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The March 12, 2006 Tornado Outbreak

The Big Four Supercells of 3/12/2006

This tornado outbreak was intense for the Ozarks.  In terms of the number of well-defined supercell thunderstorms, tornado count and tornado intensity, it was actually worse than the infamous May 4, 2003 outbreak.

A total of 13 tornadoes tracked over the Missouri Ozarks with another three tracking across northern Arkansas on this Sunday evening.

The Early Storms Up North

Earlier on this Sunday, storms broke out to the north and northwest of Springfield.  The EF-1 tornado tucked up in the northwest corner of Benton County (see map below) actually occurred shortly before 4 pm.  The rest of the tornadoes were later in the evening.

This tornado which nicked Benton County was part of a supercell thunderstorm which lasted an amazingly long time! The so-called “six state supercell” started inĀ Oklahoma and could be tracked through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

Double Take

One of the most talked about aspects of this outbreak was the eerie path one tornado took over nearly the same path as one of the tornadoes during the above-mentioned 2003 outbreak.

The map below is actually two maps superimposed: one shows the track (heavy red line) of the May 4th, 2003 tornado while the other shows the track (thin red line) of the March 12th, 2006 tornado. The tracks are exactly on top of each other near Verona and never drift more than a mile from each other until the very end. The 2003 storm turned left near the end of its track and struck Battlefield while the 2006 storm maintained more of a straight line. 

Turning Winds

The low-level winds with this event were amazing.

Doppler radar can sense whether raindrops or hail are moving away or toward the radar site. This principle also works in an environment without storms because radar beams can actually bounce off of large cloud droplets and turbulent pockets in the atmosphere. Doppler codes winds that are blowing toward the radar with green, wind blowing away as red.  The first image captured at about 6:00 pm shows winds near the surface of the earth coming from the SSW. Two hours later at 8:00 pm, the winds had turned slightly or backed to the SSE. This turning of the wind in the lowest layer of the atmosphere has been shown to have a profound impact on the potential for thunderstorms to produce tornadoes.

Detailed reports on the Missouri tornadoes from the Springfield National Weather Service.

Arkansas Tracks

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