Tornadoes Touch Down in Kansas and Oklahoma

A large “violent and extremely dangerous” tornado was spotted on the southwest side of Wichita, Kansas.  A second touched down near Edmond, Oklahoma.

The Storm Prediction Center had posted a moderate risk for severe weather in portions of Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri later on Sunday.

“The overall environment appears quite favorable for tornadoes,” the SPC outlook stated.

Both tornadoes were traveling about 30 miles per hour.

The weather service was adamant about taking emergency precautions.

“You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter. Complete destruction of neighborhoods, businesses and vehicles will occur. Flying debris will be deadly to people and animals,” the weather service said in its Kansas advisory.

“Overall, the threat is similar for the region: strong supercells that will have the capability to produce hail baseball-size or larger, strong wind gusts and tornadoes,” CNN meteorologist Melissa Le Fevre said earlier Sunday. “It will ultimately depends on how warm the region gets today.”

Sunday’s temperatures in Kansas were expected to be 5 to 10 degrees above normal, making conditions perfect for dangerous storm and tornado situations.

Tornadoes frequently develop from a class of storms called “super-cells”.  Supercells contain mesocyclones, an area of organized rotation a few miles up in the atmosphere, usually from one to six miles across.  With them, tornadoes bring very heavy rain, frequent lightning, strong wind gusts, and hail are common in such storms.

They form when certain conditions are present.  As the mesocyclone lowers below the cloud base, it begins to take in cool, moist air from the downdraft region of the storm. This convergence of warm air in the updraft, and this cool air, causes a rotating wall cloud to form.

Tornadoes are often called “cyclones”.  This is because of their rotation.  Tornadoes normally rotate cyclonically (when viewed from above), this is counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern.

Tornadoes occur over both land and water.  However, because tornadoes over water, called “waterspouts”, are not created by super-cells, some disagree if they should receive the actual name of tornado.

The strength of tornadoes is measured by the “Enhanced Fujita Scale”.  In the United States, 80% of tornadoes are EF0 and EF1.  The occurrence of stronger tornadoes has been minimal in the past.  Less than 1% are violent tornadoes (EF4), or higher.  EFO and EF1 tornadoes can rip limbs off of trees, and roofs off of houses.  An EF5 can lift a house from its foundation, and even deform skyscrapers.

James Turnage

The Guardian Express

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