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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 per 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. 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.

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). Florida tornado climatology shows us that strong to violent tornadoes are just as likely to occur after midnight as they are in the afternoon.

Tornado Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • 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.
  • 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




65-85 (mph)

Gale Tornado
Some damage to chimneys. Tree branches broken off. Shallow rooted trees uprooted.
86-110 (mph)
Moderate Tornado
Peels surface off roofs. Mobile homes overturned. Moving autos pushed off roads.
111-135 (mph)
Significant Tornado 
Considerable damage. Roofs torn off frame houses. Large trees snapped or uprooted. Light-object projectiles generated.
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.
166-200 (mph)
Devastating Tornado 
Well-constructed houses leveled. Structures blown off weak foundations. Cars thrown and large projectiles generated.
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.
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