Background InformationThe state of Florida has suffered the blunt of Tornadoes since antiquity. In the recent years, it is recorded that Florida has had 443 Tornadoes in eleven years only, ranging from 2005 to 2016 (Uraizee and Yiran). However, even with the recurrent tornadoes, Florida is yet to experience an extremely dangerous tornado intensity of above F3 rating. Tornadoes of the intensity of a storm is rated using the Fujita scale (F-scale). The Fujita scale is a five (sometimes six) level scale comprising of F0, F1, F2, F3, F4 and F5. The F0 is the weakest and signifies light damage like broken twigs and bent signboards while F5 is the strongest where incredible property damage where major buildings and vehicles are lifted of the ground and disintegrate at far away distances.
Florida has been experiencing tornadoes ranging from F0 to F3. However, the frequency at which tornadoes hit Florida is the highest in the US. The annual average of the tornadoes strike is 12.2 tornadoes in every 10000. The Palm Beach County has had more tornadoes in 66 years compared to the Miami-Dade County and Broward County. Among the highest was the 1992 EF3 twister in Pinellas county, EF3 tornado still in Pinellas county in 1978, Hurricane Ivan in 2004 (EF2), EF3 tornado in Madison County in 1988, an EF3 twister in Groundhog day in 2007, and an EF4 tornado in Pinellas in 1966. However one of the deadliest Tornado of all time was the EF3 tornado, referred to as the Kissimmee tornado in February 1998 (Central Florida Tornado Outbreak February 22-23, 1998).This paper will concentrate on the Kissimmee tornado, its damages, preventive measures set and its effect on people.
The Kissimmee tornado (also referred to as the Kissimmee tornado outbreak) occurred on February 22 and February 23 1998. To date, the Kissimmee tornado remains the deadliest in the history of the state of Florida. The Kissimmee tornado had an F-scale strength of F3 even though some reports claimed that it reached the F4 scale. Fourty two lives were lost in that twister while 260 others were left injured (Central Florida Tornado Outbreak February 22-23, 1998) .
Regions Affected and Damages
In the 22nd of February 1998, the south west Hollister in Putnam County experienced an F0 in which strong winds blew large trees to the ground. In Indialantic, Brevard County, an F1 scale tornado was experienced in the same day where rooftops were blown off and waterspouts came ashore. The south west of Daytona International Speedway all the way to Daytona Beach in Volusia County experienced an F2 scale tornado which killed one person and injured three others, structures were damaged rooftops carried away. In the Sumter County, Coleman also experienced a lesser F0 scale tornado which brought a few trees down and blew off mobile structures. It was the F3 scale tornado in the south of Orange Mountain all the way to Lockhart in Lake County and Orange County that did the massive damages of the day. Three people died and 70 more injured where massive damages on property was experienced such as total home destruction and trees falling on more properties and structures (Central Florida Tornado
Outbreak February 22-23, 1998).
On the night of 23rd February 1998, an F3 scale tornado struck Longwood, Sanford and the north of Palm Shadows in Seminole County and Volusia County. Thirteen people died and many others were injured. Most of the affected people were those who resided in mobile homes in the region. Structures were totally devastated and trees brown away including the destruction of Sanford Airport. An F1 tornado struck Bellwood to the north in Brevard County damaging several houses and blowing down trees. Another F1 scale in Cape Canaveral in Brevard County destroyed structures and blew down trees. In Maytown and Oak Hill in Volusia, an F2 tornado destroyed a dozen mobile homes and other structures as many trees were downed. However, it was the F3 scale tornado over Campbell, Kissimmee and some parts of Christmas that received the total blunt of the tornado outbreaks where 25 people lost their lives and hundreds others injured. The tornado destroyed more than 1000 structure among many other massive damages. Overall, it was estimated that the total damages of the Kissimmee tornado was more than $150 million (Central Florida Tornado Outbreak February 22-23, 1998).
Why the Kissimmee Tornado Affected Florida
Generally, Tornadoes are formed when a supercell (very severe thunderstorm) lasts longer than normal. Therefore, winds going into the supercell will start swirling forming a funnel that spins even faster. The center of the funnel develops a very low pressure which forces air (alongside objects to be sucked in). The reason why the Kissimmee Tornado affected Florida, alongside many other tornadoes is because primarily, Florida belongs in the Tornado Alley section. In this section, the atmosphere is highly unstable and experience severe thunderstorms. The severe thunderstorms occur when the cold and dry polar air stream meets a warm and moist tropical air stream, a condition which is common over the atmosphere of Florida coast line. For the Kissimmee tornado, it resulted due to a severe supercell and thunderstorm which had occurred in the east of the Gulf of Mexico on 22nd February 1998.
Prevention of Tornadoes in Florida
The state of Florida has undertaken a massive tornado awareness and education to the most prevalent regions of the state. The only major steps in the reduction of fatalities in the case of Tornadoes involves making the public aware of the safety procedures being aware of the changes in the weather conditions. Caution and warning signs are put in the media and road signs to warn motorists during storms.
- Central Florida Tornado Outbreak February 22-23, 1998. 1st ed., Silver Spring, Maryland, National Weather Service, NOAA, 1998, http://www.weather.gov/media/publications/assessments/cntrlfl.pdf. Accessed 1 Apr. 2017.
- Manlaw, Ryan. “Accidents / Disasters.” Pinterest, 29 Feb. 2016, www.pinterest.com/pin/499195939927183001/. Accessed 1 Apr. 2017.
- Uraizee, Irfan, and Yiran Zhu. “DATA: Florida’s history of tornadoes.” Sun-Sentinel.com, 14 Mar. 2017, www.sun-sentinel.com/news/interactive/sfl-florida-history-of-tornadoes-20160217-htmlstory.html. Accessed 1 Apr. 2017.