We survived at least three tornadoes in Southwest Florida on January 16, 2022. It was the harried start of a weeklong adventure with my friend, and full time RVer, Joella Long. What happens when someone like me, an overcommitted, travel-addicted mother, and a footloose psychotherapist depart together on a South Florida vacation?
First, Tornadoes in Southwest Florida
Joella took one for the team and faced the first mega-storm while I was landing at Tampa International airport. I thought she was more frazzled than usual when she arrived to pick me up, but I stocked it up to first day of vacation jitters. Then, as we started down I-75 South, Joella told me how she had to choose which tin can, her RV or her lightweight truck, to shelter in during the storm. Thankfully, she and her wheels were all OK.
Watch the Video: Southwest Florida Tornadoes Recap
"Florida has the dubious distinction of having a higher frequency of tornadoes ... than any other state"
Tornadoes Near Fort Myers
We drove through a downpour leaving Tampa, that we, and our weather apps, thought would taper off. Mother nature had other plans. As we were nearing Fort Myers, our iPhones went berserk with warning alerts.
We pulled over, under an underpass, just like they did in Twister the Movie, and pondered things like, “What shoes do I need to wear to make a quick exit from the truck?” and “Should we leave the truck and run under the overpass when we see the funnel touching down?” But we had no belts, so that move felt risky.
If you've seen Twister, you'll recall they belted themselves to the overpass so they weren't sucked to the land of Oz by the cyclone.
Survived day's first tornado in Southwest Florida!
We survived the Fort Myers tornadoes unscathed, thankfully. I think there were two in the area, but it's a mash of warnings and green clouds in my mind now. Other than rain, wind and hail, we never saw a funnel coming from the sky. However, after the warnings subsided, we did pass a toppled tractor trailer and a few erratically parked hatchbacks on the interstate.
Then more tornadoes in Southwest Florida
It was the second or third tornado that made us pause and ask deeper questions, like “Is this a sign my life is spiraling out of control?” For the record, I wasn’t completely surprised by our odds, or I just had too much CBD in my system to process it at the time. It felt like a test. Do I really deserve a trip to Key West? What business do I have busting out of domesticity and just kicking it on the islands?
We persevered, and dodged a couple more as we plowed down alligator alley. Florida Key’s here we come!!! Though it wasn’t smooth sailing after that. In fact, there was a big problem with our accommodations in Key West. I’ll give you a hint, it was stinky and it floated.
Read what happened next: Stay on a Boat in the Florida Keys...with Ferret Essence
Are Tornadoes common in Florida?
Or was this a freak day?
It turns out that Florida has a lot of tornadoes. According the the Florida Climate Center at F.S.U., "Florida has the dubious distinction of having a higher frequency of tornadoes per 10,000 square miles than any other state, including Oklahoma!"
Alright, I didn't know that before wading down I-75 with Joella, and I also didn't know the next fact the Florida Climate Center chucked at me, "The coast between Tampa Bay and Fort Myers has a particularly high incidence [of twisters.]" Now I was raised in a Gator home, but those F.S.U. measurements are proving most accurate.
Wanna help those who were significantly impacted by the southwest Florida tornadoes on Jan. 16? Donate here.