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Tornado guide for Floridians: What to do when you see a watch or warning

A guide on tornadoes in Florida, and how to react when alerts are sent out by the National Weather Service.
In tornado-ravaged Central Florida on Feb. 24, 1998, Judith Ramirez sits on the steps of her brother in law Michael Ramirez's trailer in the Morningside Acres mobile home park in Kissimmee. Ramirez died in the tornado. [Times files]
In tornado-ravaged Central Florida on Feb. 24, 1998, Judith Ramirez sits on the steps of her brother in law Michael Ramirez's trailer in the Morningside Acres mobile home park in Kissimmee. Ramirez died in the tornado. [Times files]
Published May 23, 2020
Updated Nov. 11, 2020

Florida has as many tornadoes each year than any other state in the country, data shows. This is a short guide for what to do whenever a tornado watch or warning is issued in your area.

A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. A watch means that conditions are conducive for tornadoes to form in your area, often during a thunderstorm or along with a hurricane making landfall. If a tornado watch is issued for your area, you should be on alert, stay inside and closely follow updates from officials while the alert is in place.

Related: RELATED: Better sit down, Florida: We’re more prone to tornadoes than you think

Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. You should review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies, as well as your safe room — somewhere in the center of your residence, away from windows. You should be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching.

A tornado warning means that the formation of a tornado is imminent or has already happened in your area.

You should quickly move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building — preferably as far away from windows as possible. If you are in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, you should try to move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.

Areas put under a tornado warning are often much smaller than for watches. They are also put out by the National Weather Service.

Here are some other tips to keep you safe before and after a tornado warning is issued.

  • Have a radio, TV or a device connected to the internet to get updates from officials.
  • Bring your mobile devices and a portable backup battery charger.
  • Bring all members of your family with you to your safe room, including your pets.
  • Make sure your emergency supplies are accessible.
  • Don’t use your car as a shelter.
  • Don’t open the windows in your home.
  • Don’t use elevators. You could get trapped.
  • Don’t park under an overpass. A wind-tunnel effect can cause higher wind speeds.