1998 Kissimmee tornado outbreak

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1998 Kissimmee tornado outbreak
FormedFebruary 22, 1998
Duration2 days
DissipatedFebruary 23, 1998
Tornadoes confirmed12
Max. rating1F3 tornado
Casualties42 fatalities, 260 injuries
Areas affectedI-4 corridor

1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

The 1998 Kissimmee tornado outbreak of February 22–23, 1998, was a devastating tornado outbreak, the deadliest tornado event in Florida history, that is sometimes known as The Night of the Tornadoes.[1] Affecting the I-4 corridor of Central Florida, including the Greater Orlando area, the tornadoes—among the strongest ever recorded in Florida—produced F3 (in some cases, near-F4) damage, killed 42 people, and caused 260 injuries. The previous record for the highest tornado death toll in Florida history was 17 on March 31, 1962. In all, 12 tornadoes touched down, one of which was long lived and tracked for nearly 30 miles (48 km). The first major, F3 tornado of the outbreak came at around 11:40 pm in Winter Garden, near Windermere in Orange County, killing three people. The deadliest and most destructive tornado of the night struck Kissimmee and St. Cloud, where 25 people were killed, and produced near-F4 damage. Only two other tornadoes, both rated F4, in 1958 and 1966 produced more intense damage in Florida.[2] Another F3 hit in Seminole County, near Sanford, and in Volusia County, killing 13. The last tornado of the night was a weak F1 that hit the town of Cape Canaveral in Brevard County.

Meteorological synopsis[edit]

During the night of February 22 and the very early parts of February 23, severe weather formed over Central Florida. Radar data indicated that several long-lived supercell thunderstorms developed over the eastern Gulf of Mexico late on February 22, affected the Tampa Bay Area, and eventually produced seven tornadoes between about 11 pm on Feb. 22nd and 2:30 am on Feb. 23rd.[3] As these storms swept through Central Florida, the tornadoes killed 42 people and seriously injured more than 260 others. This was the deadliest tornado outbreak in Florida's history after the storm that killed 17 people on March 31, 1962, in Santa Rosa County.[4] The tornadoes were strong due to an abnormally strong jet stream with warm, humid air out ahead of the cold front. This is common in the El Niño phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) during the Florida dry season (November 1 – April 30).[5] During El Niño the jet stream is typically stronger and further south near or over Florida in the winter and spring. This greatly increases the odds that conditions will be favorable for strong tornado development.[6]

Outbreak death toll
State Total County County
Florida 42 Orange 3
Osceola 25
Seminole 13
Volusia 1
Totals 42
All deaths were tornado-related

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 4 3 2 3 0 0 12

February 22 event[edit]

List of confirmed tornadoes – February 22, 1998[nb 1]

FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 4 1 1 1 0 0 7
Deaths: 4 Injuries: 73
F# Location County / Parish State Time (UTC) Path length Max width Damage[nb 2] Summary
F0 SW of Dothan Houston AL 1400 0.3 miles (0.48 km) 50 yd (46 m) $70,000 52 homes in the Landview Subdivision sustained damage to shingles, fences, awnings, storage sheds, and porches. Some trees and power lines were downed as well.[7]
F0 SW of Hollister Putnam FL 2045 0.2 miles (0.32 km) 30 yd (27 m) $4,000 Large trees were blown down.[7]
F0 NE of Toledo Charlton GA 2205 0.5 miles (0.80 km) 30 yd (27 m) $10,000 Large trees were blown down and one mobile home was damaged. Power poles were snapped as well.[7]
F1 Indialantic Brevard FL 2220 1 mile (1.6 km) 50 yd (46 m) $200,000 Waterspout came ashore just north of U.S. Highway 192 in Indialantic. Tornado blew the roof off of one house and damaged 10 others. Numerous trees were blown down. Several carports, awnings, and pool enclosures were damaged as well.[7]
F0 Coleman Sumter FL 0250 0.1 miles (0.16 km) 30 yd (27 m) $20,000 A mobile home and a few sheds were damaged. Trees and a few power poles were downed as well.[7]
F2 SW of Daytona International Speedway to Daytona Beach Volusia FL 0355 8 miles (13 km) 150 yd (140 m) $4,000,000 1 death – A tornado began near Daytona Beach International Airport and overturned tractor trailers on I-95.[1] It severely damaged the Colonial Colony South trailer park. A total of 600 structures were damaged or destroyed. Roof trusses were carried up to a mile away and three people were injured.[7]
F3 S of Orange Mountain to Winter Garden/Ocoee to NW of Lockhart Lake, Orange FL 0437 18 miles (29 km) 200 yd (180 m) $15,000,000 3 deaths – The first of three F3 tornadoes to hit Florida in the outbreak began southeast of Clermont and moved into Winter Garden, where many homes were damaged or destroyed and many trees were downed. A total of 500 structures were either damaged or destroyed. 70 people were injured.[7]

February 23 event[edit]

List of confirmed tornadoes – February 23, 1998[nb 1]

FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 0 2 1 2 0 0 5
Deaths: 38 Injuries: 186
F# Location County / Parish State Time (UTC) Path length Max width Damage[nb 2] Summary
F3 Longwood to SE of Sanford to N of Palm Shadows Seminole, Volusia FL 0510 16 miles (26 km) 200 yd (180 m) $31,000,000 13 deaths – The second F3 tornado of the night produced severe damage in Altamonte Springs and Sanford, with many mobile homes and RVs destroyed and scattered. 12 people died as mobile home parks in southeast Sanford were devastated. Several buildings were destroyed at the Sanford Airport. A total of 625 structures were damaged or destroyed. The tornado killed a 53-year-old man 4 mi (6.4 km) south of Osteen before ending just west of Lemon Bluff.[7]
F3 SW of Campbell to Kissimmee (Ponderosa RV Park) to ESE of Christmas Osceola, Orange, Brevard FL 0540 28 miles (45 km) 250 yd (230 m) $55,000,000 25 deaths – See section on this tornado – Deadliest tornado in Florida history. Was initially rated F4.
F2 NE of Maytown to N of Oak Hill Volusia FL 0545 5 miles (8.0 km) 150 yd (140 m) $500,000 A strong tornado passed south of Creighton and ended at Ariel. The tornado downed trees, destroyed two barns, and damaged 10 mobile homes and two houses.[7]
F1 N of Bellwood Brevard FL 0638 1 mile (1.6 km) 100 yd (91 m) $500,000 A brief tornado passed north and west of the Titusville Airport. Trees were downed and four houses were damaged.[7]
F1 Cape Canaveral Brevard FL 0730 1 mile (1.6 km) 80 yd (73 m) $1,000,000 A brief tornado hit Port Canaveral from the west, damaging 30 structures. The tornado actually formed over the Banana River and dissipated over the Atlantic Ocean.[7]

Intercession City–Port St. John, Florida[edit]

Intercession City–Port St. John, Florida
F3 tornado
Max. rating1F3 tornado
Casualties25 fatalities, numerous injuries
Areas affectedCentral Florida
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

This devastating, long-tracked tornado was initially assigned an F4 rating,[8] but NWS assessments later reduced this to high-end F3 intensity.[9] This ranks it as the deadliest tornado in the United States to not reach F4 intensity or higher. The tornado began near Intercession City,[1] only 8 mi (13 km) southeast of Walt Disney World Resort,[4] and moved northeast into Campbell and thence to Kissimmee. The tornado first did some mild damage to homes in a retirement community near Poinciana Office and Industrial Park. In and near Campbell, a few other homes were damaged.[8] Next, the tornado rapidly intensified as it moved into Kissimmee, flattening part of The Shops at Kissimmee shopping center.[4][8] Afterward, the tornado crossed the north part of Lake Tohopekaliga.

Later, the tornado crossed U.S. Route 441 and reached its maximum intensity as it struck the Ponderosa Pines RV park.[4][8] In the RV park, at least 10 people died and almost all of the 200 residences, including both RVs and mobile homes, were destroyed. Many of these residences had their frames thrown, stripped, and wrapped around trees.[3][10] Many trees were snapped and uprooted as well. Nearby, the Morningside Acres mobile home park was devastated as well.[1] Upon leaving the Ponderosa Pines and Morningside areas, the tornado heavily damaged homes next to a school in the Lakeside Estates subdivision of Buenaventura Lakes.[4][8]

After devastating the Kissimmee area, the tornado mostly impacted rural, swampy areas in Orange and Brevard Counties,[4][8] though it hit a few lakeside homes in Lake Hart and Lake Mary Jane.[7] It lifted 8 mi (13 km) east-southeast of Christmas, west of Port St. John—just before the Great Outdoors RV Park, which, according to the NWS, was "one of the largest in the United States, housing 1,000 recreational vehicle lots."[4] The same storm produced a much weaker, F1 tornado just a few miles east of the RV park. Along the entire path, 1,000 structures were damaged or destroyed.[7] The worst damage occurred in the Kissimmee area. Numerous homes, RVs, and mobile homes were destroyed along the path, including several well-built homes that were nearly leveled. At least one new home, built of stucco and concrete blocks, was flattened except for its front entryway and part of a wall.[3][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b All dates are based on the local time zone where the tornado touched down; however, all times are in Coordinated Universal Time for consistency.
  2. ^ a b All damage totals are in 1998 USD unless otherwise stated.


  1. ^ a b c d McCarthy, Daniel; Schaefer, Joseph T. (January 1999). "1998 Weather: Tornadoes". Norman, Oklahoma: Storm Prediction Center.
  2. ^ "The New Smyrna Beach Tornado - 11/2/97". National Weather Service Melbourne, Florida office. Archived from the original on May 7, 2009. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  3. ^ a b c "The Central Florida Tornado Outbreak of February 22nd & 23rd, 1998". Melbourne, Florida: National Weather Service. 23 February 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Central Florida Tornado Outbreak February 22–23, 1998" (PDF). National Weather Service. United States Department of Commerce. Retrieved 4 February 2014.
  5. ^ Hagemeyer, Barlett C. Development of an index of storminess as a proxy for dry season severe weather in Florida and its relationship with ENSO (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-25. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  6. ^ Hagemeyer, Barlett C. Significant Extratropical Tornado Occurrences in Florida During Strong El Niño and Strong La Niña Events (PDF).
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Del Greco, Stephen, ed. (1998). "Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomena". Storm Data. Asheville, North Carolina: United States Department of Commerce. 40 (2).
  8. ^ a b c d e f Wilson, Jennifer; et al. (1998). "Quick Response Report #110". Archived from the original on 2008-06-27. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  9. ^ "Florida's Top 10 Weather Events of the 20th Century". National Weather Service Tallahassee, Florida office. Archived from the original on 2008-04-22. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  10. ^ a b "Kissimmee Photos". Melbourne, Florida: National Weather Service. 20 August 2009. Retrieved 10 February 2014.

External links[edit]