TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2019
ORLANDO, Fla. — Although we don’t worry much about tornadoes in South Florida this time of the year, in Central Florida, and where we are here in Orlando, we do. Florida’s climate is a deterrent to killer tornadoes, but our state ranks third in amount of storms, but almost never is it hit by the big and bold twisters. Central Florida is occasionally roughed up by strong tornadoes because it is subject to strong wind shear, which acts to fortify twisters. What triggers a tornado is still not altogether clear. Tornadoes spawn inside clouds when there is great turbulence and winds of various speeds and velocities come in contact with one another. Although there is uncertainty about the triggers, meteorologists are able to identify atmospheric conditions conducive to tornadic activity.
Generally, tornadoes in Florida form along a squall line ahead of an advancing spring cold front from the North, along the squall lines in areas where masses of warm air converge, from isolated local summer thunderstorms, and/or within a hurricane.
While tornadoes can form during any month of the year, this region tends to see its strongest twisters in March and April. On average, Florida sees 55 tornadoes a year, as many as Kansas. Of those, five spin up in South Florida. According to weather expert, Jim Lushine, Florida sees more tornadoes per square mile than any other state.
Tornadoes are classified into three broad groups based on their estimated wind speeds and resultant damage:
In the original F-scale, wind speeds were based on calculations of the
Beaufort wind scale and had never been scientifically verified in real tornadoes.
Enhanced F-scale winds are derived from engineering guidelines but still are only judgmental estimates.
Nobody knows the "true" wind speeds at ground level in most tornadoes, and
The amount of wind needed to do similar-looking damage can vary greatly, even from block to block or building to building.
Damage rating is (at best) an exercise in educated guessing. Even experienced damage-survey meteorologists and wind engineers
can and often do disagree among themselves on a tornado's strength.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO STAY SAFE DURING A TORNADO
•Know the county you live in. The NWS issues Tornado Warnings that are polygon-based, and may include an entire county, or more likely portions of neighboring counties.
•Stay abreast of the latest forecast via NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or TV. Keep a watchful eye on the sky, and consider postponing outdoor activities.
•Know your communities warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornadoes, with many having sirens intended for only outdoor warning purposes.
•Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar, or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
•Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
•Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
•Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
•Watch for tornado danger signs:
---Dark, often greenish clouds/sky
---Wall Cloud - an isolated lowering of the base of the thunderstorm
During a Tornado
Safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room. Cover your head with your arms, a mattress, or heavy blanket.
If no underground shelter is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
Stay away from windows!
•Get out of large auditoriums or large warehouses.
•Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or severe winds (nearly 40 percent of all tornado-related deaths come from residents of mobile homes). Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home immediately.
•If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter, or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter:
•Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
•If flying debris occurs while your are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options as a last resort:
•Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands or a blanket if possible.
•If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
•Never drive directly toward a tornado or in the vicinity of a tornado. Any tornado can change direction or speed quickly and put you at risk. • •Drive at right angles away from the tornado or get out of your vehicle and seek shelter immediately.
•Highway over-passes are not necessarily the safest outdoor place to be. People have been killed while hiding underneath an over-pass as a tornado moved overhead. Instead, seek a sturdy shelter or lie flat on the ground and cover your head with your arms.
After a Tornado
•Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information.
•Stay out of damaged buildings.
•Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately.
•Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents for insurance claims.
•Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline and other flammable liquids that could become a fire hazard.
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