Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You Say Tomato, I Say . . . Tornado

Let’s talk about last Friday, Good Friday—or “Bad Friday” as they’ve dubbed it in St. Louis: Friday, April 22, 2011. They’ll be remembering that date for a long time in St. Louis!

But here in Central Missouri, we really lucked out. It was one of those cases where the sirens went off right as the skies grew dark and green—the sirens make that eerie, ominous moan that opens into an ear-splitting wail, shrinks back into a moan, and rises again into a wail. Over and over. And then it goes silent (which is even worse).

For me, here’s the drill: Firefox > Bookmarks > News > TV > ABC 17 – KMIZ TV – The Spirit of Missouri > Weather > Interactive Radar. Then, I click on “Live Storm Tracking” to get the up-to-the-minute stuff they’re saying on the TV.

The first task is to determine which direction the evil red blob with rotation was heading.




Just so you can appreciate what we went through (and what we go through), here are some excerpts from KMIZ’s live storm tracking chat that evening. I’m omitting a lot of stuff—many reports on hail and wall clouds, notifications of tornado warnings expiring in western counties as the storm moved east, miscellaneous questions from the public, etc.

4:53 Comment From Scared:
Is the cell tracking to Jeff City?? Sirens going off

4:54 Met. Jeff Huffman:
Supercell capable of a tornado will move slightly north of US HWY 50 and threaten California, Jamestown, Centertown, and the northwest side of Jefferson City.

4:55 Comment From Ryan
Is the cell tracking to Columbia?

4:55 Comment From Sandy
Are tornadoes expected for Columbia tonight?

4:45 Met. Jeff Huffman
At its present course, the biggest threat from this storm in Columbia would be large hail around 5:20 . . . mainly on south side of the city.

. . . . . . . . .

5:11 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: 4 W Centertown [Moniteau Co., MO] trained spotter reports FUNNEL CLOUD at 05:09 PM CDT – spotter located in Centertown observes a funnel cloud just to the west.

. . . . . . . . .

5:14 ABC17Stormtrack:
Tornado Warning issued for Boone, Cole & Callaway Counties until 6:00pm.


. . . . . . . . .

5:15 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
NO THREAT FOR A TORNADO IN COLUMBIA EVEN IF YOU HEAR THE SIRENS RIGHT NOW.

5:15 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
SAME FOR JEFFERSON CITY.

. . . . . . . . .

5:25 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
TORNADIC STORM PASSING SOUTH OF ASHLAND RIGHT NOW AND MOVING EAST AT 40 MPH. WILL BE MOVING NEAR NEW BLOOMFIELD THEN JUST TO THE SOUTH OF FULTON. IF YOU ARE IN THE PATH (SOUTHERN BOONE, WESTERN/SOUTHERN CALLAWAY), TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY.

. . . . . . . . .

5:39 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: 1 N Holts Summit [Callaway Co., MO] trained spotter reports FUNNEL CLOUD at 5:37 PM CDT –

5:39 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
IF YOU ARE IN NEW BLOOMFIELD ALONG HWY 54 UP TO FULTON, TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY.

. . . . . . . .

5:51 ABC17Stormtrack:
TORNADO WARNING ISSUED FOR CALLAWAY, GASCONADE AND MONTGOMERY COUNTIES UNTIL 6:30.

. . . . . . . .

5:54 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: 8 E Holts Summit [Callaway Co., MO] trained spotter reports FUNNEL CLOUD at 05:51 PM CDT – spotter 2 miles north of Tebbetts reports a funnel cloud 3 miles north of his location going up and down.

. . . . . . . .

6:03 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: Mokane [Callaway Co., MO] trained spotter reports FUNNEL CLOUD at 06:01 PM CDT – spotter in Mokane looking north reports a funnel cloud.

. . . . . . . .

6:04 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: Portland [Callaway Co., MO] trained spotter reports FUNNEL CLOUD at 06:02 PM CDT – several funnel clouds . . . strong rotation in base of meso[cyclone]

. . . . . . .

6:21 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
READERS, THE TORNADIC STORM IS MOVING INTO FAVORABLE AREAS FOR DEVELOPMENT. IF YOU ARE IN MONTGOMERY AND GASCONADE COUNTIES, TAKE COVER.

. . . . . . .

6:32 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: Rhineland [Montgomery Co., MO] trained spotter reports WALL CLOUD at -6:30 PM CDT – large . . . low . . . rotating wall cloud. No funnels spotted at this time.


So this worrisome supercell passed eastward through Central Missouri, from Centertown to Hartsburg, south of Fulton, through Tebbetts, Mokane, Portland, and Rhineland, at forty miles per hour, dumping large hail and showing people what “wall clouds” and “funnel clouds” look like.

Here is a picture I took from our third-floor dormer, looking north toward the beast as it passed over southern Boone County, pelting it with hail. That’s the Capitol Plaza Hotel, by the way, for reference.




Thus it slipped rather cleanly between the cities of Columbia and Jefferson City, sparing us from the fright that the folks in rural areas along Highway 94 were experiencing.

But then it turned wicked, dropped its funnel around 8 pm, and that tornado plowed through the north St. Louis metro area in a path twenty-two miles long and almost a half-mile wide. It caused major damage to Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, closing it, and in the community of Bridgeton, it reached an intensity of EH4, essentially destroying everything in its path.

I’m not sure anyone can say why the tornado zapped St. Louis and not us. We were incredibly lucky.

Here, you can see a nifty animated radar of that supercell as it travels from Callaway County into the St. Louis area. (Special thanks to Chief Meteorologist Sharon Ray of ABC 17 Stormtrack Weather for sharing this link with me!)

Here’s a link to NOAA’s official report of the “Good Friday Tornadic Event” of April 22, 2011.

Below, as I did with the two radar images above, I shamelessly copy pictures from the KMIZ Web story on the St. Louis tornado. This is one of Columbia’s Mo-X shuttle vans—familiar to anyone who drives I-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis.*






Wow!

Boy, were we lucky here in Central Missouri.

_________________________


* Note: Mo-X has some of the most blatantly sexist advertising in Central Missouri. (Well? I'm just sayin’ what everybody knows.) I sure wish they’d find a more dignified way to sell their services.


3 comments:

Dunraven said...

We had the twister last summer, but not the anticipation! The fear is worse, I think. Thank God you're all safe.

Julianna Schroeder said...

I know! I thought of the damage you had--which seemed especially rude since I wouldn't think of there being tornadoes up in Montana!

I also had flashbacks to the destruction we had at the University of Missouri Press back in Nov. 1998--it's so strange to see one's workplace without a ceiling or roof . . .

It's also strange how quickly it comes and goes--often with sunshiney skies afterward--but then while it's going on, I suppose it seems like forever . . .

Julie

whalechaser said...

It has been a nasty week. Over 8" of rain in 3 days and tornadoes all around here but thankfully none here! The yard is draining and I thought I saw the sun for a moment today. Looking forward to normal again.
Bet you are too!
Whale