For the third time in about a week, there is a risk of tornadoes in parts of Florida. The active, El Niño-enhanced weather pattern continues Saturday night as yet another strong storm system moves in from the Gulf of Mexico.
This one is particularly dangerous because the highest chances of severe weather will occur while most people are asleep and over a very populated region. Anyone near the metro areas of Tampa, Orlando, Sarasota and Fort Myers need to pay close attention to local media and have a way of being woken up if a warning is issued.
The risk of a tornado is greatest between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. Sunday, 100 miles on either side of a line from Sarasota to Orlando (see map). Some of the thunderstorms may also produce straight-line winds up to 60 mph that could cause structural damage. This risk extends as far north as Ocala and Daytona Beach to as far south as Naples and Miami, with South Florida’s risk extending until about noon.
In addition to the thunderstorms, heavy rain will fall for several hours overnight across much of the state north of I-4.
A stronger jet stream, carrying energy and moisture all the way from the Pacific Ocean, is contributing to the active weather. It’s a pattern that repeats itself many times during the winter months during an El Niño year. Historical data suggests there is a 60 percent increase in the number of tornadoes that hit Florida from this type of weather phenomenon.
Stay tuned to the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network for the latest forecast trends and severe-weather updates throughout the season on WJCT 89.9. Also, download the Florida Storms app for push notifications when bad weather is in the area.