211 tornadoes! Biggest outbreak ever? Weekend weather changes

What a week.

This will go down as one of the most violent weather weeks in history. The numbers will continue to trickle in and change slightly over the weekend, but it’s clear we’ve just witnessed one of the top tornado outbreaks in U.S. history.

By many measures this outbreak will rival the April 1974 “Super Outbreak” when final numbers are tallied.

Of course telling a story by numbers doesn’t even begin to describe the magnitude of what the people in Alabama and the South have experienced this week.

That said, here’s where the numbers stand as of late Friday, and how that compares to the super outbreak of April 3-4 1974.

211 preliminary tornado reports Wednesday from SPC

148 tornadoes during the “Super Outbreak” in 1974

363 total number of preliminary SPC tornado reports this week

329 dead in Wednesday’s outbreak (numbers may still change)

335 killed in “Super Outbreak” in 1974

700 approximate number killed in the Tri-State Tornado in March 1925

228 dead in Alabama Wednesday

200+ mile long path on the Tuscaloosa tornado (could rival Tri-State Tornado of 1925)

160 miles…the distance tornadoes carried some of the debris

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Wednesday’s SPC tornado tally: (Click images to enlarge)

Mind boggling event:

It’s hard to even process the magnitude of this week’s tornado madness. Just think about the impact of one tornado hitting your home. Now try and imagine hundreds of massive tornadoes tearing up entire towns, and big chunks of whole states. Well I guess we don’t have to imagine. Cable TV at its best is showing us all the tragic pictures.

Why such complete destruction?

There are several factors that made the damage in Wednesday’s “super outbreak” so complete. The most obvious is the sheer size and fury of the twisters. Storm surveys are still in progress, but it is clear that some of these massive tornadoes were EF-4 and EF-5 “monsters.” Wind speeds were likely well over 200 mph with some of these violent twisters. Not much is going to survive those kinds of wind speeds.

While many of the tornadoes were racing at speeds of 55 to 60 mph, there were times when some of the tornadoes appeared to slow down. This increased the time that damaging winds and debris had to tear away at homes and buildings.

Blender effect? The sheer volume and size of debris chunks spinning inside the tornado vortex created a “blender effect” in which missiles of various shapes & sizes travelling over 100mph acted like the blades of a blender, chopping anything in the tornadoes path to pieces.

Silent Monster?

One thing that’s still puzzling about the Tuscaloosa tornado is why so many who viewed the tornado form a distance described it as “silent.”

We know that wind affects sound waves. Is it possible that the tornado’s inflow winds were so strong that they “sucked” some of the sound back into the vortex?

Who knows…but it seems odd that you can’t hear the tornado in the distance.

Trucks: Instant tornado shelters?

Looking at video of the aftermath one very intriguing thing is becoming clear. Some people survived these violent tornadoes in their vehicles. Some probaly died in vehicles too. But then again, a lot of people died in their homes.

CNN ran a story today on a family in Concord, AL who rode out a direct hit inside their Honda Ridgeline truck parked in their garage. Their home was destroyed and they described the damage to their basement as “un-survivable” as debris collapsed into the basement.

Other video shows some vehicles tossed around and crushed, but many truck cabs while damaged appear to have been survivable.

There has been some debate in the meteorological community recently and a few studies suggesting that people may actually be safer in (especially weaker) tornadoes inside a heavy vehicle or truck than in a mobile home or poorly constructed home. This is a “hot button” topic that needs more research.

One thing is clear, in a tornado life and death decisions are made in seconds. There is no “totally safe” place in a tornado. Sometimes survival is going to be the luck of the draw, or the actions you take in the seconds before the tornado hits.

One of the best questions to ask in a tornado crisis is how can you put as many hardened “walls” as possible between you and the tornado before the twister hits?

It could be under the stairs in your basement, it could be in your bathtub, or in a closet. The pictures from the Alabama tornadoes and other evidence suggests if you’re caught in the open… it may actually be the floor of your car or truck.

The “official” advice is still to abandon your vehicle during a tornado, cover your head and lie in the lowest spot you can find.

After looking at the sheer volume of deadly flying debris strewn about by the tornadoes in the South, you have to wonder if you’d have better protection in a vehicle.

Air Mail: Debris land over 160 miles away

Forgive the light headline, but this is amazing.

Again the story from CNN.

Climate change link? Probably not

Single meteorological events like this are likely not attributable to climate change. Check out this piece form Huffington Post. If tornado heavyweights like Howie Bluestein and Josh Wurman agree you can’t pin this one on climate change, that’s good enough for me.

Tri-State Tornado still the deadliest:

Believe it or not, Wednesday was not even close to the deadliest day in tornado history. That title still belongs (and hopefully always will belong) to the Tri-State Tornado of March 1925.

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Here are the top 10 deadliest single tornadoes in U.S. history from the Tornado Project Online.

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Here are the top 15 tornado outbreaks according to meteorologist H. Michael Mogil.

01. SUPER OUTBREAK

* April 3-4, 1974

* Large part of the eastern U.S.

* 148 tornadoes in 24 hours

* more than 330 deaths

* 6,142 injuries

* Damage $600+ million

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Minnesota earthquake?

What’s that you say? An earthquake in Minnesota? Yep. Believe it or not there are minor earthquakes centered in Minnesota from time to time.

Some thought they heard thunder.

Here’s the data on the minor tremor that happened at 2:20am Friday near Alexandria.

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Weekend Forecast: Changeable

What’s that old saying about Minnesota weather? “If you don’t like the weather just wait 15 minutes.”

There’s your weekend forecast in a nutshell.

An upper level low-surface cold front combo moves through Friday night into early Saturday.

Friday Night: Expect scattered showers, with a few embedded T-Storms into early Saturday morning. Low near 50.

Saturday: AM Showers. Mixed sun PM with a few passing showers possible late. Temps steady to falling in the 50s. Wins SW 8-18 mph.

Sunday: Looks sunny but breezy and cool. High near 52. WNW winds 10-22 mph & gusty.

Enjoy the weekend!

PH