Today, December 23rd, became one of the most destructive tornado outbreaks days of the year, and possibly the worst tornado outbreak of 2015. There is a preliminary count of 27 tornadoes, so far. One large violent wedge tornado ran for an estimated 120 miles, and crossed States from Mississippi to Tennessee. For a period of time, this large tornado showed very high wind velocities on radar. Expected damage reports tomorrow may be substantial for some areas. A high enhanced Fujita (EF) scale tornado rating will likely follow the paths of these long track tornadoes. One large violent tornado today, may also prove to be a historic record breaker for the month of December. So far, six people are confirmed dead by tornadoes, three in Mississippi, two in Tennessee, and one in Arkansas. At least 40 people were reportedly injured by tornadoes in Mississippi, so far.
Yesterday, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) issued a rare warning forecast for mid December. A 10% hatched tornado warning area was identified that covered mostly areas of Mississippi, Tennessee, and parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio. For the SPC to have issued this high of a warning for mid December is pretty unique. Meteorologists indicate that such high level tornado threat estimates are usually considered to be more of a springtime phenomena.
Heath Lollar, Live Storms Media, tracked a rapidly developing mesocyclone supercell, and filmed the developing Clarksdale, Mississippi tornado at close range. Heath was chasing along with Brett Adair, Eric Parker, Ryan Cartee. Scott Peake, Basehunter’s Chasing also tracked this tornado at close range and filmed it crossing a highway right behind his car.
Today’s tornadic storm environment was primed by a strong, cold, and mostly northeasterly flowing jet stream aloft. Veering warm and moist surface winds, from the southeast Gulf of Mexico, were also saturated with high dew points. Many southern States, just ahead of this powerful advancing low pressure system, also had close temperature to dew point spreads, very strong low level shear components, and a high storm energy helicity index (EHI). These factors combined made for a favorable forecast of long track violent tornadoes, and today proved that meteorologists were correct.
More severe weather, and ‘possibly a few’ tornadoes are predicted tomorrow from east of Texarkana and up northeastward towards Delaware. While there may be tornadoes and severe storms, some of the energy from the strong jet flow aloft has spread out.