1884-02-19 The Enigma Outbreak

Mar 3, 2012
I don't know whether there's any interest in this particular outbreak, but I've always thought it was fascinating. Not only because of the sheer magnitude of it, but also the many mysteries (hence "enigma") surrounding it. There was a very broad warm sector that day with fairly widespread temperatures of 70+ and dew points reaching as high as the mid-60s in some locations. The moisture was pretty extraordinary for mid-February. A negatively-tilted trough was digging through at the time, with a pretty substantial jet streak nearing the base. The surface low was quite far north, actually somewhat similar in position to the Super Outbreak initially.

Anyway, I just figured I'd share some of the stuff I've dug up on it. Here is a series of John P. Finley's surface maps from the event, showing 7am, 3pm and 11pm. The "++++" icons are approximate tornado tracks for the subsequent eight hours, so the 7am map shows tornadoes occurring between 7am and 3pm, etc.

And here's a map I made of all the known/reported tornadoes from the event. There were almost certainly many others, but these alone are extremely impressive. Sort of reminiscent of 4/27/11, just shifted east a bit.

And here's my full blog post for anyone who may be interested.

Feb 6, 2009
Kansas City Metro
Shawn, thanks for posting.

I'm right now reading about Finley in Lee Sandlin's "Storm Kings." I can see why Finley would postulate that tornadoes form in the Southeast quadrant of a low pressure area.