TAVARES — The good news is the Atlantic hurricane season ends today, but, according to the Lake County Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management Division, the bad news is increased tornado activity is predicted from December 2009 to April 2010.
The reason for the predicted tornado activity is El Niño, which is an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific. An El Niño weather pattern usually occurs every three to seven years and it can impact global weather patterns. For Central Florida, an El Niño typically means a weak hurricane season, but a strong tornado season in the winter.
The last two El Niño seasons in 1997-1998 and 2006-2007 produced deadly tornadoes throughout Central Florida. The most recent El Niño season resulted in three tornadoes in Lake County: the Christmas Day tornado in Leesburg and the Groundhog Day tornadoes in Lady Lake and Lake Mack, which killed 21 people. Historically during El Niño periods, the strong and violent tornado threat is greatest at night and in the morning.
“That’s why we want people to get a NOAA weather radio,” said Jerry Smith, Director of the Lake County Emergency Management Division. “If they have a NOAA weather radio it will help them be aware. Instead of waking to a tornado, the weather radio will help alert them giving them time to safely shelter in their home.”
When a tornado strikes, there may not be much time to act. Preparing now for an emergency will give you and your family time to enact a safe and well thought-out plan. A few tips to preparing a family disaster plan include:
• Plans should be kept simple. The best emergency plans are those that are easy to remember.
• Be familiar with escape routes in case you need to evacuate your neighborhood. Plan several escape routes for different contingencies.
• Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster.
• Make sure that all family members know where the portable, battery powered radio and NOAA weather radio are located and always keep a supply of extra batteries.
• Select one calling point, possibly a friend or relative, where family members can check in to, in case they are separated from the rest of the family.
• Learn and post emergency phone numbers and information.
• Take a basic first aid and CPR class.
For more tornado safety information, contact the Lake County Emergency Management Division at (352) 343-9420.
MEDIA ALERT: Region 5 Emergency Management Directors will hold a press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 3:30 p.m. at the State Logistics Response Center, located at 2702 Director’s Row in Orlando, north of Sand Lake Boulevard and just east of John Young Parkway.