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Deadly weekend tornadoes have people paying attention

For weeks, there have been warnings about possible tornadoes in a strong El nino year. Now, more are paying attention.
Residents of Sarasota County are more interested in weather alert radios after the weekend storms.

Sarasota, FL -- Sunday's deadly storms in the Bay area may have been the motivation some people need to start paying attention to the weather warnings that have been sounded for several weeks in this strong El Niño year.

Not everyone has heard the repeated warnings.

"I was woken up, and basically I fell back asleep," Paul Normandin admits.

Normandin says when his phone rang he was up early Sunday morning, warning of a tornado near his Siesta Key home, he essentially ignored it.

"I guess I was too sleepy, I was just - that's the way it happened," he said.

Not everyone was so complacent.

On Monday, at a Home Depot store in Sarasota, people have suddenly started snapping up weather alert radios.

"Normally, that will happen when there is an incident like this," said sales manager Bruce Henry. "Absolutely yes, we have seen a spike in sales and weather radios," he said.

Among those considering such a purchase, was Wayne Cooper.

Cooper, a native of Texas, never expected to see similar tornadoes here in Florida. Now, he's thinking about buying a radio like the one he has back home in Austin.

For help contact Red Cross of Southwest Florida at 941-379-9300.

Oh yeah, I think everyone should. Because it can happen to you, you know? I feel sorry for those people who died did lose their lives," said Cooper.

Sunday's deadly EF-2 tornado was literally a wakeup call for Cooper, who took cover with his family.

"We did not expect it, we thought it was going to be rain. You know, according to the phones and everything it was just gonna be like a rainstorm," he said.

"There wasn't anything on the news, or anything that stated it was coming," insisted Normandin.

For several weeks now, 10News WTSP and local officials have been warning about tornado danger in a strong El Niño year, when weather systems move along a jetstream straight across the state of Florida.

We have shown you workplace tornado drills, school and day care preparations, and how to survive if you're in a vehicle.

For weeks --  on air, online and on social media -- 10News meteorologists have been urging people to prepare.

Florida is already the No. 1 state in the country, even ahead of Kansas, when it comes to the number of twisters per square mile. In typical years, the storms are not as potent. But in a strong El Nino year, they can be far more powerful, and deadly.

In Tampa Bay, there hasn't been a single year in the past five years without tornado activity.

In 2011, a tornado took roofs off of houses in East Tampa's Progress Village.

The following year in North Port and Riverview there were several homes damaged by smaller tornadoes.

In downtown Tampa, a waterspout came ashore in 2013 damaging the roof of the Westin Hotel, and blowing patio furniture off high-rise towers.

Still, Sunday's deadly storm appears to of been the alert some people needed to convince them that the alert of a weather radio could be as lifesaver.

"I think everybody needs to be safe, because if it can happen once it can happen again," said Cooper. "Tornadoes hurricanes can happen at night. You don't want to be caught."

To see expert advice for several scenarios if a tornado is bearing down, click here.

More on the forecast, storms from 10News:

Complete weather coverage from 10News

How to survive a tornado in a vehicle

Schools, day cares prepare for strong weather

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