Tornadoes Hit South West Florida, Destroying 27 Homes in a Morning – More Evidence of Climate Change?

Toby Hazlewood

Unseasonal weather a sign of global warming?

On the morning of January 16, a number of individual tornadoes touched down in the Fort Myers area of South West Florida, causing significant damage, destroying 27 homes and leaving at least another 33 unlivable. It also forced 70 residents out of a mobile home complex in Charlotte County.

The storms are thought to have been caused by an approaching band of unseasonably cold weather, and are just the latest example of such storms that wouldn't necessarily be expected at this time of year. In late December, another tornado struck in the Naples area, but did much less damage at the time.

The January 16 storm was classed as an EF-1 tornado with 110mph winds - still very significant although relatively low on the scale of severity.

Evidence of serious climate change?

It's been suggested that these storms provide further evidence of serious climate change and a pressing need to take action to prevent further damage to the environment. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been more measured in their assessment, but have stated that warmer winters will make winter tornadoes more common in future.

More storms that do more damage?

2021 was a significant year for serious weather events in the USA. It was the second time in 2 years (and the third since 2005) that the naming of hurricanes made it into the Greek alphabet. There were 21 named storms including Category 4 Hurricane Ida around August 29 which killed an estimated 95 people in seven states over three to four days.

A report published in January 2022 suggests that climate change compounded with population growth in the sunshine state as more Americans migrate to Florida, could contribute to a greater number of extreme events if predictions originating from the Earth Observatory come to fruition.
Man in tornado-damaged homePhoto by Chandler Cruttenden on Unsplash

Florida is taking action

As part of Florida's 'Freedom First' budget for 2022 and beyond, Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed funding of $276 million over the next three years to fund 76 different projects to improve drainage and increase the height of sea walls across the state.

The governor recognizes that regardless of whether individuals choose to believe in climate change and its knock-on effects or not (such as rising sea levels), there are consequences to low-lying areas of Florida if it isn't dealt with adequately. The state is accustomed to hurricanes, but there's no sense in reactively waiting for things to get worse as extreme weather events become more frequent!

Do you get a sense of extreme weather becoming a more frequent event in Florida? Have you suffered damage to your home as a result of hurricanes or tornadoes? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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