storm looks to be heading to salina or abilene next.
Has a while to go, so well see.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ScottLincoln:


Well, it WAS weakening. It just recycled in the last couple minutes. It quickly (within a few scans) went from nothing to strong tornado. He's not really wrong, just behind by 5-10 minutes.
Not watching the tele so I thought he said it after the radar image.
Member Since: Srpanj 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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