Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Environment

Satellite images refute claim that deadly Branson thunderstorm "came out of nowhere"

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Weather forecasts and remote sensing imagery show that the Branson duck boat tragedy was avoidable

RAMMB_CIRA_SLIDER__GOES-East__GOES-16__Satellite_Imagery__Full_Disk_Sector__GeoColor__CIRA_.jpg

An animation of GOES-16 weather satellite images shows the development of severe thunderstorms in southwest Missouri on July 19, 2918. Note: The animation may take a little time to load after you click on the screenshot above. (Source: RAMMB/CIRA) The duck boat tragedy in Branson, Missouri, was made all the more horrible by the fact that it was completely avoidable. While Jim Pattison Jr., president of the company that owns Ride the Ducks Branson, claimed the storm “came out of nowhere,” nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a severe thunderstorm watch had been issued by the National Weather Service at 11:20 a.m. Central time, nearly eight hours before the sinking. The watch stated that winds could gust to 75 miles per hour. In the animation above of GOES-16 weather satellite images, you can see the stormy weather already developing at 18:00 UTC, or 1 p.m. Central time. Then, at least a half hour before the tragedy, the weather service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Table Rock Lake, site of the sinking. A 'warning' means severe weather is imminent or already occurring, and people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. As it turned out, the vicious thunderstorm outflow gusts that sank the boat were clocked at 63 miles per hour. As Mike Smith, a retired meteorologist with AccuWeather put it in a blog post:

. . . this indirect blaming of meteorologists was old a decade ago and is completely inappropriate in this particular situation.

cimss_ssec_wisc_edu_goes_blog_wp-content_uploads_2018_07_180719_goes16_visible_MO_svr_anim_mp4.jpg

An animation of GOES-16 weather satellite images shows the intensification of thunderstorms over southwestern Missouri beginning an hour before the tragedy in Branson. (Source: CIMSS Satellite Blog) The animation of weather satellite imagery above provides a more detailed view of thunderstorm intensification in the hour leading up to the sinking of the duck boat. It starts with a major thunderstorm cell to the north and west. Then, at about 00:18:00 UTC — 7:18 p.m. Central time — a new thunderstorm cell is seen boiling up through the remnants of a previous one, just northeast of Branson. Seven minutes later, it is located near the part of Rock Lake where the boat went down. (Between Branson West Airport, marked 'KFWB' in the screenshot above, and Branson Airport, marked 'KBBG.')

G16_VIS_MO_SVR_19JUL2018_960x1280_B2_2018201_002506_0001PANEL_00056.gif

GOES-16 image acquired at 00:25 UTC, or 7:25 p.m. Central time. (Source: CIMSS Satellite Blog) Here's a still image showing the thunderstorm cell just about at the moment that the boat went down. Before I go, I want to give a shout out to Scott Bachmeier and the other amazing folks at the Satellite Blog of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. This still image and the animation above it came from there.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In