Tornado touches down in Florida two weeks after deadly Kentucky, midwest tornadoes

Date: 2021-12-21 20:34:36

Strong storms – including a tornado touch down – tore through Southwest Florida, leaving behind a trail of damage and forcing several areas to issue tornado watches.

On Tuesday morning, a tornado watch was issued for the entire southwestern Florida region. It expired at 10am EST.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued the watch after it predicted there was a “moderate” risk of two or more tornados forming in the area.

The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado did touch down in south Fort Myers at 6:25am. Its strength and rating are still being determined.

Cities like Kissimmee, Sarasota, Miami, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach were affected.

“Remember, a tornado watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area,” the NOAA warning said. “Persons in these areas should be on the lookout for threatening weather conditions and listen for later statements and possible warnings.”

Trees were toppled in some parts of the affected area, smashing cars and obstructing roads.

In Manatee County a 73mph (117kmh) wind was recorded, according to Florida Public Radio’s Emergency Network.

The storm hit Florida just 11 days after strong tornadoes ripped through Kentucky, leaving at least 76 dead and more than 1,000 properties destroyed.

Relief workers in the state have been working since the 11th to care for survivors, search for the missing and help clear rubble in the affected areas.

Multiple tornadoes were confirmed to have hit during the storm, though the National Weather Service is still working to determine the exact number.

The tornado that hit Mayfield, Kentucky was designated an EF4, the second-to-worst category of the storms. Ratings are based on estimated wind speeds and the damage they cause, according to the National Weather Service.

More than 100 people were reported missing after the storms hit, and tens of thousands of power customers were left in the dark, though most of the power has since been restored.

While storms like tornadoes and hurricanes are more difficult to attribute directly to climate change than other events, like droughts or cold periods, climate data does suggest that warming caused by carbon release into the atmosphere plays a part in making the storms more powerful if not more frequent.

“Climate model projections for the United States suggest that the overall likelihood of favorable ingredients for severe storms will increase by the end of the 21st century,” John Allen, an atmospheric scientist with Central Michigan University wrote in SciTech Daily. “The main reason is that warming temperatures accompanied by increasing moisture in the atmosphere increases the potential for strong updrafts.”

He said that global warming is increasing the likelihood of seeing strong storms during times that previously saw few instance of intense weather.

“Rising global temperatures are driving significant changes for seasons that we traditionally think of as rarely producing severe weather,” he said. “Stronger increases in warm humid air in fall, winter and early spring mean there will be more days with favorable severe thunderstorm environments – and when these storms occur, they have the potential for greater intensity.”

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