Tornado hits St. Louis airport

The airport is closed due to damages. Video follows.

“We know the airport is closed,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Miller. “We’re assuming that (a tornado) is what it was.” Reuters story.

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jack morrow
April 23, 2011 7:05 am

I saw where someone said he overheard two air traffic controllers talking and one said to the other,”I don’t believe I slept through the whole thing.”

April 23, 2011 7:18 am

They know it was a tornado, because it woke up the ATC.

Douglas DC
April 23, 2011 7:37 am

This reminds me of the incident back in 1952 when a Tornado ripped Carswell and approx 2/3 of our bomber fleet…
The B-36 had a 230 ft wingspan.

mike g
April 23, 2011 7:39 am

In my part of the country, water to keep the grass green and make the crops grow this time of year comes with tornadoes mixed in. It’s the price of not living in a desert.

April 23, 2011 7:45 am

Did it interrupt the air traffic controller’s movie?

April 23, 2011 8:49 am

“Damages”? Is a house full of “furnitures”? “Damages” is a legal term.

April 23, 2011 8:54 am

A friend near St Louis said there was a report of one fully loaded passenger plane, sitting at one gate, that got lifted and dropped at the next gate.
This local weather report video seems to plunk the tight rotation right just having passed Lambert Field.
The tightness of it, plus the comment in this video that “It is holding together really well,” would strongly suggest that the “tightness” of the rotation was also there one mile west, when it passed the airport.
Note that it is at the end of the “comma,” the southern end of that cell. That, as I understand it, is the typical location of tornadoes, relative to the mass of storm clouds.
As of this moment, I am not seeing any definitive conclusions about it being a tornado or not.

April 23, 2011 9:00 am

There are already plenty of Nitwits on CNNs website blaming this all on global warming and saying the classic line of “storms are getting worse!!”
Plus several air traffic controller jokes, which is amusing considering the stuff theyve been reporting on about people sleeping, watching movies…etc…has been happening FOR YEARS and how many air accdients have been blamed on air controllers being asleep while a plane was landing? 0? ….its obvious somebody powerful wanted to focus on this for a bit for reasons I dont know. It just shows how much manipulation the media has over people.
Its like the global warming junk, all they have to do is keep spoon feeding stories constantly and suddenly theyve manufactured a “crisis” where none exists.

April 23, 2011 9:01 am

The media are consistently calling this an “apparent tornado”. This idiotic habit started about three years ago. I guess the ACLU is defending Tornado Rights now, and you can’t prejudice the jury trial of a tornado by calling it a tornado.

April 23, 2011 9:03 am

Not surprising . . . May 1, 2011 to May 3, 2011 is my prognostication, based on a model, for some significant “circular form ups” that should take about a week to “wind” out . . . I mark my calender as I tend to be a bit early . . . . 3 – 5 days . . . .
There should be several, around the globe . . . assuming the model “holds”!
I am working on Longitude and Lattitude pro-jections, but I have limited access to information!

Rob Chambers
April 23, 2011 9:40 am

polistra, shouldn’t that be “alleged tornado”?

April 23, 2011 9:45 am

Mike Smith in t&n said:
“The storm was live-blogged at: Just scroll down.”
He’s got some great details as the storm tracked across St. Louis. He was saying that it has the most deaths from tornadoes than any other city. Didn’t realize that.

Richard Patton
April 23, 2011 10:15 am

“The media are consistently calling this an “apparent tornado”. This idiotic habit started about three years ago. ”
Longer ago than that. In 1973 a tornado touched down in Vancouver WA, just across the Columbia river from the NWS weather station, and destroyed a school (it was spring break so no one was injured). For six days NWS claimed it was only a “wind shift” before they finally admitted that it was a tornado. This was pre-doppler days and Oregon supposedly didn’t get tornadoes.

April 23, 2011 11:20 am

Better reporting than ‘the majors’:

Kevin Kilty
April 23, 2011 11:22 am

Comments about the ATC are toooo funny. On a serious note, though, the WSJ this weekend has an interesting story about ATCs sleeping on the job. The FAA has known about this problem and some of its causes for decades.

Kevin Kilty
April 23, 2011 11:30 am

@polistra — about thirty-six years ago a restaurant at Storey, Wyoming blew-up and the local sheriff was quoted as saying that the cause was a “possible propane tank.”

Atomic Hairdryer
April 23, 2011 11:53 am

Probably dumb question, but for airports vs tornados, how do you protect the planes? Guessing the best option is to move them elsewhere if there’s time, but can they be tied down and survive?

Mark T
April 23, 2011 11:58 am

St. Louis has always been a haven for tornados. It probably has the most deaths because its metropolitan population is the largest in the tornado belt across the midwest. Growing up there (27 years total) was always fun during tornado season (pretty much all spring and summer.) I spent plenty of time in the basement hiding from storms with my panicked mother. 🙂

D. Patterson
April 23, 2011 12:26 pm

It was not quite 40 years ago at night when I ran into similar severe weather while I was in Southern Illinois and on my way to work as an Air Force meteorologist at our Air Force weather station at Lambert Field, St. Louis Intl. Airport. It was night time, and NWS had issued a severe weather alert without a tornado watch or tornado warning. Interstate 64 had not yet been constructed in this area, so I was driving on a two-lane state highway. The cloud cover left everything pitch black, and there was very little lightning to provide enough light to see what was coming. So, instead of running headlong into the routine line of thunderstorms NWS was reporting through the radio stations, it was a surprise to run into something much deadlier.
The line of severe weather was much much stronger than NWS was reporting. The rainfall intensified within seconds to the point where the windshield was covered by a thick blanket of water, and the windshield wipers were useless. The tempo of lightning flashes abruptly changed to the point where it was like being in a room full of a thousand photographers triggering their strobe flashes in continuous mode. The continuous lightning flashes turned the water on the windshield into an opaque white sheet of water. It was impossible to see through the windshield, so it suddenly became necessary to open the door window, and use the barely visible pavement passing by to judge how to slow down from 50-60 mph to 0 mph without crashing into the ditch, a creek, or another car ahead. You could only hope the traffic behind would not rear end the car at full speed.
The wind intensified, blew horizontally, whipped the rain around in circles, and the car started to rock back and forth violently. You could feel the air pressure drop suddenly and dramatically. At any given moment there were many bolts of lightning striking all around at the same time. The thunder from these very close lightning bolts was deafening. The car finally was parked on the shoulder of the highway, but the winds threatened to keep it moving nonetheless. Nickel sized hail beat the car. The torrential rain was whipped by the winds so that it stung as it came through the open window while trying to see outside. Then it was over.
The worst of the storm ended just as abruptly as it had begun. Visibility returned as the rainfall slackened. Within minutes I was driving again as the thunderstorms and lightning became distant objects on the horizon and the stars became visible in the clear patches of sky.
I stopped at the first available phone booth and tried to call the NWS to report the severe weather and possibility of a tornado. To make a long story short, they did not want to take a report. Their attitude was incomprehensible. Civilians could and did report severe weather to Air Force weather stations, and we included them in our weather observations in the appropriate manner as instructed by the Federal Meteorological Handbook. So, it was an eyeopening experience to discover the NWS had a quite different attitude. Here you are, an experienced Air Force meteorologist enroute to the weather station and reporting previously unreported tornadic weather conditions, and the NWS refused to take the report or provide the radio stations and emergency responders with a tornado watch that might save lives. It was unbelievable.
Today, some things have improved, but the NWS still has some people who have an attitude problem when it comes to accepting reports of severe weather from any source outside the NWS, including experienced meteorologists, pilots, and others who have reasonable qualifications to be reporting such weather. Their channels of communication while theoretically in existence, are often not available in practice. Telephone lines are busy and/or go to recorded messages. Internet communications are not acted upon until the weather event is long gone. Reports are dismissed as being unverified reports from the public without making any effort to ascertain the qualifications of the reporter or report. Instead, a report may get through now and then when it may count towards saving lives, but probably not. Reports from the public are effectively discouraged despite representations and publicity to the contrary.
The taxpayer has purchased a very fine doppler radar system for the NWS to use. The public finally has access to severe weather storm watches and warning using the National Weather Service Enhanced Radar Image webpages. Access to this resource makes it possible for the public to see the approach of the severe weather and take more appropriate actions. Then the NWS spoils the whole effort with failed support of the Website. All too often, the radar images become unavailable or provide erroneous images just as the severe weather such as a tornado warning is entering your own location. Just when you need the information most, the NWS Website radar images are no longer available. It happened again today. The sector radar maps displayed a severe weather system passing through the region, but the standard radar maps failed to display the severe weather other than precipitation warnings or an error message reported the radar images were currently unavailable. Some time later, after the storm passed through, the radar images were available again. The timing leaves much to be desired.

April 23, 2011 1:02 pm

>>Probably dumb question, but for airports vs tornados, how do you
>>protect the planes? can they be tied down and survive?
Smaller planes can be tied down, larger ones have no such possibility. They will be ok with very high winds if facing onto wind – probably stable up to 80 kts, if they are fully fuelled and trimmed nose down.
The problem with a tornado is the changing wind direction. Most aircraft are only certified for 50 kts tail wind, before you can damage the control surfaces. And any strong side winds will weathercock the plane back around into wind, which is a problem if there is a nearby terminal or other equipment when it swings around.
Best to get out of there – if you can get enough warning and get a in crew to fly it. But if there is lightning around, you cannot refuel anyway, so you are stuck.

April 23, 2011 1:43 pm

A National Weather Service Meterologist once explained to me in layman’s terms that tornados leave a unique signature if trees are destroyed because of the circular pattern fromed by the downed tree trunks when viewed with a suitable scale at altitude from an aircraft. However, heavy damage that seems so similar when viewed from the ground may have been caused by high-velocity downdrafts plunging vertically within a thunderstorm.
These downward blasts spread out horizontally at high velocity when they hit the ground and can also cause lots of damage, but any downed tree trunks are arrayed in straight lines radially instead of the circular pattern created by a tornado.

Mike Smith
April 23, 2011 2:38 pm
April 23, 2011 2:40 pm

A shoulderless shirt on the Airport director? I guess that’s appropriate attire for a tornado update.

April 23, 2011 2:44 pm

This tornado was caused by global warming. What’s the proof? They don’t need no stinkin proof.

April 23, 2011 2:50 pm

Bowen April 23, 2011 at 9:03 am:
Not surprising . . . May 1, 2011 to May 3, 2011 is my prognostication, based on a model, for some significant “circular form ups” that should take about a week to “wind” out . . . I mark my calender as I tend to be a bit early . . . . 3 – 5 days . . . .

How does your effort differ from what the folks at the NWS SPC (Storm Prediction Center) produce:
Here’s today’s Outlook frozen in time (to compare to your prognostication above):

Atomic Hairdryer
April 23, 2011 3:51 pm

Re Ralph
Thanks. Luckily we don’t get too many tornados this side of the pond so no experience of them, just curious whether larger/lighter/more fuel efficient aircraft complicated the situation. Give me a well maintained An-124 and never mind the fuel consumption, assuming someone else is paying. Or, being forewarned is being someplace else.

D. Patterson
April 23, 2011 5:48 pm

Atomic Hairdryer says:
April 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm
Re Ralph
Thanks. Luckily we don’t get too many tornados this side of the pond so no experience of them, just curious whether larger/lighter/more fuel efficient aircraft complicated the situation. Give me a well maintained An-124 and never mind the fuel consumption, assuming someone else is paying. Or, being forewarned is being someplace else.

See the B-36 bombers at the link above, and see what you think about the size and weight mattering:

Douglas DC says:
April 23, 2011 at 7:37 am

April 23, 2011 9:54 pm

I saw one going across the Mississippi River just north of the I-270 bridge sometime back in the late ’90s that didn’t look like any tornado I have seen either. A massive thick dark cloud dropping all the way down to the river. The people on NOAA weather radio were for the most part screaming about it, was one way I knew it had a tornado in it. I’ve watched a few in my time and actually was inside the swirling base of a small one that was forming, got rocked around a bit in Union City, TN.

April 24, 2011 9:38 am

>>Give me a well maintained An-124 and never mind the fuel
>>consumption, assuming someone else is paying.
The size and weight of a commercial aircraft jet matters little. All aircraft are designed to get airborne at roughly the same speeds, so a 747 will be blown around almost as much as a little Fokker.

Chris D.
April 24, 2011 5:40 pm

Keep an eye on this area of the country, especially the lower Ohio River valley over the next few days. It’s shaping up to be a catastrophic flooding event. Record flood stages are being projected at some locations within 6-10 days.

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