Weather radio a necessity for late-night tornado alerts
One week into March and already it’s nearly the deadliest for U.S. tornadoes. Survivors of the recent tornado outbreak in the south-central states credit tornado warning sirens with awakening them in the middle of the night, giving them time to dash to the basement. Few Florida communities have public tornado warning devices and basements are rare here, so you need two things: a tornado safety plan and a weather radio.
Sometimes, tornadoes pop up with little warning and strike as you sleep. Your TV, radio or cell phone would also be snoozing. That’s when a weather radio can be a lifesaver. It will definitely scare you awake and get you moving. You just have to know where you’ll go in advance because when a weather alert sounds, there is no time to spare.
Some Florida cities have outdoor tornado sirens to blast a high-decibel warning when a tornado is a direct threat to the community, but most do not have them. County emergency management offices and news media outlets also offer free email and text message alerts for weather-related warnings. But for a 24/7 alert system, a weather receiver provides day or night warnings, making it as essential to safety as a home smoke detector. The National Weather Service has a network of radio stations for weather hazards, and weather radios can be purchased as little as $25.
Florida has an annual average number of tornadoes equal to “Tornado Alley” states. Most of Florida’s tornadoes are less powerful than those in the central states, and we have a tendency to associate them with those almost daily summer thunderstorms. However, Florida has experienced spring tornados, with the deadliest tornado outbreak recorded in late February 1998, striking Central Florida around Altamonte Springs and Winter Garden. Another deadly February tornado hit on Ground Hog Day is 2007 in Sumter and Lake counties. Both of these tornadoes occurred in the late evening and early morning hours as people slept, and that timing resulted in numerous fatalities.
The safest place from a tornado is usually an interior room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet. The more walls between you and the exterior of the building, the safer you will be. Take safety a step farther by creating a safe room or consider tips to minimize tornado risk for existing and new construction from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.