MIAMI (CBS4) – As parts of the Deep South woke up Thursday from a tornado disaster, South Floridians could relate because of the damage left by countless hurricanes over the years.
The leveled houses appeared like they could easily be from the same storm. But make no mistake about it; a tornado can pack a lot more punch than hurricanes.
Hurricane Andrew, a horrific category 5 hurricane, pumped out gusts up to 177 miles an hour according to the National Hurricane Center.
Contrast that with an EF-5 tornado which can have winds of more than 300 miles an hour, almost double the wind speed of the strongest hurricane.
“Doubling the wind speed gives you somewhere between 4 and 8 times the damage.” Professor Hugh Willoughby explained to CBS4’s David Sutta.
Willoughby worked in the Department Of Earth Sciences at Florida International University. He told CBS4 the experts can clearly distinguish the damage between a hurricane and a tornado based on what’s left.
“Basically there is no way to build a house that you would want to live in to survive a tornado. Flip side of that is Tornado’s are small and rare.”
Over at FIU’s International Hurricane Research Center Associate Director Erik Salna explained it as wiping the slate clean.
“When you are looking at ef4-ef5 tornadoes, it can literally sweep a house clean off its foundation. And that’s all you have left,” Salna said.
But, powerful tornadoes can only stretch up to a mile wide, unlike a hurricane that can go for dozens of miles. Still, that’s little comfort for the tens of thousands of Alabamians suffering from the destruction.
FIU’s hurricane research lab has been able to test winds speeds affect on structures up to 100 miles an hour. This summer they will be able to turn out 140 miles an hour.
But still that’s nowhere near the amount of wind coming out of a tornado. However, Florida rarely sees clusters of tornadoes, and even when twisters hit, they are much weaker.
“The strongest tornadoes are rated EF3-EF5. And to put this in perspective in South Florida we only have a couple of instance on record of tornadoes this strong. We’ve never on record seen an EF4 or a 5 magnitude,” CBS4’s Chief Meteorologist David Bernard explained.
Wednesday’s outbreak saw more than 100 twisters strike, with Alabama being the hardest hit. More than 250 people died in Wednesday’s outbreak.