29 April 2014News

AIR: giant storm spawned clutch of deadly tornadoes

According to catastrophe modelling firm AIR Worldwide, a massive storm system that formed on April 27th is responsible for spawning dozens of tornadoes across at least seven states in the south-central US.

On Sunday, an outbreak of intense thunderstorms accompanied by high winds, extreme hail, and tornadoes flattened hundreds of homes and caused more than 100 injuries and at least 16 fatalities.

While tornadoes were sighted in several states from Texas to Nebraska and Iowa, the most damaging twisters occurred in Arkansas. 30 tornadoes have been produced by this severe thunderstorm outbreak so far, according to preliminary reports from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).

However, the SPC warns that this is a preliminary number and the total may be revised over the next several days. The Center issued a “high risk” warning for potential severe weather in Arkansas, the first outlook of this scale issued in 2014.

“The outbreak was caused by a strong, low pressure system that moved out of the southern plains and over the great lakes on Friday, April 25th,” says Scott Stransky, manager and principal scientist at AIR Worldwide.

While power has been restored to some customers, Entergy Arkansas has reported that over 16,000 homes and businesses are still without power. Interstate 40, littered with overturned vehicles more than 20 miles northwest of Little Rock, was shut down in both directions.

Stransky continues, “Until the national weather service completes damage surveys of the affected regions, the full impact of these tornadoes will not be known. Arkansas was most severely hit. Powerful winds unseated roofs from buildings, destroyed homes, and tossed empty big rigs nearly 100 feet into the air.”

Governor Sam Brownback has declared a state of disaster emergency for Baxter Springs.

Although a relatively quiet thunderstorm season does not necessarily translate into low losses, Stransky notes, “A single severe outbreak affecting metropolitan areas could cause atypically high losses.”