2011-05-22 Joplin, MO tornado thread

Oct 14, 2015
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Oakville, Ontario, Canada
This tornado might not have been as violent as the Tanner, AL tornado on April 27 or the El Reno, OK tornado on May 24, but just speaking in terms of the sheer destruction and misery it left in its path, it was definitely the worst of 2011.

P.S. Did it actually reach 250 mph winds, or was that just media sensationalism? Most sources seem to be saying that peak winds were around 210 mph.
 
Mar 3, 2012
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P.S. Did it actually reach 250 mph winds, or was that just media sensationalism? Most sources seem to be saying that peak winds were around 210 mph.
There are articles that claimed the 250 mph estimate came from the NWS, but I've never seen anything official in that regard. Partha Sarkar, an engineering professor from Iowa State, calculated that the parking stops would've required winds above 205 mph to be lifted up and lofted as they were, but that's the only "official" number I've seen other than the NWS' generic "greater than 200 mph" survey estimate.

That said, I'm of the opinion that the winds in the most violent of tornadoes often far exceed 200 mph, and Joplin certain fits that description. If the winds were > 205 mph just a few inches above ground level, it's not hard to imagine the winds being significantly stronger at a height of a couple meters.
 
Oct 14, 2015
27
2
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Oakville, Ontario, Canada
That said, I'm of the opinion that the winds in the most violent of tornadoes often far exceed 200 mph.
It seems very possible. Honestly if every tornado that exceeded 200 mph was rated EF5, we'd probably see several every year. 2011 might have seen 10 or even 15, while even 2013 might have seen three or four (Moore, Bennington, El Reno, and possibly New Minden).
 

Brian G

EF2
Sep 25, 2014
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St. Louis, MO
The Impact Based Warning changes, which are still being rolled out, define threat categories for tornadoes now. For tornadoes in which the threat is "considerable" or "catastrophic" will get the PDS wording added to them. I have seen other's use the PDS moniker when referring to these new warnings. Now, whether or not that should be considered official lexicon like what we do with PDS watches...I don't know. It looks like many of the NWS offices would have started using the new tags after April 1st of this year.

As a side note, I believe the GRLevelX products are using these new tags.
 
Sep 25, 2006
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Minneapolis, MN
Happened to come across this audio on Youtube. It's the audio from the emergency management radios starting as the storm approached Jopin, continues as the tornado goes through Joplin, and finishes with the assigning and managing of emergency personnel in the chaos following the tornado.

In my opinion it is very tough to listen to knowing how bad things got and the fact that for the most part everyone in the video is mostly oblivious to the scope, magnitude, and historical significance they have been thrust into. Having said that, I think it is important for us as chasers to listen to it. A lot of times, we are some of the first people on scene in these situations. However, this will really open up your eyes to how quickly and efficiently emergency management is able to kick into action to get help to where it is needed. It also amazes me how quickly mutual aid from surrounding towns were either already in town or calling in to see if they were needed. This audio by itself is chilling. Actually being a first responder and being there in the chaos is something I can't even fathom. A big salute to police, firefighters, EMT, and all other first responders and emergency management personnel everywhere.

 
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There have been volumes written about the Joplin tornado in regards to intensity and freak damage reports. I will say of all the storm damage I have encountered in over 35 years of journalism / storm photography, Joplin was by far the most extreme. This includes damage from all three Moore, OK tornadoes I surveyed. I believe the most impressive damage from Joplin was the hospital being rotated 4 inches off the foundation. I personally believe individual vortices reached well over 300 mph.

Joplin-tornado-damage.jpg
 
Oct 10, 2004
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Madison, WI
There have been volumes written about the Joplin tornado in regards to intensity and freak damage reports. I will say of all the storm damage I have encountered in over 35 years of journalism / storm photography, Joplin was by far the most extreme. This includes damage from all three Moore, OK tornadoes I surveyed. I believe the most impressive damage from Joplin was the hospital being rotated 4 inches off the foundation. I personally believe individual vortices reached well over 300 mph.

View attachment 17270
This. It is a travesty to me that Joplin's EF5 rating is marked "disputed" on the Wikipedia list of F5 and EF5 tornadoes based on the ASCE study. Barring a worst-case scenario like tracking along a gridlocked freeway at rush hour or hitting a packed sporting event or concert venue, a tornado simply does not kill >150 people in this day and age without being exceptionally violent.
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
2,986
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Westminster, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
This. It is a travesty to me that Joplin's EF5 rating is marked "disputed" on the Wikipedia list of F5 and EF5 tornadoes based on the ASCE study. Barring a worst-case scenario like tracking along a gridlocked freeway at rush hour or hitting a packed sporting event or concert venue, a tornado simply does not kill >150 people in this day and age without being exceptionally violent.
Number of fatalities has nothing to do with tornado damage rating. The EF-scale uses estimated wind speeds...period. It has been well discussed that all but the most well-constructed and secured single-family homes fail at speeds well below the EF5 threshold. So you generally cannot use a single-family home (the most common and representative damage indicator from the old Fujita scale) to justify an EF5 rating on a tornado. Also, the wind speed ranges for many DoDs in many DIs are themselves only estimates. It can be difficult to state unequivocally exactly how fast of wind it takes to do a certain degree of damage to a given structure. Some structures may twist/bend/fail at surprisingly low (or high) speeds. We just don't know.

The aim of the EF-scale was to have an objective basis on which to rate tornadoes rather than to be subjective and base ratings on emotional aspects or human injury/death tolls, both of which are very difficult, or impossible, to quantify.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
There have been volumes written about the Joplin tornado in regards to intensity and freak damage reports. I will say of all the storm damage I have encountered in over 35 years of journalism / storm photography, Joplin was by far the most extreme. This includes damage from all three Moore, OK tornadoes I surveyed. I believe the most impressive damage from Joplin was the hospital being rotated 4 inches off the foundation. I personally believe individual vortices reached well over 300 mph.

View attachment 17270


That is an incredible picture, I can barely wrap my mind around what that is even showing because there is no familiar context for such a combination/interrelationship of things... Clearly looks like a truck cab, but almost looks like the tree trunks are in the middle of the chassis???