If a Tornado Happens in Florida…

…how strong will it be? Or how long will it be on the ground? What exactly are the tools that weather forecasters use in order to determine whether a tornado will impact your area directly? These are the kinds of questions that the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) aims to offer answers to in its targeted deliveries of awareness courses through the U.S. and U.S. territories.

Yours truly, explaining the finer points of the NWS Storm Prediction Center’s weather-decision products to an audience of esteemed emergency management professionals (Plantation, FL; photo: @therobdale)

As an instructor with the organization, I work with emergency managers, first responders, government officials and university representatives – any members of our communities, really – in order to promote wider education about the unique threats posed by hazardous weather (e.g., tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms, etc.) in their region. In other words, we empower decision makers in the community by helping them become better consumers of weather information and help them make sense of the numerous alerts that come from the National Weather Service and its major operational centers. Furthermore, my NDPTC colleagues have a vast store of experiences across disciplines different from my own expertise areas; it is exactly these multiple instructor perspectives that allow profound learning opportunities for participants.

Rob Dale, a seasoned meteorologist and emergency management professional, breaks down the salient characteristics of severe thunderstorm structure.

To provide a view into one of our deliveries while on assignment in Florida, some noteworthy questions came up and they are worth a quick re-visit. For example, can tornadoes occur inside of a hurricane and what additional threats do they pose? From here, we facilitate discussions on what aspects of the environment promote tornado development, the locations within hurricanes that tornadoes typically form and whether turbulent tornadic winds are potentially more dangerous than sustained hurricane winds. These sessions are meant to be interactive and are tailored to the audience and location at hand. According to many course reviews, participants find the NDPTC’s deliveries to be a worth-while day of continuing professional education.

Staring out the window of a descending 737 at the vastness of the Everglades 12,000 feet below.

At last, no trip working with the NDPTC is complete without reflection on the incredible opportunity to travel throughout the United States and experience its myriad of wonders. Case in point, the Everglades – I was not prepared for just how sprawling this slow-flowing swamp actually was. Environs like these are Nature’s buffers against the deadliest of natural hazards – hurricane storm surge and flash floods. The other enticing aspect of a trip to Florida in January is the chance to walk the sand in shorts and a tee while much of the rest of the eastern U.S. remains in the clutches of periodic arctic air intrusions. Until the next one, enjoy the view!

South Beach, Miami, FL in January – decidedly less arctic than the rest of the continental U.S. this time of year.