Yesterday, January 22nd of 2017, Florida was placed under its first ever High Risk for severe weather. A tornado outbreak was forecasted, with several strong tornadoes expected.
This large of a severe weather outbreak is basically unheard of in the Florida peninsula, especially without a hurricane present. It was also the first High Risk anywhere in the United States in almost three years…since the spring of 2014.
There had been several days of advanced notice of this event. The SPC had highlighted the potential for severe weather as far as five days out, and I had been paying at least minor attention for the potential of storms since then.
On the Saturday morning prior to the expected outbreak, I went to my Just Over Broke as normal. Florida was under an enhanced risk for severe weather for Sunday. A squall line was expected to move through during Sunday and produce wind damage.
I was scheduled to work on Sunday from 1 to 7, but had the option of switching with someone else to leave work at 2pm instead. I assumed if I were to switch, the storms would end up occurring overnight and into the morning.
Logically I knew that at least asking my co-worker to switch with me was the correct thing to do, but my gut instinct told me to just work my scheduled shift.
Sunday morning, I woke up and saw that we had been upgraded from an Enhanced to a Moderate risk. Shit. BUT WAIT!
There was a special discussion issued stating south Georgia and Florida would be upgraded to a High Risk. Shit. SHIT.
A major tornado outbreak is going to occur today? HERE!? Now I was really regretting my decision to switch shifts, and debating whether I should call into my Just Over Broke.
How was I going to miss the first ever High Risk of severe weather in Florida, especially since it was occurring in my own backyard? Today could be historic!
Given that much of north Florida is dense forest and mobile homes, I was particularly concerned about the potential for serious loss of lives across the state. Not to mention, nobody really has a plan or real shelter for large tornadoes in this area.
However, my gut instinct told me to just quit worrying, forget about it all and go to work. That’s certainly not my normal feeling when I’m in a High Risk area.
As I pulled out of my neighborhood on the way to work, a PDS Tornado Watch was issued for all of north and central Florida. “This is a Particularly Dangerous Situation…”
There was a 90% chance of a strong tornado occurring in the watch area.
“Well, if there is going to be a tornado, I can’t think of a better place to view it from than the parking lot.”
As I stated, interior Florida is a massive forest. From my current house, the trees are so thick that I can’t even see the sky directly above my head.
However, I’m currently working in a brand new mega-development where a massive area of trees has been cleared away, but the buildings have not been built yet. It offers the best horizon view anywhere in Florida that isn’t Payne’s Prairie or the coastline.
An hour of work rolls by and my coworker is leaving. “Well, my dumbass could be leaving right now, and yet here I am” is all that fills my mind at the moment.
I trekked on. While dealing with constant fast paced work and interruptions from everyone in the building, I managed to sneak peeks at the radar on my phone about every 30 minutes.
Across the Florida peninsula, it did not seem that much was happening. Some scattered thundershowers had developed across the I-75 corridor, but otherwise nothing else was happening.
Then I panned west and saw a large line of what appeared to be developing tornadic supercells. They were over the Gulf of Mexico and while small, looked like they could easily be tornado producers, IF they were able to further organize upon land.
I went about my workday, continuing to obey my gut instinct that nothing would happen.
As the line came onto land, numerous severe thunderstorm warnings were issued and a couple of tornado warnings were as well.
Either shit was about to hit the fan in record time, or not a damn thing was going to happen.
Gainesville was now under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning, and the line of wannabe supercells was moving in at a mind-blowing 90mph. It appeared the line would be arriving only 40 minutes before I left my shift, go figure.
I texted Sarah and told her that nothing was going to happen, but to grab a blanket, pillow, flashlight and shoes and throw them in the closet, just in case. She agreed.
I went back to work and the next thing I knew it was 7:30 and I was walking out the door. As I drove home, I saw some stars coming out behind the storms.
I saw one distant flash of lightning to the southeast, as I was turning west. The line had blown through insanely fast, and was now all the way down to Orlando and as far east as Daytona Beach.
There was a tornado warning for Daytona Beach stating that a large tornado was on the ground. Elsewhere, there were just a few severe thunderstorm warnings.
Only twenty minutes later, the storms were completely offshore to the east and approaching Lake Okeechobee to the far south.
That was it! The High Risk, Particularly Dangerous Situation, large and strong tornado outbreak was over, and not a damn thing had happened in the state of Florida.
There are zero tornado reports in the state of Florida as of 10am Monday. It appears there was never a tornado in the Daytona Beach area, despite what the Tornado Warning text stated at the time.
The gut instinct had prevailed yet again. Not only was there no major tornado outbreak, significant damage or loss of life, but nothing had happened.
Furthermore, I didn’t miss out on several hours of pay and screw up the day for my coworkers! The gut instinct once again defeats all logic.
Unfortunately, several people were killed in Mississippi and Georgia in the days prior to Sunday’s nonevent. Many dozens of others lost everything.
Please consider donating to Storm Assist or other reputable charity organizations to help those in need. http://stormassist.org/contribute/
How are you and your gut instinct getting along? Are you battling your own intuition or trusting your own deepest feelings? Have you considering helping the devastated lives in Mississippi?