Double impact: When both tornadoes and flash floods threaten the same place at the same time

Erik R. Nielsen, Gregory R. Herman, Robert C. Tournay, John M. Peters, Russ S. Schumacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


While both tornadoes and flash floods individually present public hazards, when the two threats are both concurrent and collocated (referred to here as TORFF events), unique concerns arise. This study aims to evaluate the climatological and meteorological characteristics associated with TORFF events over the continental United States. Two separate datasets, one based on overlapping tornado and flash flood warnings and the other based on observations, were used to arrive at estimations of the instances when a TORFF event was deemed imminent and verified to have occurred, respectively. These datasets were then used to discern the geographical and meteorological characteristics of recent TORFF events. During 2008-14, TORFF events were found to be publicly communicated via overlapping warnings an average of 400 times per year, with a maximum frequency occurring in the lower Mississippi River valley. Additionally, 68 verified TORFF events between 2008 and 2013 were identified and subsequently classified based on synoptic characteristics and radar observations. In general, synoptic conditions associated with TORFF events were found to exhibit similar characteristics of typical tornadic environments, but the TORFF environment tended to be moister and have stronger synoptic-scale forcing for ascent. These results indicate that TORFF events occur with appreciable frequency and in complex meteorological scenarios. Furthermore, despite these identified differences, TORFF scenarios are not easily distinguishable from tornadic events that fail to produce collocated flash flooding, and present difficult challenges both from the perspective of forecasting and public communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1673-1693
Number of pages21
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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