Severe weather awareness week: thunderstorms and tornadoes

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - We're no stranger to thunderstorms here in Florida, especially during the summer. On average, we get 75 to 100 thunderstorms days each year.

Our real estate plays a big role in our stormy weather. The water surrounding the state provides moisture. Plus, the sunlight warms the ground, it rises, and the sea breeze creates extra lift for storms.

In addition to lightning, storms can produce strong winds, hail, tornadoes, heavy rain, and even flooding.

A thunderstorm is considered "severe" by the National Weather Service when winds are in excess of 58 mph, hail is at least the size of a quarter (one inch across), or if it produces a tornado. If meteorologists detect a severe thunderstorm on radar, a warning will be issued.

Tornadoes form in the strongest of thunderstorms in the summer, ahead of a cold front, in some of the rain bands of tropical systems, or when a waterspout moves onshore.

Most of Florida's tornadoes occur during the afternoon and early evening hours during the summer months. While these tend to be weaker, they can still cause damage.

Our most devastating tornadoes occur in the winter and spring when strong cold fronts move through. The deadliest tornadoes are usually during the overnight hours.

Since we can get twisters anytime of the year, Florida has the fourth most number of tornadoes (behind Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma).

When a tornado warning is issued either Doppler Radar has detected strong rotation or a spotter on the ground saw a tornado.

If a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning is issued for your area, seek shelter right away. Your best bet is go into a small, interior room away from windows and doors in the lowest level of your home.

As a last resort, if you're outside and can't seek shelter, get as low as possible in a ditch and cover your head.