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  • Appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground
  • Winds can reach 300 MPH
  • Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long
  • May strike quickly, with little or no warning
  • May appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel
  • Average tornado moves southwest to northeast, but could move in any direction
  • Average forward speed of a tornado is 30 MPH, but may vary from stationary to 70 MPH
  • Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land
  • Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water
  • Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months
  • Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer
  • Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 – 9 p.m., but can occur at any time.

  • Residents who have no alternative means of shelter and suffer from a medical condition that requires medical attention by a skilled professional should register with the Orange County Special Needs Registry to receive assistance during a disaster. This registry provides first responders with valuable information to prepare for disasters or other emergencies.  To learn more about the special needs shelter program in Orange County click here.
  • A NOAA Weather Radio and OCAlert can help alert your family or business of storms capable of producing a tornado. OCAlert is an alert system that allows Orange County Government to contact you during an emergency affecting Orange County Florida by immediately sending text messages to your email account and cell phone. Click here to sign up for the alerts.

If you see or hear of any of these dangerous signs, be prepared to seek shelter immediately.

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (may be rotating)
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train

If you are under a tornado WARNING, seek shelter immediately.

  1. If you are in a structure building

    Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.
  2. If you are in a vehicle, trailer, or mobile home.

    Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
  3. If you are outside with no shelter

    Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location. Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter. Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

If you require immediate medical assistance, dial 911.

The Citizen’s Information Line (407.246.4357) is activated after a major storm and can be a very useful resource after a tornado. Call 407.246.4357 (HELP) after the storm for non-emergency information.

Food Safety
In the event of a power outage, the following should be discarded:

  • Perishable foods including meats, dairy products and eggs that have not been refrigerated for more than two hours.
  • Foods contaminated by floodwaters.

Flood Safety

  • Walking, swimming, or driving through floodwaters is extremely dangerous. Fast-moving floodwater produces more force than most people imagine. Floodwaters often contain sewage and dangerous bacteria levels.
  • Avoid flood water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.
  • If you are driving and come upon floodwaters, stop, turn around and go another way.
  • Do not drive where water is covering the road.

Water Purification

  • Residents under a boil water notice should bring water to a rolling boil for one minute.
  • Drink bottled water if available.
  •  If you cannot boil water, add six drops of unscented household bleach per one gallon of water and let stand for thirty minutes prior to use. Water purification tablets are also available at most pharmacies and sporting goods stores.

Generator Safety
Portable generators can be hazardous if used improperly. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas produced by incomplete combustion in internal-combustion engines. CO poses a serious health risk due to its ability to displace Oxygen. Carbon monoxide is fast becoming a killer among people of all ages.
To avoid CO poisoning:

  • Only operate generators outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home.
  • Never use generators indoors or in attached garages.

To avoid electrocution:

  • Plug individual appliances into the generator using heavy duty, outdoor rated cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load.
  • Observe the generator manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation.
  • Do not plug the generator into a wall outlet.
  • If you must connect the generator into the house wiring, have a qualified electrician hook up the standby electrical system.

Chainsaw Safety

  • Wear protective clothing, including grip gloves, a hard hat, safety goggles, hearing protection, non-slip steel-toe shoes and trim-fitted clothing that won’t get caught in the chain.
  • Follow instructions in the owner’s manual for starting and operating the saw.
  • Stand to the side of the saw so you won’t follow the cut through into your leg.
  • Hold the saw parallel to the ground, holding your left arm straight for better control and to reduce the chance of kickback.
  • Keep both hands on the saw while it is running.
  • Avoid cutting above mid-chest height.
  • Never try to cut a tree with a diameter greater than the length of the chainsaw blade.
  • Be extremely careful when cutting limbs or stems of trees that are bent or under tension; the branch can spring back into the operator.
  • Carry the saw below the waist with the engine off and bar pointed to the rear.
  • Do not work alone. Have a companion nearby and keep bystanders and helpers at a safe distance.

Communication & Recovery

  • Follow the City of Orlando on Twitter @citybeautiful and Facebook for immediate updates and resources.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.

For more information about how to prepare for tornadoes, visit America’s PrepareAthon site.