Case Study Summary_Owens

I chose to do my case study on the 1998 Kissimmee, Florida tornado outbreak.  Starting in the late-night hours of February 22 and going into the early morning of February 23, 1998, Kissimme Florida experienced a tornado outbreak that ended up being the deadliest tornado event in Florida history.  Between approximately 11 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. of February 22 and 23 seven tornadoes tore through east-central Florida killing 42 people and injuring more than 260 others.  .  Moving eastward from a surface low pressure located near Mobile, Alabama, was a cold front moving south eastward over the Gulf of Mexico with a line of thunderstorms just ahead of the frontal boundary.  Three supercell thunderstorms formed as the storm line moved ashore from the Gulf of Mexico and interacted with the unstable air and strong wind shear.  Seven unusually strong tornadoes were produced as these supercell thunderstorms moved across Florida.  What made this such a devastating event was that these tornadoes struck at night when people are usually sleeping.  Local officials did issue warnings, but with people turning off their televisions and radios to go to sleep they missed the warnings.  Most of the fatalities from this event were people that live in mobile home parks or RV parks.  Of the 42 deaths caused by the tornadoes, 40 of them were in recreational vehicles, one was in car, and one was in a permanent structure.  The population did not seem to be prepared for these types of storms despite the warnings that were issued.

The local emergency management officials issued timely warnings, even before tornadoes were formed, but as I said earlier most people were asleep at the time or just ignored the warnings.  However the local forecasters were able to call law enforcement and emergency management personnel directly to impart the seriousness of these storms.  Because of this response time was very good, and local residents generally were pleased with the efforts of the emergency response.  Warehouses were set up to accommodate the belongings that survivors had left after the storms.  According to FEMA $22 million of federal funding was given to victims of the outbreak, the greatest dollar amount went towards small business loans.  The rest of the funding went towards debris clean up, water and public utility reconstruction, public building, roads and bridges, and individual and family grants.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management has a Hazard Mitigation Planning section of their Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.  However while looking through the plan I saw nothing about tornado mitigation, it seems that Florida is still more concerned with the hazards that come with hurricanes than they are about tornadoes.  Many people are still living in Mobile Homes, which are very dangerous during tornado events, and many of them have admitted to knowing very little about what actions to take is another tornado threatens their area.  There doesn’t seem to be very much done for mitigation against tornadoes in Florida, I think this is because Florida experiences a lot of hurricanes and they are surrounded by water so they are more worried about flooding.  Florida seems to be very lacking in their tornado mitigation policies.


2 thoughts on “Case Study Summary_Owens

  1. I think you picked a interesting topic for your case study because most people associate Florida with hurricanes not tornadoes. What I find interesting is even after the tornado outbreak they did not take steps to mitigate future damge from tornadoes. The Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan is more concerned about hurricanes, so they do not feel threatened by tornadoes. Considering how worried they are about hurricanes, I did not know so many people in Florida lived in mobile homes. They are also dangerous to be in during hurricanes.

  2. It’s no surprise to me that people weren’t prepared for these tornadoes despite the timely warnings being issued. Floridians are likely have a tendency to think in terms of hurricanes, where you can physically track the exact storm itself and have days to weeks to react. Tornadoes are much harder to handle. While the conditions may be right for a tornado, it is still extremely difficult to deduce the precise location of where a funnel is actually going to touch down. This case is fascinating due to the sheer number of tornadoes that touched down. I would class these in with hazards closer to flash floods and earthquakes, because we can tell when the conditions might be right, but not exactly when or where those conditions will manifest themselves.

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