WEEKEND WEATHER LEAVES DEVASTATING MARK
April 29, 2002 An outbreak of tornadoes Sunday left pockets of devastation from Kentucky to Maryland's eastern shore, killing at least six people. Meanwhile, parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin were socked with up to 20 inches of snow. Heavy rains from the weekend pushed some rivers and streams passed flood stage in the Midwest. (Click NOAA image for larger view of tornado damage in Union and Johnson County, Ill., taken by NOAA's National Weather Service forecast office in Paducah, Ky., on April 28, 2002. Click here to see more photos.)
Forecasters at NOAA's National Weather Service said the weekend's weather was triggered by a vigorous upper-level storm system, as it moved from the Midwest to the East. Along the way, the system picked up warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and drew colder air in from Canada. The resulting violent clashes between the warm, moist air near the surface, and cold, dry air higher up created a series of severe thunderstorms and devastating tornadoes.
"The combination of these factors causes thunderstorms to spin up quickly, and sometimes causes the entire storm to rotate and spawn tornadoes," said Joe Schaefer, director of NOAA's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
Tornadoes Wreak Havoc
The twister that touched down in Shenandoah, Va., was measured to be a F2, which is characterized by winds between 113-157 mph that can tear roofs off houses, demolish mobile homes, overturn box cars, lift cars off the ground and snap trees like twigs.
According to the SPC, April 2002 so far has registered 100 tornadoes. During an average April, the United States averages 140 tornadoes. Overall, the nation has recorded 140 tornadoes for the year. The SPC also said the seven total deaths reported this year is below the 24 tornado deaths usually recorded through April.
Storm damage assessment teams are on the scene of the destruction around the country to gauge the actual strength and path of the tornadoes.
For Paducah, Tornadoes Strike
Three Times In A Week
"In my 23 years as a forecaster, working in six weather offices, I have never seen a week like this before," Poole said.
The Snow Still Falls
A NOAA volunteer Cooperative Weather Observer measured 20 inches of snow in Elcho, Wis.
As Plains states residents recovered from the weekend storms, officials in northern Michigan declared a state of emergency following severe flooding. Officials in Marquette County declared a local state of emergency and joined with other officials in asking the governor to seek a federal declaration. Recent flooding washed out many roads in the western part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and Marquette County officials estimated it would take more than $850,000 to repair roads in that county alone.
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