Kind of ironic the week before Severe Weather Awareness Week here in Florida that Alabama has another round of fatal tornadoes and here in NWFL we spent much of the day on Thursday under a tornado watch. While winter is usually a 'quiet' time for severe weather here in NWFL... it is a reminder that any day of the year we can have severe weather. Remember the tornado that hit Lynn Haven a few years ago on Christmas Eve!?!?!
While we usually think or tornadoes and hurricanes when it comes to severe weather... that is not the only threat here in Florida. Each day we will highlight a different topic on NewsChannel 7 hoping to help inform you so you can keep you and your family safe.
With an average of 1.4 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes each year, no other state in the country experiences more lightning strikes than Florida. Lightning is very dangerous and can travel as far as 10 miles from a thunderstorm! So while it may not be raining at your location, lightning can still reach you. The key to remaining safe from a lightning strike is to keep an eye to the sky and watch for darkening skies on the horizon along with distant rumbles of thunder. The two main tips to remember about lightning safety are: being outside is never safe during a thunderstorm and if you can hear thunder, then you are close enough to be struck by lightning! Always remember the 30/30 rule: Go inside if you hear thunder within 30 seconds of a lightning flash. Wait at least 30 minutes after you hear thunder before going back outside.
Marine Hazards, Rip Currents
Year-round warm weather and abundant sunshine attract millions of people to Florida to dive, snorkel, swim, ski, fish, cruise, or sail each year. Fair weather and fine seas treat Florida beachgoers to very agreeable conditions most of the time. However, weather and water can change rapidly. Dangerous rip currents, waves, lightning, and waterspouts are among the marine hazards facing anyone who enjoys Florida’s beaches. Rip currents are especially dangerous to swimmers because they can pull unprepared swimmers away from shore and into deeper offshore waters.
Thunderstorms & Tornadoes
Thunderstorms are one of the most exciting types of weather and Florida has more of them than anywhere else in the United States and North America. All thunderstorms are considered dangerous because they contain lightning and can also produce damaging winds, heavy rain which may cause flooding, tornadoes and hail. Florida tornadoes come in all shapes and sizes, and can occur year-round, although most occur in the summer during the afternoon. Florida is also home to nearly 300 waterspouts each year, which are tornadoes that occur over water.
The National Weather Service and the Florida Division of Emergency Management will conduct the statewide Tornado Drill at 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time (9:10 a.m. Central Time), on Wednesday, February 1, 2012. Floridians are asked to consider themselves under a tornado watch during the morning of February 1, 2012. A Tornado Watch means that you should closely monitor the weather and be prepared to go to a safe place in the event of a tornado warning. Once the drill begins you should consider yourself in a Tornado Warning. A Tornado Warning means that a tornado has been sighted or has been picked up on radar in your area. This means that you need to take shelter immediately in a safe sturdy structure. Even if you do not participate in the morning drill, all schools, families and businesses are encouraged to talk about their tornado safety plan that day.
Hurricanes and Flooding
The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1st and continues through November 30th. Although the number of tropical storms and hurricanes typically peaks during August and September, it is important to remember that Florida can be impacted by tropical weather systems any time during the six-month-long season. Hurricanes and tropical storms can bring very dangerous weather to areas near the coast, including strong winds, storm surge and coastal flooding, flooding from heavy rain, and tornadoes. For those away from the immediate coastline, inland flooding and tornadoes are often the most hazardous impacts from these systems.
Extreme Temperatures & Wildfires
While wildfires can start at any time of the year, Florida sees a peak of activity during the early part of the year – beginning in January and continuing until the onset of more frequent rain during the wet season, usually in early to mid-June. A typical year in Florida will see over 4,600 fires burn nearly 110,000 acres of land. Florida is also home to a wide variety of temperatures that can reach dangerous levels. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Florida was 109 degrees Fahrenheit and the coldest temperature recorded in Florida was minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
On Thursday I will be taking the weathercast on the road to Jackson County to the Wal-Mart in Marianna where we will team up with the Red Cross and the EMA to talk about severe weather safety. We will be right outside so please feel free to stop by and chat!
I hope you will take a litte time to make your family disaster plan and put together your family disaster kit.
Also know that if you ever have any questions about the weather and severe weather safety never hesitate to contact me here in the VIPIR7 Weather.
Chief Meteorologist, WJHG-TV