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Emergency Managers Ready For Tornado Risk

Photo: Daphne Zaras, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Daphne Zaras, via Wikimedia Commons

After a hurricane free summer and a balmy winter-  now’s a good time to check your emergency preparations. That’s the message from emergency managers as they brace for the risk of tornadoes, thanks to El Niño.

During an El Niño in 1998, a series of powerful tornadoes tore through Seminole, Osceola and Orange Counties, killing 42 people.

Seminole County Emergency Manager Alan Harris said he’s worried that after going through the 2015 hurricane season without a major storm people may not be ready for the wild weather El Niño could bring- including heavy rain and dangerous storms.

“Florida does get tornadoes quite frequently, but they’re generally lower level tornadoes" said Harris.

"El Niño seasons bring weather patterns that are very favorable to increased tornadoes,” he said.

He said staff will be ready to respond.

“In previous years where maybe a lower level wind burst or tornado would have occurred from one of those, for these, since there’s the potential of an F-3, F-4 tornado, we will have people in the emergency operations center, staffed for any of these major fronts that come through.

An F-4 tornado can pack winds up to 260 mph.

Harris advises updating your emergency supplies, going over escape routes and places to shelter, and making sure to pay attention to weather forecasts.

Also recommended- a weather radio that can receive emergency alerts.

"[Weather radios] don’t even make a sound unless there's a very severe weather event, and generally these deadly type tornadoes, these F-3 and F-4, for some reason occur at night.," said Harris.

"So we want people to have something that will alert them, that will wake them up, so they can move their family into a safe area.”

Seminole County is holding a Great Tornado Drill for residents on January 6th.