What to Do in the Event of a Tornado

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air, and often (but not always) is visible as a funnel cloud.  Tornadoes have the ability to develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. The damage from a tornado is a result of the high wind velocity and wind-blown debris. Tornadoes can occur any time during the year, and they tend to occur in the afternoons and evenings. The Enhanced Fujita scale is a common way of measuring the strength of tornadoes. The scale ranges from EF0 tornadoes that may cause minimal damage through to EF5 tornadoes, which cause massive amounts of damage.


Review your five steps on your Pathways to Preparedness.

Designate an area in your home as a shelter; it should be a room which is strongest structurally.

Keep your disaster supply kit in your tornado shelter.

Conduct tornado drills; practice responding to the tornado room as if there were a threat.

If you receive a Tornado Warning via Wireless Emergency Alert to your cell phone, you are in the possible path of a tornado. Take shelter immediately!

Call 9-1-1 if there are any injured.

Stay away from damaged buildings or compromised structures.

Use telephones for emergency calls, text messaging is preferred.

Terms to Know

Tornado Watch
Typically large, covering numerous counties; conditions are favorable for tornadoes to occur.
Tornado Warning
Take action now! Tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

Quick Facts

Tornado danger signs include:

  • Wall cloud
  • Large hail
  • Loud roar, often described as sounding like a freight train
  • Visible funnel, often with debris below it
  • Rain or low-lying clouds can often obscure the funnel
  • Oncoming clouds of debris could be visible, even if the funnel is not
  • Florida leads the nation in the number of tornadoes per year.
  • Most of Florida’s tornadoes only last a couple of seconds, and rarely stay on the ground for a prolonged period of time.
  • A tornado which occurs over water is often called a waterspout.
  • Most tornado deaths occur at night.
  • A NOAA weather radio can save your life.

Potential Impacts

Due to the unpredictable patterns of tornadoes, and because Florida has a relatively high re-occurrence frequency, the entire county and all of its municipalities are at risk for tornado-related wind or debris damage.

Historic Events

Brevard County historical area-adjusted tornado activity is above Florida state average. It is 3.3 times above overall U.S. average. Tornadoes in Brevard County have caused 12 fatalities and 638 injuries as recorded between 1950 and 2004.

  • On July 6, 2014, a severe thunderstorm produced a southwest-to-northeast aligned damage path. Several eyewitness reports and videos evidence confirmed a brief EF-0 tornado touched down within the overall damage swath. Significant roof damage occurred to three homes on Oklahoma Street, Old Dixie Highway and Brandywine Circle in north Titusville. Inflow winds produced damage, mainly to trees and fences either side of the most significant damage path. Maximum winds were estimated at 65 to 75 mph.
  • On April 14, 2013, an EF0 tornado with winds estimated between 70 and 80 mph touched down near the Intersection of U.S. 1 and Dixon Boulevard in Cocoa and travelled northeast to the Indian River where it became a waterspout. The tornado produced minor damage to the roofs and outbuilding of several businesses along U.S. 1, with power lines also downed. Numerous trees were downed along Dixon Boulevard and Indian River Drive. Another EF0 tornado with winds estimated at 75 to 85 mph, affected primarily the Charolais Estates and Colfax Landing subdivisions in Viera/Rockledge. The damage was embedded within a larger swath of strong straight-line winds which affected areas extending farther to the west and east. Several homes experienced damage to roof tiles and soffits. Concrete roof tiles were carried downstream and penetrated several windows. Other metal debris was carried downstream and a fence was blown down. Numerous pool screen enclosures totally collapsed.
  • On June 24, 2012, the third and final tornado associated with a Tropical Storm Debby mini supercell that traveled from northern Okeechobee County to northern Brevard County occurred just south of State Road 50 and west of Interstate 95, to the west of Titusville. This location was also just north of the Great Outdoors RV Park. Two motorists traveling on Highway 50 observed the tornado briefly touchdown (illuminated by lightning strikes), just to the south of their locations. One of the motorists provided a detailed eyewitness account of the tornado touchdown. While there was little to damage in the immediate area of the tornado, a path of downed tree limbs was noted immediately after the touchdown, from near the entrance of the RV Park to SR 50.
  • Two people were injured and 52 homes were damaged when a Tropical Storm Fay-related EF-1 tornado touched down in 2008. Brevard experienced two EF-0 tornados in 2010 on January 22nd and March 28th, which resulted in minor commercial and/or residential damage, vegetative debris, and severed power lines.
  • The 1966 Tampa tornado family was a deadly tornado family that affected the I-4 corridor in Central Florida from the Tampa Bay area to Brevard County on April 4, 1966. Two tornadoes affected the region, each of which featured a path length in excess of 100 miles. One of the tornadoes produced estimated F-4 damage on the Fujita scale; it remains one of only two F-4 tornadoes to strike Florida, the other of which occurred in 1958. Both F-4 tornadoes occurred during El Niño years. Eleven people were killed across the state. The F-4 tornado remains the fourth-deadliest tornado event recorded in Florida; only tornadoes on March 1962, February 2007, and February 1998 caused more deaths in the state. All of the events were induced by non-tropical cyclones.
  • The first of the deadly Tampa tornado family touched down around 8:00 a.m. near Largo, Florida, in Pinellas County. The F-4 tornado eventually moved across the state, then over the Cocoa area and lifted near Merritt Island.
  • The second of the Tampa tornado family was recorded as an F-3 and touched down fifteen minutes later than its predecessor near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay. It moved inland over central Florida and closely paralleled the path of the more powerful first tornado. Total damages reached $50–100,000, and no deaths occurred. The funnel remained aloft for most of its life span, and maximum damage was typical of an F-3 tornado. In the Cocoa Beach area, 150 trailers were destroyed, resulting in more than 100 injuries. More than twenty frame structures and a shopping center were also demolished. Additionally, the tornado struck the training site for the Houston Astros in nearby Cocoa, ripping four light standards from the ground, flattening the center field fence, and destroying all the backstops and batting cages. One of the cages was thrown more than 800 feet into nearby woods. 140 people were injured by the tornado; the majority of the injuries occurred in Brevard County, where 133 people were transported to a hospital in Cocoa Beach.

Information on Dealing with These Hazards