Why did the Cape tornado warning come out late?

Published: Updated:

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – An alert warning residents of a potential tornado was not sent out until 6:50 p.m. – six minutes after an EF2 tornado had touched down in southwest Cape Coral on Saturday.

Robert Garcia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the alert was not as last second as it seemed.

“In this specific instance of the Cape Coral tornado, we had discussions and different things out on Friday morning, which actually was the first mention we made of a potential for strong thunderstorms,” said Garcia, who works out of the NWS’ Tampa office. “Once a storm appears to pose a risk of producing a tornado, or we receive a report of a tornado that is credible, that’s usually grounds for issuing a tornado warning.”

Warnings are disseminated “almost instantaneously” through broadcast television and radio, weather radio and on mobile devices – which can be delayed depending on the phone signal, Garcia said.

“For most folks, you should have more than one way to receive warnings and our hope is that whatever way is fastest for you in that situation, you’re able to get it,” he said.

NWS meteorologists sent out a special marine warning at 4:31 p.m., then followed up with the tornado warning at 6:50 p.m.

“We went from the stage of ‘okay, the ingredients are there’ to we see the storm developing and now it’s developing to the point where the tornado warning is issued and folks can act on it,” Garcia said.

NWS officials hope to launch a nationwide software update within the next two years that will better track storms and send out alerts quicker.

For now, Garcia warned that Saturday’s tornado may not be the last severe weather occurrence in Southwest Florida this year.

“We may have a really busy next couple of months, specifically later this week,” he said. “Just stay really aware. Don’t go to sleep on Thursday night without watching the 10 or 11 p.m. news.”

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.