Why Florida conducts a statewide tornado drill

Florida's deadliest tornadoes have happened in Central Florida

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Florida conducted a statewide tornado drill on Wednesday as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week 2022.

At 10 a.m., people across all Florida counties were encouraged to practice their tornado safety routine to be prepared in case of a real one. 

After the drill was over, the National Weather Service in Melbourne gave the "all clear."

Officials say that participation in the drill was voluntary and decided county by county.

Public and commercial broadcasters, school districts, private schools, preschools, and daycare centers were encouraged to participate in the drill. 

The Seminole County Office of Emergency Management and National Weather Service - Melbourne partnered to develop 'The Great Tornado' community-wide drill in 2015 during Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Since then, the State of Florida adopted this event, and now all 67 counties participate in the drill. 

The Florida Division of Emergency Management provided the following timeline for those who participated: 

Feb. 9: The Day of the Drill

  • After 8:00 a.m. EST: Consider a Tornado Watch to be in effect• Announce watch to staff and students• Designate authority (coordinator)• Evacuate tornado vulnerable areas
  • 10:00 a.m. EST: Tornado Warning• Receive test message• Upon determination of immediate threat, give "take shelter" or "duck and cover" command (depending on space available at location)
  • 10:30 a.m. EST: Termination of Watch and Warning• Give instructions to return to normal activities (You will not receive a notification. Terminate the drill as you see fit.)
  • After the Drill Wrap-up• Following the drill, assess and revise the plan as needed.

According to FOX Weather data specialist Shane Brown, since 1950, there have been 3,516 tornadoes in Florida as of October 2021.

Most of the tornadoes were EF0 or EF1, but four EF4-rated tornadoes have touched down in Florida since 1950. Three of those powerful tornadoes happened in Central Florida.

The deadliest tornado in Florida's history happened in 1998. An EF3 tornado in Kissimmee killed 45 people and injured 145 others. The twister was part of the Kissimmee Tornado Outbreak that produced 15 tornadoes and caused more than $50 million in property damage.

In 1966, a tornado ripped through Pinellas, Polk and Osceola counties, becoming the second-costliest tornado in the state's history with 11 deaths and 530 injuries.

The costliest tornado in the Sunshine State happened in South Florida. An EF2 tornado through Miami-Dade County in February 1998 caused $178 million in property damage.

"Tornadoes from tropical cyclones peak in September but have occurred from May through December," Brown said. "Tropical tornadoes account for about 20% of Florida's annual tornado activity."