Surprise Tornado Outbreak Across Indiana and NW Ohio
Kokomo, IN Tornadoes
On August 24, 2016, an under forecasted and unexpected tornado outbreak occurred across parts of central Indiana and Ohio. This outbreak of tornadoes occurred for around 6 hours with the strongest tornado being the tornado in Woodburn, Indiana followed by the tornado that struck a Starbucks trapping people inside in Kokomo, IN. This outbreak went unseen by experienced forecasters and meteorologists alike with over 24 confirmed tornadoes and over 100 million dollars in damage. Fortunately, only a few injuries occurred during this six-hour outbreak and no fatalities occurred.
SPC Convective Outlooks
Taking a look at the Storm Prediction Center's (SPC) Convective Outlooks issued for the 24th of August, the SPC had issued only a slight risk for severe weather that day, with the threat of a tornado or two limited to parts of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois. Despite this, the outbreak unfolded entirely outside of the outlined threat area as numerous supercell thunderstorms developed unexpectedly across parts of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, producing numerous tornadoes. A 2% tornado probability was issued for that area under the slight risk issued by the SPC. It wasn't until about 16:30z (12:30 PM EDT) that the SPC upgraded parts of southern Indiana into the Slight Risk (Level 2) but still keeping the tornado probabilities further to the west in parts of Kansas and Missouri. It wasn't until 20z (4 PM EDT) when the SPC expanded that risk for severe weather into areas of Northcentral Indiana, along with a 5% tornado probability before eventually expanding that risk into NW Ohio by the 0100Z update.
The first tornado to touch down was a EF2 that developed south of Crawfordsville, IN in Montgomery County at 2:38 PM. This tornado was on the ground until 2:48 PM, followed by the EF3 that knocked down the Kokomo Starbucks in Howard County. This tornado formed just west of town at 3:20 PM and was on the ground for about 14 minutes before lifting just past the Kokomo reservoir at 3:34 PM. A total of 11 tornadoes were surveyed in Indiana with another 10 in northwestern Ohio with two additional tornadoes in Ontario Canada. A few of those tornadoes as I mentioned, were considered significant tornadoes. A significant tornado is classified as a tornado with wind speeds of 111mph+whch is equivalent to an EF2 or greater.
On this day, our team managed to track 4-5 confirmed tornadoes, one of which was on the ground for a little over an hour and produced a track a little over 17 miles long. Our team continued to work with law enforcement, emergency management, and the NWS while tracking these tornadoes, sending in reports of where the tornado is going, where it has been, and any damage we saw. It wasn't until later that day we got caught up in one of the storms where a tornado dropped on the road in front of our vehicle lofting debris such as tree branches and yard signs at our vehicle. While chasing we recorded data on our roof-mounted weather instruments which record, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed, and wind direction.
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