Florida isn’t a part of the traditional tornado alley, which mostly consists of midwestern states. Regardless of that, it still has a reputation for experiencing frequent high intensity tornadoes. But one area is more affected than others and experiences tornadoes at a higher rate than the entire state of Florida.

The part of Florida that gets the most tornadoes is Tampa, Florida. It experiences 5 tornadoes per year and Florida experiences 12 tornadoes per year. This means that Tampa, Florida alone, experiences about 41% of the total tornadoes in Florida.

The following article is a more detailed description of the history of tornadoes in Tampa, Florida. It also includes a brief guide on how to stay safe during a Florida tornado.

What’s The History of Tornadoes in Tampa Bay, FL?

Tampa has experienced 349 tornadoes since 1950, with the most destructive happening in December of 2020. The massive tornado did significant damage to homes and businesses, but no one was injured or killed.

The most disastrous tornado in Tampa history occurred on December 16th, 2020. The combination of a warm front coming in from the south and a cold front from the north put the local weather reporters on high alert. The tornado began forming near the Gulf Loop area, and soon enough, it reached land and grew steadily in size.

The tornado ran its damaging path through three counties within the Tampa area. Those counties included:

  • Polk
  • Pinellas
  • Hillsborough

The tornado also spawned subsequent tornadoes that caused even more damage, leaving some counties without power for almost a day. The combination of multiple tornadoes and the extreme damage caused makes this tornado event one of the largest in Florida history. Fortunately, no one was injured or lost their lives in the event.

Why Does Tampa, Florida Have So Many Tornadoes?

The main reason Tampa, Florida, gets so many tornadoes is because of the tropical climate and the frequency of big storms. It’s connected to the Gulf of Mexico via a natural harbor, so it receives a larger number of storms than the rest of Florida. 

Tampa, Florida is somewhat famous for having many thunderstorms. They occur almost every day and vary in size. They are so common because the area is very close to the Gulf of Mexico, at a distance of about 500 miles. The Gulf of Mexico has a heavily tropical climate, which makes tropical storms a common occurrence there. The storms then travel towards the Tampa, Florida, area.

These storms are a common catalyst for tornadoes, mainly due to wind speeds and wind rotating. The stronger a storm is, the more warm air gets swept up into the storm cloud. The warm air from the ground then meets the cold air in the sky, causing a collision. The differing wind temperatures eventually form a cone, which becomes a tornado when it reaches the ground.

How To Stay Safe During a Florida Tornado

Tornadoes can happen at any time in Florida, so it’s important to be prepared. The most important things to do to stay safe in a Florida tornado are to take shelter and prepare as best you can beforehand.

The best way to stay safe during a tornado is to have a plan before one strikes. While modern technology has made it easier to predict tornadoes, they can still appear fast. This leaves you very little time to gather enough supplies and information to stay safe during the emergency.

The first part of the plan is that you should know where to take shelter. The shelter should be somewhere away from windows and under something, such as a stairwell. Once you have a designated shelter, you should put together a tornado emergency kit. A few things you should put in the kit are:

  • Food and water rations
  • A battery-powered TV or radio to listen for updates
  • A list of emergency numbers
  • Emergency blankets and sleeping bags

But unfortunately, you might not always be at home when a tornado strikes. If that occurs, then the priority is to take cover. If you are driving in a vehicle, for example, then get out immediately and find somewhere with low ground. A few good places for outdoor shelter include:

  • Ravines
  • Ditches
  • Culverts

Once you find a low place to shelter, lay down face first and cover your neck with your hands. When the tornado has subsided, carefully get up and walk back to your vehicle. Stay where you are and listen to the radio for updates on the situation.

Final Thoughts

Tampa, Florida, experiences more tornadoes on a yearly basis than any other Florida county. Because of the frequency and speed the tornadoes can form, it’s important to know what to do in the event of a tornado. The more prepared you are beforehand, the safer you will be when a tornado does hit.