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Hazards - Tornado

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Overview of the Hazard

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air, descending from a cumuliform cloud or underneath a cumuliform cloud, 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 windblown debris. Tornado season is generally March through August, although tornadoes can occur any time during the year. They tend to occur in the afternoons and evenings. Eight out of ten tornadoes occur between noon and midnight.

Tornado Quick Facts

Know the Signs:

  • When conditions are warm, humid, and windy, or skies are threatening, monitor for severe weather watches and warnings by listening to NOAA Weather Radio, logging onto or tuning into your favorite television or radio weather information source. The following are tornado danger signs:
  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • 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
  • The wind could die down and the air become very still just prior to the tornado hitting
  • Approaching clouds of debris could be visible, even if the funnel is not

  • Know the Watches/Warnings:

    Tornado Watch
  • A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions which can lead to the development of tornadoes are present in your area. Remind family members about safety precautions, such as using a "safe room" in your home if you have built one, and continue to listen to broadcast reports.
  • Tornado Warning
  • A tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service when tornado has been sighted or observed on radar. Move the family to the pre-identified safe room or other secure location and stay tuned to a battery operated radio until the National Weather Service determines that the threat has passed
  • Enhanced Fujita Scale:
  • From the National Weather Service: The Enhanced Fujita Scale or EF Scale, which became operational on February 1, 2007, is used to assign a tornado a 'rating' based on estimated wind speeds and related damage. When tornado-related damage is surveyed, it is compared to a list of Damage Indicators (DIs) and Degrees of Damage (DoD) which help estimate better the range of wind speeds the tornado likely produced. From that, a rating (from EF0 to EF5) is assigned.
  • The EF Scale was revised from the original Fujita Scale to reflect better examinations of tornado damage surveys so as to align wind speeds more closely with associated storm damage. The new scale has to do with how most structures are designed.

Historic/Possible 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.
  • Historical Events in Brevard County Include:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • More recently, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

What Would You Do?


  • Know your risks
  • Build a kit
  • Have a plan
  • Stay informed

Advanced planning is the key to surviving a tornado. The entire family must be aware that there is little warning. Ensure you have built a disaster supply kit, made a disaster plan, and are staying informed. During tornado season, you may want to consider adding a helmet (per family member) to your disaster supply kit to protect your head and neck from falling debris.

Tornado Communications Plan

  • Families could be separated when the tornado occurs, and telephone service might be disrupted. A family communication plan should identify who your family members will call to exchange information about their location and condition. This might be a relative or friend of the family who is willing to take messages and coordinate information.
  • Your house or entire neighborhood might be destroyed or cordoned off by emergency workers. Have an alternate location selected where the family can assemble. Keep in mind the age of the younger members of your family when developing your communications plan. Keep it simple.

Conduct Tornado Drills

  • Designate an area in your home as a shelter. It should be a room which you feel is the strongest structurally and thus the most likely to withstand the tornado winds and flying debris.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages people to have a "safe room "in their house. This room should be structurally enhanced to make it more secure than it was when originally built. Those families awaiting their home being constructed should consider talking with their contractor about building in extra strength for one of the rooms. It is less expensive to do this during construction than to modify the house later.
  • Keep your disaster supply kit in your tornado shelter. Your family should practice responding to the room as if there were an actual threat.


    If You Are At Home:

  • Get to the lowest level or point in your home, such as a basement.
  • If you home does not have a basement, go to some area without windows, such as an inner hallway or perhaps bathroom.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Room corners attract debris, so stay in the center of the room.
  • Use a helmet to protect your head and neck, and shoes to protect your feet.
  • Seek shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a dining room table.
  • If you are in a mobile or manufactured home, leave it and seek shelter elsewhere.

    If you are in a mobile/manufactured home:

  • Mobile/manufactured homes are not safe during tornadoes!
  • Make a plan today to stay with a friend or family member when a tornado watch is issued for your area, and seek shelter in a sturdy building.
  • Ensure you have a plan in place that identifies the closest sturdy building where you can shelter – remember by the time a tornado warning is issued, you will have mere minutes to take shelter.

    If you are at work:

  • If a basement exists: use it, otherwise seek an interior hall.
  • Avoid facilities with wide span roofs, such as shopping malls, auditoriums and the like.
  • Use a helmet to protect your neck and head.

    If you are outdoors:

  • If possible, seek shelter in a building.
  • If you do not have time to get inside of a building, seek out low-lying ground or a ditch. In Florida, be mindful of the wildlife that may inhabit ditches, and areas which could flood.
  • Crouch near a strong building.

    If you are in a vehicle:

  • You cannot out-drive a tornado. They can move upwards of three hundred miles per hour, change direction, and can lift up vehicles as large as a railroad car and toss it through the air.
  • Leave the vehicle as quickly as possible and seek shelter in a building.
  • If you cannot reach a building, seek shelter outdoors as indicated above.


  • Remain aware that tornadoes can change directions and return quickly to areas they just left.
  • Give aid to the injured.
  • Listen to local emergency officials to stay informed about relief support.
  • Stay away from damaged buildings. If your neighborhood has been evacuated, return home only after authorities have permitted re-entry.
  • Use telephones only for emergency calls, text messaging is preferred.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline and other hazardous substances.
  • Leave any building in which you can smell gas or chemical fumes.
  • Take photographs of damage to support your insurance claims.

Brevard County Emergency Management Office

1746 Cedar Street
Rockledge, Florida 32955
Tel: (321) 637-6670
Fax: (321) 633-1738

Kimberly Prosser

Email Brevard County Emergency Management Director Email the Emergency Management Office
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