Monday, April 28, 2014

A Close Examination of the Tornado April 27th, 2014

I don't even know where to start.  Last night while Ned, Barry, and I were covering the tornado, every once in a while we looked at each other and just shook our heads.  We just couldn't believe what we saw on radar and we couldn't believe it was happening all over again.  It's surreal knowing that lives are being torn apart as you watch radar and know what's likely happening.  I still can't believe how rapidly that tornado developed.  In one radar scan, the tornado signature quickly appeared, and the next there was a huge debris ball.  The last time I saw a debris ball on radar like that in Arkansas was the Vilonia tornado of 2011.  Almost exactly 3 years ago. 

Below are the archived images of the storm from Sunday evening.  I circled the debris ball in each image where it was present.  Whenever you see high reflectivity on the "hook echo", that's a sure sign you have a tornado on the ground.  The radar beam is hitting large targets in the air.  Those are peoples homes, cars, and lives being sucked up into the storm.  It makes you sick in your stomach when you see that on radar.  You know lives are changing forever and maybe ending.

Radar image at 7:06PM.  The hook echo is forming due west of Ferndale.
At 7:10PM, radar shows an area of purple and white.  That's debris just NW of Ferndale.
At 7:15 the debris ball crosses hwy 10 just west of Pinnacle and around Lake Maumelle.
At 7:20, the debris ball comes up on Roland and is taking aim on Mayflower
At 7:24PM, the debris ball is crossing the Arkansas River and likely affecting River Plantation Acres along highway 365
At 7:29PM, it's hitting Mayflower and taking aim on Vilonia
At 7:34PM, the debris ball continues on radar.  We're pleading for everyone in Vilonia to seek shelter.
At 7:38PM, it's just within a few miles of Vilonia.
At 7:43PM, the debris ball becomes even more apparent as it's sucking up more off the ground.
At 7:48PM, the debris ball and tornado is beginning to destroy Vilonia.
At 7:52PM the radar shows the debris ball.  That's the radar seeing peoples lives and possessions in Vilonia flying thousands of feet in the air.
At 8:02PM, the town of El Paso has been hit (especially the north side of town.)
At 8:07PM, the hook echo structure begins to weaken and the debris ball signature weakens too.  It would later reorganize in northern White county.
These are tornado tracks around Vilonia since 1950.  This does not include Sunday's.  Some of the more recent tornadoes occurred in 1982, 2003, and 2010.


Anonymous said...

I was watching the weather desk live stream. I thought the most interesting thing was the look Todd had when he realized that a tornado had just spawned. The whole day they were questioning if anything would happen.

Then the other 2 went to get pizza and it looked like they were ready to call it a night. But then Todd froze, doubted what he saw, and went full on professional. Instantly called the pizza room and went live on TV within 30 seconds.

Great stuff guys!

Mitchell McDill said...

Todd can you explain what happened with the lack of storms initiating in the southern extent of the high risk area? Was it the lack of sun earlier or the morning storms that kept it mostly quiet until late? The rain didn't really develop either- my station barely got a tenth of an inch. By late Sunday afternoon, a lot of the bloggers were pointing to south Arkansas as the place to see the big storms fire and I really don't even think anything happened down there.

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