When you think about Florida weather, after “sunshine” you may think of hurricanes, lightning, perhaps even thunderstorms.
But tornadoes? More typically associated with the Midwest, tornadoes must be part of any discussion of Florida weather.
Florida actually has the highest density of tornado activity in the United States, although rarely the most destructive ones.
But as a record number of violent twisters have torn through the state in the opening weeks of 2016, you may be starting to question whether you live in the Sunshine State or Tornado Alley.
Unfortunately, Florida’s tornado season is just getting started, according to severe weather expert Greg Forbes.
"Florida has not had the big tornado outbreak of real violent tornadoes that sometimes happen during El Niño," Forbes recently told the Palm Beach Post. "Those tend to be a February phenomenon and even into March and April. So things could get worse."
Here are some important steps Florida homeowners should take to prepare and stay safe in the event of a tornado.
Preparing Before a Tornado
Build An Emergency Kit and Make a Family Communication Plan
In the event your family is not together when a tornado strikes, it’s important to have a plan for how to contact each other. Compile contact information for relevant family members and keep it handy in a wallet or purse. Don’t rely on reaching each other by cell phone, because service may be intermittent or unavailable.
Mitigate Windstorm Damage
Regularly trim your trees and clear any low-hanging or dead branches to reduce the risk of "flying missiles." For additional protection, consider outfitting your home with wind mitigation features (for example, window and door coverings, roof-to-foundation anchoring, and water barriers).
Designate a "Safe Room" In Your Home
Since few Florida homes have basements, select an interior room without windows, such as a bathroom or walk-in closet. If possible, have a mattress readily available in your "safe room" to serve as a barrier against flying debris and wind in case your roof develops a hole or blows off completely.
Make Sure You’re Covered
Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes often strike quickly and with little warning, leaving limited time for you to pack up your possessions. Make sure your home’s contents are covered by insurance in case they are damaged during a tornado. Compile a home inventory (electronics, jewelry, vehicles, appliances, etc.) and store it in a waterproof or plastic sleeve.
Be Ready to Act Quickly
If a tornado watch is issued, tune in to NOAA Weather Radio or your local news station for information and updates.
Pay attention to changing weather conditions and be on the lookout for the following warning signs:
- A dark, greenish sky
- Large hail
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud that is rotating
- A loud roar, similar to a freight train
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Staying Safe During a Tornado
Have a portable, battery-powered radio on hand. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or your local emergency news station for information and updates.
Seek Shelter Immediately
Move to an interior room or hallway in the lowest level of your home, and stay there until the storm has passed – remember, multiple tornadoes can form from the same storm system. Stay away from all windows and glass doorways.
If any damage occurs, there could be a dangerous gas leak. Extinguish candles or other light sources that use flames and generate heat, and immediately switch to flashlights in the dark.
Protect Your Pets
Keep your pet inside and in a carrier or crate at all times. To avoid spooking or stressing out your pet, stay calm and act as normal as possible.
Recovering After a Tornado
Continue listening to NOAA Weather Radio or your local emergency news station for information and updates. Do not go outside until officials declare the storm to be over and it’s safe to be outside. If you are away from home, return only when local officials say it’s safe to do so. Contact family and friends to let them know you’re okay.
Assess the Damage
Inspect your home and take pictures of any damage. Use the buddy system – while one person looks for damage, the other watches out for potential hazards. Immediately report any downed power lines or gas leaks to the proper authorities, and seek alternative shelter immediately if you smell gas or have fire damage.
Policyholders – Call People’s Trust First
You’re part of the People’s Trust family, and we’re here for you after the storm. If your home is damaged, Call People’s Trust First at 1-877-333-1230. Our affiliated general contracting company, the Rapid Response Team, is ready to deploy 24/7 to mitigate damage, prevent further loss, and make emergency repairs. They will then work to coordinate the process of repairing the damage and restoring your home to pre-loss condition.
*24/7 Emergency Response from the Rapid Response Team is available only for People’s Trust policyholders and their covered losses. Rapid Response Team (FL-CGC#024735), an entity affiliated with People’s Trust Insurance Company, may coordinate or provide all repair services in conjunction with our Better Way approach. Participation in the Better Way approach requires the selection of the Preferred Contractor endorsement form E023. Our Better Way approach is subject to policy and product terms, exclusions, and limitations. Availability and coverage levels of some plan features are subject to state laws and underwriting requirements. Coverages, discounts, and features are subject to individual eligibility and to availability. Coverage exclusions and limitations may apply. For more information on this insurance and related programs, contact People’s Trust Insurance.