Just as experts had anticipated, Florida got slammed by killer tornadoes in late February. The Pensacola News-Journal had a report on February 24 (see: "Tornado aftermath: 300+ homes destroyed, damaged"). "As of 1 p.m. in Escambia County, damage assessment crews documented 37 destroyed, 76 major and 100 minor damaged structures in the county," the paper reported.
'In the city of Pensacola, assessments are concentrated in the northern parts of the city. Significantly affected areas include the Dunmire Woods area, Dunmire Street moving northeast to Le Grande. Field checks found there were 100 residential structures with damage. Thirty of these were major damage and 70 were minor damage." Many news outlets were carrying drone video shot by John Oldshue of Southersky.com (see below).
The active tornado season this winter and early spring is giving researchers a chance to learn more about tornado risks in the South, reported the Palm Beach Post (see: "Unique tornado study focuses on deadly Dixie Alley," by Kimberly Miller). "Dubbed Vortex Southeast, the $5 million plan includes multiple studies from the mechanics of southeastern tornadoes to understanding the way southerners react to tornado warnings and whether they are equipped to handle an approaching cyclone. The southeast is heavy with ultra-vulnerable mobile homes where owners may be far from shelter," the paper reported.
But the initiative put scientists in a peculiar position, familiar to reporters who specialize in covering disasters: Are the researchers actually hoping for more tornadoes to strike this spring? The Huntsville Times covered the effort here (see: "Hoping for tornadoes? South's largest tornado research project underway in Alabama," by Paul Gattis). From the report: "Is this group of dozens of scientists from around the country mobilized at the University of Alabama in Huntsville the only people in the state hoping for tornadoes? 'Yes and no,' said Erik Rasmussen, the project coordinator for the $5 million study dubbed Vortex Southeast. 'There isn't one of these researchers I've worked with for all these years who enjoy seeing that. It's always a thrill to view a tornado but the destruction is just not fun.' Still, Rasmussen said, 'We need to have them.'"