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 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.
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). Florida tornado climatology shows us that strong to violent tornadoes are just as likely to occur after midnight as they are in the afternoon.
Fujita Tornado Damage Scale
Difference between a Watch and Warning
- 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.
How to prepare for a Tornado
- Know the signs of a tornado, including a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud; an approaching cloud of debris; or a loud roar—similar to a freight train.
- Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts. If your community has sirens, then become familiar with the warning tone.
- Pay attention to weather reports. Meteorologists can predict when conditions might be right for a tornado.
- Identify and practice going to a safe shelter in the event of high winds, such as a safe room built using FEMA criteria or a storm shelter built to ICC 500 standards. The next best protection is a small, interior, windowless room on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
- Consider constructing your own safe room that meets FEMA or ICC 500 standards.
During a Tornado
- When a tornado warning is issued for campus, IMMEDIATELY SEEK SHELTER in the nearest well-constructed building, away from doors and windows.
- Immediately go to a safe location that you have pre-identified.
- Take additional cover by shielding your head and neck with your arms and putting materials such as furniture and blankets around you.
- Listen to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions.
- Do not try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle.
- If you are in a car or outdoors and cannot get to a building, cover your head and neck with your arms and cover your body with a coat or blanket, if possible.
After a Tornado
- Keep listening to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, and local authorities for updated information.
- If you are trapped, cover your mouth with a cloth or mask to avoid breathing dust. Try to send a text, bang on a pipe or wall, or use a whistle instead of shouting.
- Stay clear of fallen power lines or broken utility lines.
- Do not enter damaged buildings until you are told that they are safe.
- Save your phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messaging or social media to communicate with family and friends.
Be careful during clean-up. Wear thick-soled shoes, long pants, and work gloves.
Seek More Information
Go to National Weather Service to obtain the latest details about the warning, including: estimated arrival time, direction, duration, and estimated expiration time. Once the warning has expired, and there is no evidence of damage, you may proceed with your normal course of business.