NWS Survey Concludes Twister Was 21 Miles long

The National Weather Service storm survey crew has concluded that the powerful supercell thunderstorm produced just one tornado in our area. However, the tornado was stronger than at least 90% of all the tornadoes that occur in the United States and took place at a time of day (early morning), and a time of year (winter), that few expect such events. Not only was the tornado powerful, but it strecthed over 2 states and 3 counties. The tornado’s track was 21 miles long and up to 500 yards wide (a little over a quarter-mile) at its widest point. The tornado was on the ground for 22 minutes. Here is an image of the storm relative velocity as the storm hit Cincinnati. This image is from the National Weather Service.

The bright green colored pixels are representing strong winds moving toward the radar and bright red pixels are representing strong winds moving away from the radar. The radar being used was located in Fort Smith which is located to the south. Our own Super Doppler Radar was estimating inbound winds of 74 mph and outbound winds of 57 mph as the storm was hitting Cincinnati. Our radar was showing an area of low-level rotation at or above 100 mph for about 25 minutes on Friday morning.

Here is a full link to the National Weather Service event summary. The folks at the Tulsa office did a superb job getting to the scene quickly and throughly analyzing the event.


While you are at the event summary page at the link above, take a look at the full radar loop that they have posted. Notice the second strong supercell that developed rapidly in southern Washington County. As that storm exploded in intensity, some of the moisture “fuel” for the tornadic storm along the Washington/Benton County border was robbed and as a result the storm weakened as it moved right over Elm Springs, Cave Springs, Southern Rogers & Northern Lowell. As this storm moved further northeast into Missouri the moisture and shear levels increased and the storm once again became severe. As tragic as the tornado was on New Year’s Eve, it could have been much worse.

Ross Ellet

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