Posted by: Jennifer Zeppelin, Chief Meteorologist - email
Severe weather dominated headlines several days in a row not only in Oklahoma but across a large portion of the Eastern U.S. Tornadoes, flooding and dust storms hit parts of the South particularly hard and impacted many lives.
It all started Sunday, April 27, in Oklahoma and surrounding states as a powerful storm system developed in the nation’s heartland. Some parts of Kansas experienced winds in excess of 60 mph that created blinding dust storms while strong thunderstorms developed in Eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas.
An EF-2 tornado that hit Quapaw, Oklahoma and across the border in Baxter Springs, Kansas caused considerable damage and left one person dead in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, residents in the area didn’t know a tornado was about to strike because no Tornado Warning was issued.
Normally, Doppler radar can detect a tornado starting to develop inside a strong thunderstorm, but the storm that hit Quapaw and Baxter Springs did not show the usual characteristics for a tornado as its forming. It’s a good reminder to always be prepared because strong thunderstorms can produce tornadoes without warning.
An EF-1 tornado also occurred in Le Flore County in the town of Octavia. The tornado snapped and uprooted trees but there was no other damage or injuries reported.
Later that evening, a powerful EF-4 – with winds of nearly 200 mph – caused heavy damage to Mayflower and Vilonia, Ark. As the storm marched east, Mississippi had more than a dozen tornadoes and rainfall totals of nearly 20 inches or more were measured in Alabama and Florida, including Pensacola. It’s rare for even hurricanes to produce that much rainfall when making landfall! New York City got its fair share of rain too recording one of the wettest days in the city’s history. Nearly five inches fell as the storm traveled up the East Coast.
The unusual weather was caused by a slow-moving low pressure system that was cut off from the primary Jet Stream. This “closed low” moved much slower than most storm systems tracking across the country. As a result, we saw what could have been normal spring thunderstorms turn extremely violent and “a good rain” turn into floods.
A lot of people are glad to see this storm system finally go away.