National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Western Heat Wave Continues; Watching the Gulf of Mexico

A dangerous heat wave will continue to bring record temperatures to much of the West through this week. A tropical disturbance in the southwest Gulf of Mexico will likely form into a tropical depression late this week over the central or northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Heavy rain could begin to impact portions of the northern Gulf Coast on Friday. Read More >

Slide 9

Reflectivity Image from the Twin Lakes (KTLX) WSR-88D National Weather Service Doppler radar at 7:28 PM CDT on May 3, 1999.

These images explicitly show the grave danger posed by flying debris in a tornado passing through an urban area, particularly a tornado of this intensity. The image on the left is the reflectivity image from the Twin Lakes (KTLX) WSR-88D National Weather Service Doppler radar at 7:28 PM CDT on 3 May. The highest reflectivity values, in white, are in the ‘ball’ at the tip of the hook echo, which is the location of the tornado. The reason for this is that large and numerous pieces of debris make for very good reflectors of radar energy (the radar ‘sees’ anything that will scatter radar energy - and that is NOT limited to precipitation particles!).

The two images on the right are image captures from a video taken by KFOR-TV (Oklahoma City Channel 4) at roughly the same time as the radar image. These pictures clearly show the large amount of debris within the circulation of this tornado as it destroyed numerous housing subdivisions near the highway. When violent tornadoes hit a large number of structures, this amout of debris is typical; even small objects become dangerous missiles. It's not the wind that causes casualties, it's what's *in* the wind. This was the situation facing the people underneath the Shields Boulevard overpass bridge.

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