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Florida Hazard Watch - Tornadoes

What is a tornado?

A tornado is a violent whirlwind that usually develops in association with a severe thunderstorm. The winds in a tornado can exceed those measured in the most intense hurricanes. Wind speeds in an intense tornado are likely to rise above 200 miles an hour. These violent winds are what make tornadoes so deadly - they can uproot and snap trees, down power lines, move or pick up cars and trucks, and destroy homes. In addition, the wind-thrown debris poses a serious hazard to people in the path of a tornado. The paths of tornadoes can be very short, or they can extend for many miles. Not surprisingly, tornado ground speeds range from nearly stationary to over 50 miles per hour. Tornadoes that form over a body of water are called waterspouts.

When is Florida's Tornado Season?

Tornadoes in Florida can form in a variety of ways, and in all seasons. However, many of Florida's tornadoes occur in the Spring and Summer months. Summer season tornadoes (June-September) typically occur along strong sea breeze boundary collisions, as well as from tropical cyclones. Spring season tornadoes (February-May) can be more powerful and deadly as they are spawned from severe supercells along a squall line ahead of a cold front. These types of tornadoes are also possible in the fall and winter months (October-January). While summer season tornadoes typically occur during the day, Spring season tornadoes can often strike in the middle of the night.

SPC FAQ About Tornadoes

What Time Are Florida's Tornadoes Likely to Strike?

Florida tornado climatology shows us that strong to violent tornadoes are just as likely to occur after midnight as they are in the afternoon. This unique feature makes these tornadoes more dangerous, because most people are asleep after midnight and cannot receive weather warnings relayed by commercial radio or television stations.

The solution to this is to have a NOAA Weather Radio in your home with a tone alert feature. This will allow you to receive warnings issued by your local National Weather Service office.

Where Can You Go For Up-To-Date Info?

  • Convective Outlooks - Issued to outline areas where severe thunderstorms may develop and qualifies the degree of risk (i.e. SLGT, MDT, and HIGH risk areas).
  • Hazardous Weather Outlook - Issued daily by local NWS offices to advise storm spotters and emergency managers of potentially hazardous weather and other hazards.
  • Tornado Watch - Issued to alert the public that conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. These watches are issued with information concerning the watch area and the length of time they are in effect.
  • Short Term Forecast - Issued as a 1-2 hour forecast of local weather conditions; emphasizing hazardous weather.
  • Tornado Warning - Issued by local NWS offices to warn the public that a tornado has been sighted by storm spotters or has been indicated by radar. These warnings are issued with information concerning where the tornado is presently located and what communities are in the anticipated path of the tornado.
Current Radar and Severe Weather Forecast

radar map image
outlook map image


What Actions Should You Take To Be Prepared?

Fujita Tornado Damage Scale

Developed in 1971 by T. Theodore Fujita of the University of Chicago
EF0 65-85 (mph) Gale Tornado
Some damage to chimneys. Tree branches broken off. Shallow rooted trees uprooted.
EF1 86-110 (mph) Moderate Tornado
Peels surface off roofs. Mobile homes overturned. Moving autos pushed off roads.
EF2 111-135 (mph) Significant Tornado
Considerable damage. Roofs torn off frame houses. Large trees snapped or uprooted. Light-object projectiles generated.
EF3 136-165 (mph) Severe Tornado
Severe damage. Roofs and some walls torn off well-constructed homes. Most trees in forests uprooted. Heavy cars lifted off ground.
EF4 166-200 (mph) Devastating Tornado
Well-constructed houses leveled. Structures blown off weak foundations. Cars thrown and large projectiles generated.
EF5 200+ (mph) Incredible Tornado
Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and disintegrated. Automobile-sized projectiles fly through the air in excess of 100 mph. Trees debarked.

February 12, 2016 14:49


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