On average, Florida got 42 tornadoes per year, and 1988 reported a staggering 217 tornadoes in Florida alone out of 1,158 confirmed that year. This was the second of three major tornado outbreaks and the last significant tornado outbreak in February of 1988. With two of only three F5s to ever hit Florida as of March 10th, 2007, this outbreak was among one of the worst tornadic events in Floridian history. It was also by far one of the costliest, with over $1.6 billion {1988 USD} confirmed, or over $3.4 billion in 2019 USD. Both F5 tornadoes struck on February 13th, which is when eighty of the 97 confirmed deaths happened from 77 different tornadoes, all but four in Florida alone. Southeast Alabama was also affected as well, with fifteen tornadoes in Alabama as well, 98 in Florida, and one tornado, rated F0, in extreme southwest Georgia. Almost 1,000 injuries were also confirmed from this outbreak as well.


Among one of the hardest-hit areas were the Manatee-Sarasota-Highlands County conjunction, where eighteen tornadoes touched down in one of those 3 counties alone, eleven in Manatee County, all but five on February 13th, with sixty deaths from the three counties combined, alongside over $1.1 billion {1988 USD}.


Main Article: *Doesn't Exist Yet, I Will Make That After Finishing This One*

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Notable Tornadoes

February 11th

February 11th, 1988 Tornadoes
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 4 6 1 2 0 0 13
Deaths: 14 Injuries: 155*
  • Note: Three other injuries were from non-significant tornadoes as well, all three injuries from separate F1-rated tornadoes.

McIntosh-Reddick, FL

F3 tornado
Tornado 224.jpg
Duration 5:53 PM EST – 6:04 PM EST
Intensity 260 km/h (160 mph) (1-min)
A large tornado up to 7/10-3/4 of a mile wide tracked about 9 miles in the Floridian countryside after touching down at approximately just before 6:00 PM. Significant damage was caused to McIntosh, as the tornado narrowly missed the unincorporated community of Orange Lake before banking a southeast turn from south to Reddick, where 2 people would be killed when their improperly-anchored house was completely swept away. Eighteen other homes were also destroyed in its path, with about 300 total homes damaged. Around $4 million {1988} of damage was calculated from this tornado's path up to 0.71 miles wide, and roughly 9.5 miles in length.

Two people were killed by this tornado, and nineteen others were injured.

Elberta, AL

F3 tornado
Tornado 262.jpg
Duration 5:21 PM CST – 5:37 PM CST
Intensity 230 km/h (140 mph) (1-min)

This tornado formed about 1 mile west of Elberta just outside of Foley, AL, and instantly gained intensity, and within just a minute, was already at F2 strength. Several homes in Elberta were badly damaged, and one fatality was confirmed when a trailer home was swept away, killing the occupant. The Hallson Manor Apartments was also affected horribly by the storm, leaving two more civilians killed in Elberta, and at least 21 others injured. Several more mobile homes were completely leveled if not swept away, with several injuries and one more fatality. The storm then trekked through semi-rural areas of Alabama, and, at peak low-end F3 strength, slammed directly into the Lake Osprey RV Country Club, where 75 RVs were parked. All but four of the RVs were completely mangled and torn apart, killing 5 people instantly, all of which from one RV that was never recognized until December 1989. Two more fatalities occurred from life-threatening injuries from the tornado.

In total, the tornado killed eleven people, and left 92 others injured, alongside over $18 million {1988 USD} of property damage--nearly half of that from the country club alone.

Lake Panasoffkee, FL

F2 tornado
Tornado 72.jpg
Duration 7:33 PM EST – 7:57 PM EST
Intensity 195 km/h (120 mph) (1-min)
This tornado formed in the western sides of the Flying Eagle Preserve, just over a mile east of Floral City's outskirts. It continued raking through the woodland area, and killed hundreds of rare eagles that failed to get away from the tornado. It then ended up being about one-eighth of a mile in width, and then intensified just west of Lake Panasoffkee. Eventually, it hit F-2 strength just outside of the northern parts of town, where, unfortunately, a large trailer park was in its direct path. Luckily, for about forty trailer homes, the tornado not only lifted off the ground for a few seconds, but it also banked a more southeast turn towards the more populated areas near the lake's edges. However, there, at least eight homes were completely destroyed, alongside 21 mobile homes, where forty-two people were injured. Fifty-seven homes sustained damage before the tornado then dissipated on the eastern edges of Lake Panasoffkee {the actual lake body, not the city}. The fatality was from a 27-year-old man that died from life-threatening injuries about 6 hours after he was crushed by a 1982 Chevrolet Caprice.

Overall, one person was killed, with 41 confirmed injuries, and over 2,500 trees destroyed, alongside eight well-built homes, 21 mobile homes, with thirty-two mobile homes damaged, fifty-seven more homes damaged being well-built to code. About $3.7 million {1988 USD} was confirmed from this tornado. Photogrammetry confirmed wind speeds of up to 127mph in its mature stage, which was just over the water, and starting to die out quickly.

February 12th

February 12th, 1988 Tornadoes
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
- 7 9 1 1 1 0 19
Deaths: 8 Injuries: 61*
  • Two injuries were confirmed from an F-0 in Fort McCoy.

Williston Highlands-Williston, FL

F4 tornado
Fort Leonard Wood EF3 tornado 31 Dec 2010.jpg
Duration 8:57 AM EST – 9:29 PM EST
Intensity 340 km/h (210 mph) (1-min)
A violent tornado formed in the early morning of February 12th, 1988, just outside the outskirts of the Goethe State Forest. There, the tornado gained strength almost instantly, and from the damage path, within just 1/4 of a mile, it was already confirmed to be of at least F-2 strength, intensifying rapidly. It caused low-end F-3 damage to small parts of Williston Highlands, where 55 homes were destroyed, with over 150 damaged. It then hit F-4 strength over the Williston Municipal Airport, which was thankfully shut down for the next five days as of then due to extreme weather that would be happening for the next one to three days. The twister hit its peak strength there, and just south of downtown Williston, destroyed an additional 79 homes, with 166 more homes damaged severely. Seven homes were completely swept away, almost prompting an F-5 rating, but it turns out that the homes weren't anchored properly. Miraculously, nobody was killed in Williston itself, with only one injury confirmed there, but Williston Highlands confirmed two deaths when the home entirely collapsed on them in their basement, burying and killing them painfully.

Despite the destruction and over $100 million {1988 USD}, the tornado left only 17 injuries and two fatalities, lasted 32 minutes, and tracked a path of destruction up to 1/3 of a mile wide confirmed at around 26 miles long. Exact figures of path length aren't entirely known, but the low death toll could be due to tornado emergencies issued right after significant damage was confirmed in Williston Heights. 134 homes were left destroyed, 318 damaged, and it was the 3rd costliest tornado as of then.

LaBelle, FL

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