Emergency Management

Staff Contact:

Brady Smith , AICP
Principal Planner
4000 Gateway Centre Blvd.
Suite 100
Pinellas Park, Florida 33782
Phone: (727)570-5151 ext. 42

John Meyer
Principal Planner
4000 Gateway Centre Blvd. Suite 100
Phone: (727)570-5151 ext. 29

Tornado safety


A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries. Florida is #1 in number of tornadoes per square mile. Most are weak; however, strong ones do occur. The Tampa Bay area averages 23 tornadoes within a 125 mile radius.

Who's most at risk?

  • People in automobiles.
  • The elderly, very young, and the physically or mentally challenged.
  • People in mobile homes.
  • People who may not understand the warning due to a language barrier.

Tornado Myths & facts

MYTH: Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are safe from tornadoes.

FACT: No place is safe from tornadoes. In the late 1980's, a tornado swept through Yellowstone National Park leaving a path of destruction up and down a 10,000 ft. mountain.

MYTH: The low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to "explode" as the tornado passes overhead.

FACT: Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause most structural damage.

MYTH: Windows should be opened before a tornado approaches to equalize pressure and minimize damage.

FACT: Opening windows allows damaging winds to enter the structure. Leave the windows alone; instead, immediately go to a safe room.

Tornado Safety

If a Tornado Warning is issued or if threatening weather approaches:

  • Move to your safe room an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor or basement and, if possible, get under a# heavy piece of furniture.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Get out of automobiles. Do not try to out run a tornado in your car; instead, leave the car immediately.
  • If caught outside, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression.
  • Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.
  • Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most deaths and injuries.

Weak Tornadoes

69% of tornadoes

< 5% of tornado deaths

Lifetime 1-10+ minutes

Winds < 110 mph

Strong Tornadoes

29% of tornadoes

< 30% of tornado deaths

Lifetime 20 min. or longer

Winds 110- 250 mph

Violent Tornadoes

Only 2% of tornadoes

70% of tornado deaths

Lifetime can exceed 1 hour

Winds > 250 mph


Under Florida law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your e-mail address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone by calling (727) 570-5151 or in writing to 4000 Gateway Centre Blvd., Suite 100, Pinellas Park, Florida 33782. Copyright 2013 Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. All Rights Reserved.