Category Archives: Tornadoes

Research yielding remarkable details about the massive El Reno tornado

More details about the massive and deadly El Reno tornado of May 31 are beginning to emerge as researchers begin publishing papers about the record-setting monster.

The National Weather Service recently downgraded the El Reno tornado from EF5 to an EF3, based on damage estimates, but a research paper presented at a radar conference in Colorado this week suggests the tornado’s actual strength easily meets the EF5 threshold.

You can find a link to the research paper in the blogpost linked to this item.

Small tornado confirmed in southeast Kansas Monday night

The National Weather Service reports a small tornado touched down briefly in southeast Kansas Monday night.

The tornado, which touched down in Bourbon County, was about 100 yards wide and measured EF-1 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. It moved a mobile home off its foundation about four feet and destroyed a small shed. It was on the ground for about a minute.

No injuries were reported.

Dramatic footage of a tornado striking Milan in Italy

A tornado hit Milan in Italy on Tuesday, resulting in substantial damage – and some dramatic video.

Engineering study reveals no EF-5 damage in Joplin

A study by the American Society of Civil Engineers of the damage done by the Joplin tornado in 2011 found most of the homes were so poorly built they were destroyed by winds of EF-2 strength or less, according to a story in the Joplin Globe.

While the tornado was rated an EF-5 by the National Weather Service, the ASCE study found no EF-5 damage in Joplin. The five-day study determined about 85% of the homes were destroyed by winds of 135 miles per hour or less.

Only 4 percent of the damage could be linked to an EF-4 tornado, which can have winds speeds ranging from 168 to 199 mph.

A fourth storm chaser died in El Reno tornado

The Daily Oklahoman reports that a fourth storm chaser, Richard Charles Henderson, was killed by the El Reno tornado on May 31.

The other three, Tim Samaras and his grown son, Paul, and Carl Young were killed as they deployed probes in the monstrous tornado’s path to gather scientific data and video from the beast’s interior. But the Oklahoman reports that Henderson was an amateur out “having fun.”

The El Reno has been classified an EF-5, with winds near the surface of 296 miles an hour. It was at least 2.6 miles wide, making it the widest tornado in recorded U.S. history.

Weather researcher: El Reno tornado ‘unusual and very deadly’

Jon Davies, a storm chaser and weather researcher who used to call Wichita home, has posted a useful look at how difficult it was to see the El Reno tornado on May 31.

When the tornado darted northeast, it doubled in speed to more than 40 miles an hour – a change that caught many storm chasers off guard. It’s probably what doomed Tim Samaras and Carl Young and Tim’s son, Paul, as they placed data probes in the tornado’s path.

The death toll from May 31′s severe weather, including flash flooding, is now at 20.

El Reno tornado an EF-5 that’s widest in U.S. history

The tornado that touched down near El Reno, Okla., last Friday and killed at least 7 people has been upgraded to an EF-5, with winds near the surface of 296 miles an hour, the National Weather Service in Norman announced Tuesday.

At 2.6 miles wide, it becomes the widest tornado on record in U.S. history, said Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist for the Norman branch of the weather service. That eclipses the 2.5 mile-wide tornado that hit Hallam, Neb., on May 22, 2004.

“This is mind-boggling stuff,” Smith said of the preliminary data collected by storm survey teams and mobile radars.

The tornado was on the ground for more than 16 miles on a track that generally traveled east, then southeast, then sharply northeast before ending its 40-minute journey by lifting at 6:43 p.m.

The El Reno tornado had several smaller internal vortices within the main circulation, Smith said, and they were racing along at up to 185 miles an hour. These miniature tornadoes did not hit any structures, he said.

If they had, he added, “any house would have been completely swept clean on the foundation.”

Storm chasers Tim and Paul Samaras and Carl Young were among those killed by the tornado. While Smith declined to address their circumstances specifically, he said “you can imagine how people could get in trouble.

“This would be a very dangerous situation if you were not well aware of your surroundings,” he added.

A tornado that’s 2.5 miles wide “would not look like a tornado to a lot of people.”

This was an exceptionally dangerous storm to be anywhere close to,” he added.

It’s not yet clear whether the El Reno tornado will go down as the strongest tornado on record, Smith said. The Moore tornado of May 3, 1999, had documented winds of more than 300 miles an hour.

“We are so fortunate that this did not impact a densely populated area,” Smith said of the El Reno tornado. If it had, “it would have been catastrophic.”

A sampling of some of Tim Samaras’ accomplishments as a weather researcher

Jeff Masters has pieced together a look at some of the most significant achievements in Tim Samaras’ career as a weather researcher in a blog post on Weather Underground.

Tornadoes on Friday night killed at least 9 people in Oklahoma. An EF-3 tornado near El Reno is blamed for the deaths of Samaras, his longtime chase partner Carl Young and Samaras’ son, Paul.

Noted storm chaser and weather researcher Tim Samaras killed by El Reno tornado

Veteran storm chaser and weather researcher Tim Samaras, his son Paul and his longtime chase partner Carl Young were all killed in the El Reno tornado Friday night in Oklahoma. A total of nine people died in tornadoes that raked the Oklahoma City metropolitan area that night.

Samaras, 55, was among the most respected voices in the storm chasing community, and he was doing some of the most important research on violent weather.

He founded TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes EXperiment) to pursue tornadoes and advance the research and warning available to the public.

And he was researching lightning with the fastest, highest-resolution camera in the world – work that promised to change our understanding of the physics of lightning. It was research that had the potential to save countless lives.

Tim Samaras and Carl Young were among those featured in the former Discovery Channel series “Storm Chasers.”

Expect strong storms later today in Wichita area

Large hail, damaging winds and a long-track tornado or two are possible in the Wichita metropolitan area later today, forecasters warn.

The strong thunderstorms that dumped more than two inches across the city before 7 a.m. have helped stabilize the atmosphere, but afternoon heating is expected to recharge the environment and set the stage for potentially violent weather.

Hail as large as baseballs, winds of more than 70 miles an hour and heavy rain are possible along with a tornado or two, according to the National Weather Service. The best chances for severe weather appear to be south of U.S. 50, or roughly south of a line from Hutchinson to Cottonwood Falls.

The Storm Prediction Center placed a small segment of southern Kansas and a large chunk of central Oklahoma in a moderate risk for severe weather today. Wichita is not included in the moderate, but the counties of Cowley, Sumner, Montgomery, Chautauqua and a bit of Elk are in the elevated risk zone.