Friday, March 3, 2017

Tri-State Tornado Double Take

Credit: Chris Conley, Spotter
 A well-forecast severe weather event unfolded Tuesday night starting in Southeast Missouri then blowing east into Southern Illinois, The Paducah National Weather Service along with local media gave people in Perryville, MO the early alarm that a large tornado was barreling their way. Storm spotter Chris Conley captured power flashes (right) from the violent tornado hitting power lines as the storm traveled from Perryville across the Mississippi River into Rockwood, IL after claiming one man's life on Interstate 55 and injuring 12 in Perryville.

Credit: John Humphress, Spotter
The supercell thunderstorm parent to this tornado was only getting started. Confirmation of a tornado and a trail of damage was reported in Rockwood, Ava, Elkville, Christopher, Buckner, Enfield and Crossfield, IL. Storm spotter John Humphress captured the wedge tornado (left) that struck Crossville where a man was killed trying to take shelter. Humphress recalled the strange, loud humming he heard in the trees as the tornado approached.  Assessment teams from the Paducah National Weather Service found  multiple tornado tracks from Missouri to Illinois and Indiana. The first tornado trekked 50.4 miles from NW Perryville, MO to near Christopher, IL. Damage was rated at a mid-range EF4 with max winds of 180 mph. The first tornado dissipated then another developed between Carmi and Crossville, IL and traveled 44.6 miles to near Oakland City, IN. Damage there was rated at EF-3.

Credit: Paducah National Weather Service
During those assessments it was discovered that one of the houses near Crossville (right) was not only damaged Tuesday night, but also sustained damage from the Tri-State tornado of 1925! Simply incredible.

The parent storm of these particular tornadoes that night took a hauntingly similar path as a very well-known tornado in the area's past. It's been identified as the worst tornado in the United States....The Great Tri-State Tornado 1925. "Worst" is used when defining for longest track, longest duration and deadliest. The story and finer details of this particular tornado have been researched for decades. In 2013 the most recent paper was published and is what I consider to be a "final" report concerning this horrific tornado. Written by some of the best meteorologists in the scientific community, years of collecting data town to town in the path, has in fact determined the validity of one complete and devastating track. Their researched damage path of the 1925 Tri-State is shown in the map below.
Map Credit: The 1925 Tri-State Damage Path and Associated Storm System Research Paper along with layered storm reports from the Paducah National Weather Service noted by Jennifer Rukavina

Since the Great Tri-State, there has never been a tornado that rivaled all of its characteristics. It is hard though to deny how eerie the realization had become on Tuesday night when we started connecting the green dots in the above map. A tornado outbreak was unfolding and in some ways much like that soupy March day back in 1925.
The weather pattern was slightly different and the time of day probably made the biggest difference between these two cases. Similarly these two storms traveled along a moisture boundary across Southern Illinois as an area of low pressure surged NE toward the Great Lakes. The Great Tri-State likely thrived better with the support of diurnal heating of the day. The February 28th storm was not diurnally based and developed during the dark hours of the evening.

Please ask permission to share photos featured by John Humphress or Chris Conley featured in this blog.

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