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Tornadoes in the Sunshine State?

June 12, 2024

The Threat of Tornadoes          

When one think of tornadoes in the United States, most people’s minds go straight to Tornado Alley in the Midwest which includes states such as Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kansas. When in fact, Florida is indeed among the top ten states in the US that experience the highest number of tornadoes on average each year.

Top 10 States with the Most Tornadoes (1997-2022)

     As most seasoned Floridians understand, the threat of a tropical storm or hurricane is very typical around this time of year. What some don’t realize is that these severe storms are also usually accompanied by the threat of tornado formation. Unlike hurricane season, which officially runs annually from June to November, tornadoes in Florida can form all year-round. Most of these happen during the summer months, June being the busiest time of the year. As seen in the graph below provided by the Florida State University’s Climate Center the average number of tornadoes declines in the late fall and winter months.Average Number of Tornadoes by Month in Florida

What Causes Tornadoes?

     A tornado, recognized as one of nature’s most violent storms, can develop suddenly and produce winds exceeding 250 mph. These powerful storms can cause significant damage and pose serious threats to safety.

     In Florida, tornadoes typically form under several conditions:

  • Along a squall line, which is a line of thunderstorms, ahead of an advancing spring cold front from the North.
  • Along squall lines in regions where masses of warm air converge, creating unstable atmospheric conditions.
  • From isolated local summer thunderstorms, which can rapidly intensify.
  • Within a hurricane, where the combination of high winds and atmospheric instability can lead to tornado formation.

     Understanding these conditions can help in preparing and taking necessary precautions to ensure safety during such events.

Tornado in Orlando, Fla

Compare & Contrast: Tornado vs. Waterspout

     According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, waterspouts are essentially tornadoes that form over water or transition from land to water. They exhibit the same characteristics as land-based tornadoes, including powerful rotating winds and a funnel-shaped cloud. Waterspouts are often linked with severe thunderstorms and can be accompanied by dangerous lightning. While they may appear less threatening due to their location over water, waterspouts pose significant risks to boats, coastal areas, and anyone caught in their path. Safety precautions are crucial when these phenomena are present.

waterspouts

Will Impact Windows and Doors Protect Against a Tornado?

     Impact-resistant windows and doors are specifically engineered to withstand severe storms and winds reaching up to 200 mph. This level of strength is comparable to the forces experienced during a Category 5 hurricane or an EF5 tornado, which is the highest classification on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. While the most extreme tornadoes, classified as EF4 or EF5, are relatively rare, it is important to note that Florida is not entirely free from the threat of dangerous tornadoes. Therefore, having impact-resistant windows and doors can provide an added layer of protection and peace of mind, ensuring that your home remains secure even in the face of such powerful natural events.

total monthly tornadoes by magnitude chart

History of Tornado Activity in Florida

  • April 1966– Tornado Family Outbreak: Coast to Coast
    • On April 4, 1966, two tornadoes from one thunderstorm hit Tampa Bay, moving rapidly northeast. One was an F4, causing $700 million in damage and 11 deaths. This remains the fourth deadliest tornado outbreak in Florida.
  • February 1998Kissimmee Tornado
    • Coined the “Night of the Tornadoes” February 22nd, 1998, was the deadliest tornado event in Florida history. One hundred and fifty people were injured and over 1000 structures were damaged or destroyed.

tornado damage

  • August 2004– Hurricane Charley
    • A long-track supercell tornado, associated with a rainband of Hurricane Charley, moved across the open Everglades before striking a building in Clewiston.

hurricane charley damage

  • January 2022- SW Florida– 6 Twisters
    • At 6am on January 16th, 2022, the biggest of the six tornadoes that would eventually touchdown that same day moved ashore to Fort Myers Beach. It moved ripped up dozens of homes that had just seen the destruction of Hurricane Ian just eight months earlier.

damage from 6 tornadoes

  • May 2024Tallahassee Triple Tornado
    • Most recently, Tallahassee and surrounding areas were bombarded with three tornadoes touching down on May 10th, 2024. Two of the three moved through the center of the capital city as EF-2 tornadoes causing a major amount of destruction. Although it is not the first strong tornado this area has seen, it left about 100,000 people and college students and faculty without power for almost a whole week.

damage from triple tornado

Sources

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amiee munday

Amiee Munday became a part of the Wrights team in 2021, while studying at Florida State University, and became a full-time member of the marketing team in 2023. With a passion for experiential marketing, Amiee organizes shows and events for Wrights, and shares her experience writing articles, as well as managing social media accounts.

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