The “Tornado Alley” moniker is normally associated with America’s Plains, but it could just as easily be associated with the Sunshine State, based on research conducted by the Southeast Regional Climate Center. After analyzing 30 years of severe weather, the Center concluded that Florida leads the nation in the number of deaths that occur per each mile a tornado is on the ground.

This little known fact explains why, although we’re on the cusp of one of the Sunshine State’s two most frequent periods of tornado activity (February – May and October – December), twisters barely register on most Floridians’ “things-to-prepare-for” scale. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average lead time from warning to when a tornado strikes is only 13 minutes (Tweet This). Even worse, Florida tornadoes are as likely to strike late at night as they are during the day, making advance planning and quick response critical to your ability to stay safe during a tornado.

Florida home insurance customers can, and should, consider heeding these tornado safety tips to protect their families and property:

• Purchase a weather radio in your home with a tone alert feature. This will allow you to receive warnings issued by your local National Weather Service office.
• Sign up for text-messaging weather services that can warn you about tornado watches and warnings in your area.
• Establish the best place in your home to seek shelter. Choose a hallway or room as far away from windows as possible. If nothing else, take shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture.
• Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes; store protective coverings (e.g., sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc) in or next to your shelter space for use at a moment's notice.
• Discuss and practice tornado safety plans with all family members. 
• Ensure that every member of a household knows the address of two locations to meet (one near the home, one outside the neighborhood).
• Create a disaster kits with a three-day supply of non-perishable food, a first-aid kit and more.
• Maintain copies of important documents, including birth certificates, deeds, insurance information and driver’s licenses, in a easily accessible and portable lock box.

Tornado Watch vs. Tornado Warning - The Difference?

  • Tornado Watch - Issued to alert the public that conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. These watches are issued with information concerning the watch area and the length of time they are in effect.
  • Tornado Warning - Issued to warn the public that a tornado has been sighted by storm spotters or has been indicated by radar. These warnings are issued with information concerning where the tornado is presently located and the anticipated path of the tornado.

Signs that a Tornado May be Approaching

Despite advances in meteorology, tornadoes can occur without warning, so it’s important for you to be vigilant. Here are some things to look and listen for: 

• A strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base
• Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base
• Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can't be seen
• A loud, continuous roar or rumble that doesn't fade in a few seconds, like thunder
• Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm. This could indicate that power lines are being snapped by very strong winds, possibly a tornado.

Tornado Myth: Open your windows during a tornado to equalize air pressure. There is no truth to this old adage. In fact, following this advice can actually result in increased damage to your home. (Tweet This)

Related post:   Flooding Can Happen In a Flash

Also:  Get a Florida home insurance quote to make sure you have the coverage you need in case your home is impacted by a tornado.