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Schools given average of 20 minutes to shelter ahead of Florida tornadoes


AccuWeather For Business client relies on advance warning during not just 1, but 2 tornadoes that developed near Florida’s capital

Key Highlights

Advance Notice: Local elementary schools were given an average of 20.3 minutes advance warning compared to other sources that provided just 5.8 minutes on average

Site-Specific Warnings: SkyGuard® warnings are not just repackaged warnings from public sources. They are issued by our expert meteorologists who are monitoring your specific organization

When Time Matters: With advance warning, our client had ample time to secure loose equipment and safely shelter students and staff to prevent casualties

In the image above, Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna monitors the unfolding severe weather situation on the AccuWeather For Business Portal. The school district relies heavily on this software and the SkyGuard service to inform actions taken to ensure the safety of students and staff during  inclement weather common to northern Florida. 

January Tornadoes Are Not Unusual

On January 27, a severe thunderstorm spun up 2 EF-1 tornadoes that passed just southwest of Tallahassee affecting several AccuWeather For Business clients.

Typically, tornadoes are seen as a Spring and Summer threat across the United States, however, early season tornadoes are not uncommon in Florida, which is why businesses should be prepared for severe weather throughout the year,” said Tyler Dewvall, an AccuWeather For Business Senior Meteorologist.

Power outages, downed trees, road closures and building damage were caused by this storm, including damage to the international airport.


An airplane at the Tallahassee International Airport was flipped over as the tornado-warned storm moved through on Wednesday. (Twitter/City of Tallahassee)

Local Schools Prepared for Tornado Impacts

AccuWeather For Business meteorologists first issued a SkyGuard warning for the tornado around Fort Braden at 11:01 a.m. ET, 19 minutes prior to public warnings. It approached an elementary school 11:23 a.m. ET, which means that location had 22 minutes of advance warning to safely shelter students and staff, prevent injuries and secure loose equipment. Relying solely on public warnings would have given them only 3 minutes to prepare.

A second SkyGuard tornado warning was issued at 11:21 a.m. ET and came within less than a half mile of another local elementary school. As a SkyGuard client, this school received 26 minutes of advance warning.

The second tornado also came within 1.74 miles of a local university and 1.2 miles from a park and recreation center - both AccuWeather For Business clients who had over 20 minutes of extra time to prepare.

Screen Shot 2021-02-09 at 11.42.26 AMRadar is Crucial to Forecasting and Detecting Tornadoes 

Radar is a critical tool used by meteorologists when severe weather strikes. As a thunderstorm develops, strengthens and begins to rotate, a hook shape can appear on the edge of the storm on radar. As the storm intensifies, the hook can become very prominent in the area of the storm that can spawn a tornado. Its rotation can also be measured using radar, with green showing the wind blowing towards the radar and red showing the wind blowing away from it.

Radar can even show when there is a tornado on the ground that is lofting debris in the air. As a tornado touches down and strengthens, it lifts objects and debris off the ground and lofts them up into the atmosphere. With extremely strong twisters, some objects can be tens of thousands of feet above the ground. The cluster of airborne debris around a tornado is sometimes referred to as a "debris ball."

More than just a debris ball needs to appear on radar for a tornado to be radar-confirmed. Another crucial piece of information is how close it appears to the rotation of the storm. If the radar shows a strong area of rotation and a debris ball in the same area, it is a strong signature that there is a tornado occurring.

This is referred to as a "tornado debris signature," meaning the radar is able to differentiate debris from rain, hail and other weather elements and how meteorologists determine where there is a radar-confirmed tornado.

Key SkyGuard Service Benefits

  • Site-specific warnings that offer earlier notice before disruptive weather hits
  • All-clear notifications that minimize weather-related downtime
  • A team of expert severe weather meteorologists watching out for you and your assets, 24/7/365
  • The ability to speak directly with a meteorologist who can help you make the best decisions prior to and/or during a weather emergency
  • A secure, customized weather portal and mobile companion app with real-time radar, damage reports and warnings for your location

AccuWeather For Business. SkyGuard is mobile! Weather warnings and forecasts for your business on-the-go. Click here to get started.

Partner with us to weather the storm

When weather challenges your team to make rapid decisions, depend on SkyGuard® forecasts and warnings to provide you the information necessary to make the best decisions that protect your people and avoid costly shutdowns. Demo SkyGuard today.