Tornado outbreak sequence of May 2019

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Tornado outbreak sequence of May 2019
May 2019 tornado outbreak warnings and reports.png
Map of tornado warnings and confirmed tornadoes from the outbreak.
TypeTornado outbreak
FormedMay 17, 2019 (2019-05-17)
DissipatedMay 30, 2019 (2019-05-30)
Tornadoes confirmed301
Max rating1EF4 tornado
Highest winds
Casualties8 fatalities (+6 non-tornadic)
Areas affectedGreat Plains, Midwestern United States, Eastern United States
1Most severe tornado damage; see Enhanced Fujita scale


Part of the Tornadoes of 2019

The tornado outbreak sequence of May 2019 was a prolonged series of destructive tornadoes and tornado outbreaks affecting the United States over the course of nearly two weeks, producing at least 301 tornadoes, including 50 significant events (EF2+). Eighteen of these were EF3 tornadoes, spanning over multiple states, including Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio, with additional tornadoes confirmed across a region extending from California to New Jersey. Two EF4 tornadoes occurred, one in Dayton, Ohio, and the other in Linwood, Kansas. Four tornadoes during this outbreak were fatal, causing a total of 8 fatalities. The deadliest of these occurred on May 22 near Golden City, Missouri, where an EF3 tornado took three lives, including an elderly couple in their eighties.

Overview[edit]

Map of all affected states.

The final confirmed tornado total from this highly prolific outbreak sequence was 299, including with 48 strong tornadoes and 2 violent tornadoes. Tornadoes were confirmed in 23 different states. On May 29, the U.S. had its 13th straight day with at least eight tornadoes, which broke the previous record of 11 days straight set in 1980.[1][2] On the day when the record was broken, the U.S. had an average of 27.5 tornadoes per day during the outbreak.[3] Only three days during this period did not see an EF3 tornado or stronger. An additional two tornadoes were also reported on May 30, after the streak officially ended.[2]

While numerous tornadoes were confirmed in tornado-prone areas, other tornadoes touched down in areas well outside of these regions, including confirmed touchdowns in California, Idaho, Arizona, and New Jersey. By May 24, the state of Pennsylvania had already exceeded its yearly average number of tornadoes.[4]

The thunderstorms associated with this outbreak sequence also produced frequent heavy rainfall, sometimes at record levels, on previously-saturated ground across the U.S. and eastern Canada.[5] This resulted in widespread river and lakeshore flooding and flash flooding, which frequently interfered with emergency crews responding to tornado damage, and also interfered with National Weather Service damage surveys. The new precipitation also extended existing flooding along the Mississippi River system to record durations.[5]

The May outbreak is remarkable for its unusually low casualty rate relative to the number and intensity of tornadoes. Neither of the EF4 tornadoes in this outbreak resulted in a single death, in spite of one tornado being rain-wrapped, never clearly visible, and nearly a mile wide, and the other tornado striking at night. A seamless forecasting system with nearly 30 minutes of lead time is credited for preventing deaths in these two cases.[6]

Meteorological synopsis[edit]

May 17[edit]

An EF3 tornado near Minneola, Kansas, on May 17.

The threat for organized severe weather on May 17 was first outlined five days prior, when the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) outlined the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, as well as western Kansas, in a 15% probability contour.[7] On the morning of May 14, this risk area was expanded and 30% severe probabilities were introduced as the SPC gained confidence in a widespread and prolonged severe weather outbreak.[8] For the first time in the organization's history, a threat of severe weather was introduced for their entire day 4–8 period.[9] By May 17, a dual Enhanced risk existed across the Central Plains, one across much of Nebraska and the second across southwestern Texas. As a large scale upper-level trough ejected into the region, dew points in the low to mid-60s °F surged north in front of a dryline. A cap across the region allowed the atmosphere to become extremely unstable, while an eastward-moving dryline was expected to become the focus for severe thunderstorms later in the day. The SPC noted uncertainty regarding convective development farther south across southwestern Kansas into Oklahoma but mentioned that any thunderstorms would be capable of significant severe weather if they came to fruition.[10]

By late afternoon, several discrete supercell thunderstorms formed across northwestern Kansas and progressed into western and central Nebraska. While weak and largely uniform wind shear caused several splitting storms that destructively interfered with one another,[11] one supercell later in the evening formed within a strongly sheared environment, becoming intense and long-lived as it progressed northeastward.[12] It produced seven tornadoes in total, five of which were weak. One EF2 tornado near McCook caused major damage to a house, outbuildings, and trees, while another EF2 northeast of Stockville rolled 1,400 lb (640 kg) hay bales and snapped twelve power poles. The strongest was an EF3 that extensively damaged or destroyed well-built structures at a farmstead near Stockville.[13] Later in the evening, another long-lived supercell formed in southwestern Kansas where SPC had previously highlighted uncertainty in convective development. This supercell produced four tornadoes in areas southeast of Dodge City, including an EF3 and two EF2s. The EF3 tornado caused severe damage to farmsteads near the towns of Minneola and Bloom, and one of the EF2s touched down in the town of Lewis, causing damage there before striking several farmsteads.[14]

May 18–19[edit]

Into the morning hours of May 18, the large scale upper-level trough continued to shift eastward. Strong mid- and upper-level winds associated with this feature spread across much of Oklahoma and Texas, accompanied by dewpoints in the upper 60s to lower 70s °F and mid-level CAPE values on the order of 2,500–3,500 J/kg.[15] While the prominent threat was expected to be damaging winds along an eastward-moving mesoscale convective system, the SPC noted the potential for embedded and brief tornadoes.[16] Throughout the pre-dawn and early morning hours, a mixture of semi-discrete and linear thunderstorms developed across central and eastern Oklahoma down into northern Texas.[17] Strong southeasterly surface winds ahead of this convection in Texas provided the impetus for prolific tornado production over subsequent hours as it moved toward the northeast.[18] A long-lived supercell produced seven strong tornadoes as it progressed from near San Angelo, Texas, to northwest of Coleman. Three of these tornadoes reached EF3 intensity, including a large multiple-vortex tornado that struck Ballinger, where homes were left with only interior rooms standing, and a water tower was punctured by flying debris. The cities of San Angelo and Abilene both sustained direct hits from EF2 tornadoes, resulting in severe damage to many homes and businesses.[19][20] Farther to the north, a brief but strong tornado occurred east of Geronimo, Oklahoma, ripping the roofs and exterior walls off of two homes and injuring one individual.[21] Through the late morning and afternoon hours, a squall line progressed across eastern Oklahoma and northwestern Arkansas. In the presence of strong instability and very strong low-level shear, numerous tornadoes were confirmed across the region, all rated EF0 or EF1. Fort Smith, Arkansas sustained considerable damage from two separate EF1 tornadoes. Widespread damaging winds were also observed, reaching 100 mph (155 km/h) in some places.[22]

By the early morning hours of May 19, the squall line that had developed the previous day was pushing through Louisiana, resulting in numerous embedded EF0 and EF1 tornadoes. The strongest of these tornadoes was a high-end EF1 that passed near Mamou, significantly damaging multiple homes and manufactured homes. Further the northeast the Storm Prediction Center had outlined two separate slight-risk areas. One extended from Michigan down through Indiana, along with parts of Ohio and Illinois, and included a 5% risk area for tornadoes. The other covered upstate New York and Pennsylvania, along with portions of Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia, and included a 2% risk for tornadoes. In Ohio, EF1 tornadoes caused considerable damage in West Alexandria and Huber Heights. In Pennsylvania, another EF1 tornado severely damaged homes near Cocalico, and caused temporary closure of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.[23]

May 20[edit]

The Storm Prediction Center's day 1 convective outlook at 1630 UTC, featuring a high risk.

On the morning of May 20, 2019, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma issued a high risk for severe weather across western and central Oklahoma and northwest Texas. Characterized by extreme instability and low-level shear, along with a wind profile supporting the development of numerous widely spaced discrete supercell thunderstorms, conditions in place across this region were remarkably favorable for a large outbreak of violent, long-tracked tornadoes.[24] As a precaution, many public school districts, private schools and colleges (including the University of Oklahoma) throughout Oklahoma announced during the afternoon and evening of May 19 that they would cancel all classes and extracurricular activities for the following day, if not hold classes during the morning only. Ironically, in response to the deaths of seven students at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore after the May 20, 2013 tornado hit that school and nearby Briarwood Elementary, several of the public primary and secondary schools that canceled classes had since installed underground storm shelters for student and faculty use in the event that a tornado approached during school hours. The El Reno, Oklahoma school district—which has storm shelters at seven of its schools (six underground and one above-ground shelter)—was one of the few in sections of central and western Oklahoma under highest threat of significant severe weather that decided to hold regular classes that day; El Reno Superintendent Craig McVay defended the decision on safety grounds, acknowledging that between 75% and 90% of students in the district do not have shelters in their home. Businesses, churches and other venues also decided to cancel events and activities, while some city-government offices (including in Oklahoma City) and Tinker Air Force Base instituted liberal leave policies to allow employees to arrive home prior to the onset of severe thunderstorm activity.[25][26] By midday, the SPC increased the risk of significant tornadoes in northern portions of the Texas Panhandle, southwestern and central Oklahoma (including Oklahoma City) from 30% to 45%.[27]

The Storm Prediction Center issued a Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch (the 197th severe weather watch issued in 2019) at 1:35 p.m. CDT for portions of the eastern Texas Panhandle and the Texas High Plains. A second PDS Tornado Watch (watch #199) was issued at 2:45 p.m. CDT for much of Oklahoma and western portions of north Texas, indicating >95% probabilities for all severe hazards (including probabilities of at least two tornadoes and one or more strong tornadoes [rated EF2 or higher], ten or more cases of straight-line thunderstorm winds of at least 58 miles per hour (93 km/h) and at least one case of 75-mile-per-hour (121 km/h) winds, and ten or more cases of hail of at least one inch (2.5 cm) in diameter and at least one case of hail larger than two inches (5.1 cm) in diameter); this was the second PDS watch with such high probabilities of significant severe weather to be issued by the SPC, after one issued for much of Alabama and portions of southeast Mississippi, southern middle Tennessee and northwest Georgia during the historic Super Outbreak of April 27, 2011.[28]

Despite the extremely volatile and dangerous setup, the large outbreak of violent tornadoes that was expected did not occur, however several strong tornadoes did touch down. A large EF2 tornado damaged homes, destroyed outbuildings, and damaged the roof of an apartment building in Mangum, Oklahoma. In Texas, another EF2 tornado destroyed mobile homes and RV campers near Midland. An EF3 tornado touched down outside of the nearby city of Odessa, destroying oil pump jacks and leaving behind a swath of ground scouring as it moved through open oil fields. A large EF2 wedge tornado also struck the town of Peggs, Oklahoma, significantly damaging homes and businesses, and injuring one person.[29]

May 21[edit]

The following day, a large and likely intense tornado developed from an embedded supercell west of the St. Louis, Missouri metro area, near Augusta, Missouri. Damage was reported, but the extent of it is unknown. Despite a tornado warning being issued for the St. Louis metro area, the city escaped any major damage. Several tornadoes were also reported in Kansas and Nebraska.[30] An EF-1 tornado tracked over Tulsa International Airport, injuring a man. The Airport was left unscathed; meanwhile, damage was reported across town. 37 tornadoes were reported on May 21. This day, severe weather resulted in a fatal car crash, which killed two people, as well as the drowning of another driver in Perkins, Oklahoma.

May 22[edit]

On May 22, the Storm Prediction Center issued a moderate risk for severe weather for Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. The potential for powerful tornadoes would linger from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Columbia, Missouri.

An early-morning EF2 tornado struck Adair, Iowa with 1 fatality and 1 injury reported in addition to damage of 3 buildings and destruction of another on a farm.[31]

By 4:30 PM CDT, three Tornado Watches, stretching from north-central Texas to northwest and west-central Illinois were in effect, with two of them classified as PDS watches.[2]

A Tornado Emergency was issued at 8:19 PM CDT for a large and destructive tornado near Oronogo, MO. 4 tornadoes occurred with this dangerous supercell, 3 of them being rated at EF3 strength. One EF3 tornado near Golden City, MO killed 3 people.[32]

A large and violent tornado prompted a tornado emergency to be issued at 11:44 PM CDT by the National Weather Service for Jefferson City, Missouri.[33] Surveys found that this was a long-track high-end EF3 that was on the ground for 32 miles and was almost a mile wide at its peak intensity, 1 person died later in the hospital due to injuries.

May 23[edit]

At 8:11 AM CDT on Thursday, May 23, 2019, The National Weather Service in Lincoln issued a Tornado Warning for Lawrence County and Eastern Richland County in southeastern Illinois. [34] [35] [36] [37] An EF3 wedge tornado passed North of Canadian, Texas, completely leveling 2 homes.

An early morning squall line also caused widespread wind damage across central Illinois and Indiana, with the worst effected area seeming to be west central Indiana.[38][39][40]

May 24[edit]

On the morning of May 24, the Storm Prediction Center issued a slight risk of convective activity stretching from southwest Texas to the lower peninsula of Michigan, with a 5% risk of tornadoes for northern Illinois, far southern Wisconsin, and far eastern Iowa.[41] By the afternoon, this was upgraded to an enhanced risk for a portion of northwest Texas, with a 5% risk of tornadoes from there to Illinois.[42] Two EF1 tornadoes had already touched down in Kansas in the early morning hours, and in the afternoon tornado activity began again for the 8th day in a row. Just after 12:30 local time, two EF1 tornadoes touched down near Industry, Illinois, destroying outbuildings.[43] An EF1 tornado in Iowa City, Iowa destroyed outbuildings and large trailers,[44] and a series of EF0 tornadoes touched down in Missouri and Wisconsin.

May 25[edit]

As persistent southwesterly mid-level flow continued to engulf the Central Plains, the SPC once again warned of the potential for widespread severe weather, outlining the Texas Panhandle, western Oklahoma, and southern Kansas in an Enhanced risk. An area of low pressure was expected to progress over the southern High Plains, supporting a southward-extending dryline and a northeast-extending cold front to the Iowa–Missouri border. Within the warm sector, mid-level CAPE values were forecast to rise upwards of 2,000–3000 J/kg,[45] with dewpoints in the mid-60s °F as far west as eastern New Mexico.[46] Thunderstorms began developing along the dryline in eastern New Mexico and western Texas around noon local time, though these storms were not tornadic in nature in the absence of strong low-level shear.[47] By the late afternoon hours, more transient supercell structures had become apparent,[48] leading to a few tornadoes across the Texas Panhandle. One such tornado was rated an EF2 as it destroyed outbuildings, a mobile home, and a trussed cell phone tower among other impacts.[49] Several weak tornadoes also occurred across the Ohio Valley, where a well-defined shortwave trough combined with abundant moisture and sufficient instability to produce thunderstorms.[45] Hundreds of damaging wind reports were received.[50] Through the evening hours, earlier discrete activity across Texas and Oklahoma congealed into an organized mesoscale convective system. Weak mid-level winds were expected to mitigate the tornado risk,[51] owing to a severe thunderstorm watch across central Kansas down into central Oklahoma.[52] At 10:28 p.m. CDT, however, a narrow but significant tornado moved through southern sections of El Reno, Oklahoma, causing severe damage, killing 2 people, and injuring 19 others.[53]

May 26[edit]

At 12:04 just a mile west of Mannford, A tornado warning was sent out, Rotation was comfirmed by OK-51 and the OK-48 juntion. the tronado warning expired at 12:30. Into the morning hours of May 26, the mesoscale convective system continued to push across eastern Oklahoma, leading to simultaneous, large EF1 tornadoes near Sapulpa.[54] Into the afternoon hours, a concentrated risk for severe weather was once again expected to exist across the Central and South Plains. Several days of convection had eroded the elevated mixed layer throughout the region, but broad and intensifying southwesterly flow across northern Mexico was expected to reinvigorate this plume. Underneath the potent mid-level flow, rich low-level moisture was forecast to surge into western Kansas and eastern Colorado while mid-level CAPE values were projected to top 3,000 J/kg.[55] While initiation of thunderstorms was expected in the early afternoon hours (with the threat for large hail being the primary threat initially in the presence of weak low-level wind shear), more expansive cloud cover and a stronger cap delayed initiation.[56][57] Later in the day, a cluster of storms formed across portions of Nebraska and Kansas,[58] with a severe squall line taking shape farther south across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles as stronger upper-level winds arrived.[59] Numerous brief and weak tornadoes were reported throughout the area, in addition to widespread damaging wind and dozens of hail reports.[60]

May 27[edit]

As a strengthening mid-level westerly flow moved over the Midwest, the SPC issued an enhanced risk of severe weather at 0600 UTC, including at 10% risk of tornadoes that outlined the northern region of Illinois. At 1300 UTC, the risk was upgraded to feature the possibility of significant tornadoes, while still retaining it's 10% probability. A lesser threat of tornadoes also existed in far western portions of Nebraska and northeast portions of Wyoming, as a prominent upper trough shifted east-northeastward from the Four Corners area into the High Plains.[61] May 27 was the most active day for tornadoes during the outbreak sequence, with a total of 59 confirmed tornadoes. Ten of these tornado events were significant (EF2+), with seven of those tornadoes being rated EF3 or higher.[62] The most significant of these was a deadly EF4 tornado that struck parts of Dayton, Ohio, causing widespread damage across parts of Celina and downtown Dayton. Fifty-nine homes were destroyed as a result of this tornado, and many others were severely damaged.[63] One woman was killed as a result of this tornado.[64]

Notable tornadoes[edit]

Daily statistics of tornadoes during the tornado outbreak of May 2019
Date Total Enhanced Fujita scale rating
 EFU   EF0   EF1   EF2   EF3   EF4   EF5 
May 17 17 2 6 3 4 2 0 0
May 18 18 0 3 8 4 3 0 0
May 19 20 0 5 15 0 0 0 0
May 20 12 1 2 5 3 1 0 0
May 21 25 1 8 13 2 1 0 0
May 22 19 0 4 10 2 3 0 0
May 23 15 0 4 9 1 1 0 0
May 24 16 0 9 7 0 0 0 0
May 25 10 3 1 4 1 1 0 0
May 26 30 9 7 13 1 0 0 0
May 27 59 11 26 12 3 6 1 0
May 28 17 0 4 6 6 0 1 0
May 29 41 0 30 8 3 0 0 0
May 30 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 0
Total 301 27 110 114 30 18 2 0

Eldon – Jefferson City, Missouri[edit]

Numerous homes sustained major roof damage across Jefferson City

A tornado spawned near the town of Eldon, Missouri and traveled through the town at EF1 strength,[65] damaging a few homes and impacting cars along U.S. Route 54 before approaching Jefferson City.[66] In Jefferson City, many homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed at high-end EF3 intensity. Approximately 500 cars at a single dealership were damaged or destroyed, with losses estimated at $15–30 million.[67] The downtown area received substantial damage, with the tornado missing the State Capitol by less than half a mile.[68] The majority of damage occurred along a 3 mi (4.8 km) swath through the city. Twenty people required rescue from collapsed structures.[69] The tornado then crossed the Missouri River and dissipated in an open field shortly after.[68]

Jefferson City residents had at least 30 minutes advance warning before the tornado hit. The American Red Cross opened one shelter in Jefferson City and two in Eldon. Spokeswoman Sharon Watson says 50 people were at the Jefferson City shelter as of late morning.[70] On May 27, Governor Mike Parson activated the Missouri National Guard to assist with clean up efforts.[71]

On Sunday, May 26, one man was pronounced dead as the result of injuries he received in the storm.[72]

El Reno, Oklahoma[edit]

At 10:28 p.m. CDT on May 25, a small but strong QLCS tornado touched down just north of Interstate 40 on the south side of El Reno, Oklahoma. The tornado tore a 75 yard wide path through a motel and a trailer park. Damage at these sites was rated EF3. The tornado would continue on for 2.2 miles before lifting at 10:32 p.m. east of town. Residents in El Reno had less than 5 minutes of lead time before the tornado touched down. 2 deaths were confirmed along with 29 injuries.[73]

Celina, Ohio[edit]

A strong EF3 tornado moved through the town of Celina on the evening of May 27, severely damaging and destroying some homes. It originally touched down west of the town and moved eastward at around EF1 intensity. As the storm entered the northwest side of Celina it intensified and caused severe damage to several homes on Fairground Road. Many well-built homes had roofs completely uplifted and destroyed, while exterior walls collapsed. One home was ripped off its cinder block foundation (which it was anchored to) and thrown into an adjoining field. The tornado continued to Touvelle Road and Jill Avenue where homes sustained major damage, with about two dozen missing roofs; two residences were missing exterior walls, suggestive of winds at around 140–150 mph (230–240 km/h). The tornado then moved east and dissipated. The maximum wind speed from the survey estimates was 150 mph (240 km/h). One man was killed when a vehicle was thrown into his home.[74]

Brookville – Trotwood – Dayton, Ohio[edit]

Damage to roofs and homes caused by an EF4 tornado near Wilbur Wright Field in northeastern Dayton, Ohio

At 10:31 p.m. EDT on May 27, the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Wilmington, Ohio issued a tornado warning on a thunderstorm with rotation evident on radar imagery over northeastern Preble and Montgomery counties.[75] Ten minutes later, a tornado touched down west of Brookville, Ohio and quickly began to cause significant damage. Numerous homes sustained major roof damage and wall collapse on the south side of Brookville, damage consistent with a high-end EF2 tornado.[76] A nearby wastewater treatment plant was badly damaged while the local K-12 school complex sustained partial roof damage.[77] A debris ball became evident on radar after the tornado tracked across southern Brookville.[78] The twister then moved into the Trotwood area where it continued to produce EF2-rated damage as well as localized areas of EF3 damage. Many homes and apartment complexes sustained heavy damage, particularly on the south side of Westbrook Road.[76] In total, 500 homes were damaged and 59 were destroyed in the city, resulting in four hospitalizations. Another 30 persons without access to breathable air or medications as a result of the tornado were transported elsewhere.[63]

As the storm moved over the Trotwood area, the National Weather Service implemented the Particularly Dangerous Situation wording in their tornado warnings at 10:50 p.m. EDT followed by an issuance of a tornado emergency six minutes later for Montgomery County.[75] At around 11:06 p.m. EDT,[78] the tornado traversed the Northridge area of Harrison Township before crossing Interstate 75, entering the Old North Dayton neighborhood of Dayton and causing widespread damage to homes and businesses.[76] A strip mall was heavily damaged on North Dixie Drive.[79] The tornado weakened as it entered Riverside, Ohio, producing EF1 damage before lifting just west of the border between Montgomery and Greene counties.[76] An initial damage survey determined the tornado to have peaked at EF3 intensity with winds of 140–150 mph (230–240 km/h),[76] but further review revised the tornado's strength to an EF4 with winds of 170 mph (270 km/h).[80]

One elderly woman was found dead several days after the tornado struck. She had been buried in water and debris. Her cause of death is still uncertain.[64]

It was thought to have traveled into Greene County, but it was revealed it was actually two tornadoes. After the Dayton tornado lifted, a second tornado touched down in Riverside immediately. It continued into Greene County, causing widespread damage to homes and businesses before dissipating just North of Xenia. The tornado was rated an EF3 afterwards.

The tornado was the strongest to strike Ohio in nine years, and the first violent to strike Ohio since an EF4 hit Millbury, Ohio on the night of June 5th, 2010. It was also the first violent tornado to occur in the month of May in three years.

Lawrence – Linwood – Bonner Springs, Kansas[edit]

A home near Linwood, Kansas, that was leveled by an EF4 tornado on May 28

A massive wedge tornado, up to a mile wide, touched down ENE of Overbrook at 6:05 PM CDT on May 28. Moving northeast, the tornado entered Douglas County where it continued to intensify. The tornado impacted the city of Lawrence as an EF3 tornado, causing major damage on the south and east sides of town.[81] After bypassing Lawrence, the tornado crossed the Kansas River and hit Linwood, leveling a well-built home at EF4 intensity with peak winds estimated to be 170 MPH.[82] Many other buildings were damaged at EF2 and EF3 intensity, including multiple other homes and an industrial greenhouse north of the town. The tornado continued northeast, gradually weakening and causing minor damage, before dissipating just to the west of Bonner Springs in Wyandotte County, Kansas after traveling 31.82 miles for 55 minutes, and injuring 18 people.

Roads into Linwood were blocked off on Tuesday night after power lines and trees were left downed by the tornado.[83][84] The Kansas City International Airport, over 40 miles away from the area affected by the twister, reported debris on the runway. The large amount of debris led to dozens of flight cancellations.

The tornado was the first violent tornado to strike in the state of Kansas in three years. That tornado three years ago was an EF4 that came within close range of the towns of Abilene and Chapman on May 25, 2016.

Non-tornadic effects[edit]

Flooding[edit]

This storm system prolonged an ongoing heavy precipitation event across much of the southern Plains, Midwest, and eastern Canada, which included an unusually late, record-setting heavy snow event in the Midwest.[85][86] In eastern Canada, the previous flooding was already being described as 100-year events.[87] Most of this region had received between 5 and 10 inches of rain during April.[88][89] Several localities had broken April precipitation records before the additional rainfall from the May 2019 outbreak.[85] The Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois had just ended a record-breaking 51-day record for most days above major flood stage on May 12 before the new set of storms hit; many of the upstream cities along the Mississippi and Ohio were in a similar position.[90] Much of the northeastern U.S. as well as eastern Canada had been dealing with continual rain since snowmelt, which had been causing previous extensive flooding.[89][91] The addition of the wide-reaching heavy rainfall from the May series of storms to the already-saturated ground intensified river flooding and flash flooding effects.

Flash flooding[edit]

The torrential rain resulted in frequent flash-flooding. One third of all flash-flooding reports during April and May came from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.[92] A rare high-risk outlook for excessive rainfall was issued for the region surrounding Oklahoma City on May 20.[93] By May 28, every single county in Oklahoma was under a state of emergency due to tornadoes or flooding.[94] In at least one case, the NWS assessment team was unable to determine tornado-specific damage due to continuing flooding.[95] On May 8, a man drowned in Austin, Texas after he was swept away by a flash flood.[96] A woman drowned in her vehicle on May 21 after driving around barricades northeast of Oklahoma City.[97] A four-year-old-boy was swept away in a flooded creek in Indiana.[98] One person drowned in his van near Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.[99]

River and lakeshore flooding[edit]

Large parts of the Mississippi River system were already in the midst of the longest-lasting flood fight since 1927 before the current severe storm exacerbated the situation. On May 21, Baton Rouge, Louisiana broke the previous record for its longest-ever flood event, at 136 days. Vicksburg, Mississippi has been in continuous flood stage since February 17.[90] The Missouri River at Jefferson City reached its highest level since 1995. The Mississippi River at St. Louis reached a second crest in less than a month, surpassed only by the Great Flood of 1993.[5] The Morganza Spillway upriver from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, will be opened on June 2 for the third time in its history; it is opened when river flows at the Red River Landing are predicted to reach 1.5 million cf.[100][101] The Bonnet Carré Spillway has been opened twice in the same year for the first time since it was built in 1931.[101] The flood flight was in its 216th day, and is expected to surpass the 1973 record of 225 days.[101]

The Arkansas River and much of its associated watershed broke record flooding levels on May 26 and continued to rise during the following week.[3][102] Water management systems protected Little Rock from record-level flooding.[5]

Flooding in Canada broke records after the new round of storms. Several cities in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes declared states of emergency, including Montreal, Quebec, Huntsville, Ontario, Fredericton, New Brunswick, and the twin cities of Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec. The new flooding blocked the Trans-Canada Highway near Fredericton.[103][104]

Lake Ontario broke record flood levels on May 31 due to heavy rainfall and the record inflow of water it received from Lake Erie, and was still rising.[105][106] On May 27, lakeshore flood warnings were issued along the New York shoreline between Munroe County and the Canadian border.[107]

On May 14, two people drowned on a flooded rural road 40 miles north of St. Louis.[98] One man died in Kay County, Oklahoma, on May 23 after being surrounded by floodwater from the Chikaskia River.[108]

May rainfall records[edit]

Many locations in both the United States and Canada set new May rainfall records.

In the contiguous United States, the 12-month period ending in May set a precipitation record for any 12-month period ever at 37.68 inches, 7.73 inches above average.[86] The NOAA also reported the second wettest May ever recorded in the contiguous U.S. at 4.41 inches: 1.5 inches above average, and 0.03 inches shy of the all-time record.[86] Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri all broke their state records for most precipitation in May. Seven other states had precipitation totals in their top 5.[86] Multiple localities in southern and central California broke rainfall records at the beginning of the sequence, including locations which had never previously reported more than a trace of rain in May.[109]

Ottawa, Ontario nearly doubled its average rainfall to set a new May record of 175.8 millimeters of rain.[110] Montreal, Quebec, which has kept records since 1871, tied its record for total May rainfall; and also set a new record for the longest stretch of days with rain, at 16.[111]

Chicago, Illinois set a new May rainfall record of 8.25 inches, more than double its average precipitation, as part of its second-wettest spring on record. It also tied its record for the longest stretch of days with rain, at 21. The extreme rainfall has significantly set back crop planting in the region for the 2019 season.[112]

In the Great Plains, Kansas City, Kansas reported a new May record rainfall of 12.81 inches, which is also its third-wettest month in 131 years.[113] Bartlesville, Oklahoma broke its previous May record of 10.31 inches by more than four inches of rain. Wichita, Kansas and Enid, Oklahoma recorded their second-highest May rainfall with nearly 13 inches of rain.[5][114]

Other non-tornadic effects[edit]

The severe storms that produced the tornadoes were accompanied by extremely heavy rainfall. The town of Zelienople, Pennsylvania received more than four inches of rain in 24 hours during May 28 and 29.[115] On May 21, two people were killed in a traffic accident in Missouri when their vehicle lost traction in heavy rain.[116]

Most of the tornadic storms were accompanied by strong straight-line winds and large hail. Baseball-sized hail was reported in Colorado and Nebraska.[1] Straight-line winds of 94 mph (151 km/h) were reported near Marshall, Oklahoma on May 20. On May 28 and 29, softball-sized hail caused considerable damage in Armstrong and Venango counties, Pennsylvania.[115] Severe thunderstorms also produced numerous reports of straight-line wind damage in both the United States and Canada.

Several high-use areas not directly struck by tornadoes were covered by extensive blown or falling debris. In Dayton, Ohio highway snowplows were used to clear Interstate 75 of debris on May 28, after multiple destructive tornadoes moved through the city.[117][118] Although the May 28 tornado warning for Kansas City International Airport expired without a tornado after an hour, the airport had to stay closed to remove debris from its runways. The debris was deposited on the runways as a result of a violent EF4 tornado that had destroyed multiple homes in the Linwood, Kansas area, 47 miles away. The airport was not in operation again until after midnight, and flights were still being canceled as late as 7:30 am on May 29.[119]

Aftermath[edit]

States of emergency were declared in every county in Oklahoma.[94] Pre-existing states of emergency were extended in Iowa and Nebraska.[120] States of emergency were also declared by the governor in Arkansas,[121] Ohio,[122] Mississippi,[123] and Missouri[124] because of the flooding and tornadoes. Texas extended a previous state of emergency due to Hurricane Harvey, but did not post any new declarations.[125] The mayor declared a state of emergency in Zeniolople, Pennsylvania, after it received more than 4 inches of rain in 24 hours.[115]

Transportation interruptions[edit]

Road, rail and air transportation was seriously affected by the flooding and tornadoes. Jefferson City Memorial Airport was closed due to flooding.[124] Kansas City International Airport was closed for half a day while debris was removed from its runways.[119] More than 500 roads were closed across Missouri, including Interstate 29 near the Iowa border.[126] Interstate 75 near Dayton, Ohio was closed for a day while snowplows removed tornado debris. Amtrak experienced major disruptions across the Midwest and eastern U.S. All Amtrak service between Kansas City and St. Louis was suspended due to flooding from the Missouri River.[126] Amtrak service between Kansas City and Hutchinson, Kansas, was also halted.[124] Both routes were served by buses until the flooding abates. An Amtrak train was stopped between New York City and Pittsburgh on May 29 due to fallen trees.[127]

Electricity outages[edit]

In the Dayton, Ohio region, 80,000 people were without power on May 28 and 29.[128] People using generators in confined spaces led to an increase in hospital admissions due to carbon monoxide poisoning.[128] In eastern Canada, electricity outages were minor, mostly caused by windstorms associated with the greater storm systems. Although they affected thousands of people at different times throughout the day, all power was restored by the end of the day.

Boil water advisories and water outages[edit]

Dayton, Trotwood, Montgomery County and parts of Greene County, Ohio were placed under a boil water advisory on May 28.[129] Many of the same individuals affected by the boil advisory also lost most or all water pressure for a time due to a loss of power at two water-treatment plants and several pumping stations as one violent EF4 tornado, along with two other strong tornadoes (EF3 and EF2) moved through the city and nearby suburbs. This was the second major loss of water and boil advisory in the area within the year, following a similar event in February.[130]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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