Tom Horne

An EF-1 for LAL

April 1, 2011 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

The supercell thunderstorm complex that hit the Sun ‘N Fun grounds at Lakeland, Florida’s Linder Airport spawned an EF-1 tornado on the field. The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed the tornado touchdown, as well as downburst gusts as high as 75 mph. That’s well above flying speed for most of the airplanes tied down at Sun “N Fun, as can be seen in the storm coverage on AOPA’s website.

Meteorologist Theodore Fujita developed his Fujita scale in the 1970s, then refined it again in the 1990s to the current “EF” scale. The “EF” stands for ‘enhanced Fujita,” and it’s a damage scale. An EF-1 tornado has surface winds between 86 and 110 mph. The NWS adopted the EF scale, and assigned the following types of damage to EF-1 tornados: Moderate damage. Small barns and outbuildings damaged. Rooves ripped, mobile homes overturned, loss of exterior doors, windows and other glass broken.” All of that happened at Lakeland yesterday, plus a lot of downed trees and power lines.

The EF scale damage descriptors might also be expanded to include, “Tied-down airplanes may be flipped and destroyed, tents crushed, Porta-potties overturned, and signs uprooted.”

Though an EF-1 may sound like it’s low on the totem pole of tornado damage (and it is–the scale goes up to 28), its damage is awe-inspiring. It’s not something I want to ever live through again!

For storm track information, see the Tampa Bay NWS report.

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