Does The River Really Prevent Tornadoes In The Quad Cities?
On Saturday, March 5, tornadoes struck across Iowa leaving six people dead in Madison County and one other in Lucas County. The National Weather Service was able to confirm that there were at least 10 tornadoes in Iowa and Illinois from the storm system.
One of those massive ones in Madison Country at PepperHarrow farm was caught on video below.
The National Weather Service in Des Moines rated the tornado an EF-4 with estimated wind speeds of 170 mph.
Tornadoes in the Quad Cities
In the Quad Cities, while the city got lucky with no huge tornadoes that caused fatalities, there were two confirmed tornadoes that the National Weather Service mapped.
One of the tornadoes was listed as an EF-1 that traveled 300 yards with an estimated top wind speed of 100 mph. The NWS released a statement saying
"A Tornado produced intermittent damage along a roughly 4-mile path. The most significant damage was noted at a farmstead on 160th street east of 100th Avenue where several outbuildings were damaged or destroyed and trees were damaged or snapped. Boards were also impaled into the roof and walls of a barn. Additional significant damage was noted at a farmstead on Utah Avenue North of Duck Creek. SEveral outbuilds were damaged with some losing roof panels and damaging other structures."
The second tornado was a brief 25 yard EF-0 with max winds of 65 mph that damaged some trees.
Those tornadoes were west of the river. Could they have crossed the river?
On Saturday night I was out with friends in East Moline. All of us, nearly at the same time, got some sort of alert on our phone that the area was in a tornado warning. But being around people that have lived in the Quad Cities for all their lives, there was no panic. One person even stated, "It's OK. We're on this side of the river.". This is a statement that has been tossed out for years here in the Quad Cities. But is it true?
Quite simply put...no. Not only can it not divert or stop tornadoes, but tornadoes can also start on a river or lake.
According to the National Weather Service,
While conditions would not be optimal for tornado development on top of mountains or over Lake Michigan, tornadoes have been documented to cross the Appalachian Mountains and cross a 10 thousand foot tall mountain in Yellowstone National Park. Strong tornadoes have also crossed the Mississippi River and other large rivers and lakes.
Not only can they form on either side of the river, since 1950-2017 at least 24 tornadoes have crossed the Mississippi River. The average tornado-producing supercell is 10 miles wide. The river is only 1/2 mile wide.
With spring storm season upon us, the next time there is a tornado warning and your friends say, "It's fine. We're on this side of the river." you may want to let them know there is no stopping mother nature and perhaps the party should move to the basement.