Devastating Joplin Tornado

On Sunday evening, a large and damaging tornado struck the town of Joplin, Missouri.  Again, a major metro area hit by a large tornado.  This tornado has been rated an EF4, with wind speeds near 200 mph.  Since it touched down and demolished much of Joplin, I have been talking a lot about it...  The images are amazingly sad, and yet meteorologically helpful.  

The first image I showed on the 530pm newscast on Sunday was this one:

 That purple ball just south of Joplin is where the tornado was located.  The purple color?  That is a debris ball.  When the tornado went through Joplin it destroyed many structures.  Metal, glass, wood, cars, etc., were thrown up into the storm.  The radar beam reflected off of this highly reflective material, and painted this picture.  Here is another even worse image, showing white shading where the tornado is located:

 That dark purple color is the debris ball, with some white pixels in the center indicating much debris inside the tornado.  When we see a debris ball, after a tornado goes through a community, we often fear the worst has happened.  Well in this case, it did...

You get the idea...  So far, 116 people have lost their lives in this tornado.  That death toll is likely to rise, as more bodies are recovered.  These people had 20 minutes of warning...20 minutes.  Just goes to show that when large and damaging tornadoes strike in populated areas, people are going to die.  Tuscaloosa was a prime example of that last month...

So far, nearly 500 people have died in the first five months of 2011.  Between 2000 and 2010, 650 people lost their lives to tornadoes.  My friends, that statistic is simply confounding and amazing...

Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe

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