2007 Groundhog Day tornado outbreak: 21 dead, dozen homes destroyed

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida is not in tornado alley but it is no stranger to tornado outbreaks. The second deadliest tornado outbreak in the state happened 13 years ago on Groundhog Day.

All tornadoes are not the same, but all tornadoes have the potential to cause great damage and death. A tornado’s impact is highly dependent on where it strikes. In Florida, the most commonly occurring tornadoes are those on the lower end of the range, EF-0 or EF-1. But we’ve also had EF-3s.

On the morning of Feb. 2, 2007, there were three tornadoes, the strongest was an EF-3. This was the first time the Enhanced Fujita scale was used. The outbreak was caused by a storm coming in from the Gulf of Mexico. The city of Wildwood in Sumter County was first in line to be struck by the first tornado, then another twister roared through the Lady Lake and the Villages area in Lake County. Dozens of homes were destroyed, hundreds damaged and 21 people lost their lives.

How do tornadoes form?

Tornadoes may occur during any season of the year, pretty much anywhere in the country (and anywhere in the world) if the right weather conditions are present. But February sticks out as the month with the most deaths in Florida. Since 1950, there have been 63 deaths in Florida in the month of February. It is during this month that many of the meteorological ingredients could be present to make tornado development most favorable. If the jet stream plunges far enough south and the collision between the southern warm air masses with the cold air masses from the north occur over the state, tornadoes can easily develop.

What should you do if tornadoes threaten?

It is recommended you have at least three ways of getting weather alerts. NOAA Weather Radio is a good option if you do not have a mobile device. Also, the WFTV weather app will notify people verbally of a threat occurring in the area. It is free and available for iOS and Android devices.


Meteorologist George Waldenberger will be live starting at 4 p.m. on Channel 9 with more about the 2007 Groundhog tornado outbreak.

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