Tornado Moves Through Downtown Miami
A significant F1 tornado, with wind speeds estimated at 100 to 110 mph, produced an estimated $526,000 in damage as it moved through the downtown area of Miami around 1800 UTC (2:00 P.M. EDT) on May 12, 1997. The tornado developed just southwest of the city and first touched down in the Silver Bluff Estates area at approximately 1753 UTC (1:53 P.M.). The tornado moved east-northeast at 20 to 25 mph and cut a 30 to 150-yard wide path, 8 miles in length, and was on the ground for about 15 minutes (Figure 1) (Lushine 1997). After the initial touchdown in Silver Bluff Estates area, the tornado crossed interstate I-95 and then moved through downtown Miami before entering Biscayne Bay near Bicentennial Park and the MacArthur Causeway. The tornado then continued northeast and crossed both the MacArthur and Venetian Causeways and moved over Biscayne Island. The visible funnel lifted from the water as it crossed Biscayne Bay, but touched down again briefly on Miami Beach near Collins Avenue and Arthur Godfrey Road.
The tornado produced roof damage to an apartment complex and some houses in the Little Havana area. In the downtown area, windows were blown out of several buildings including nearly every south facing window on the first three floors of The Citadel Building on NW Fourth Street. Several cars were damaged by flying debris in the WTVJ-NBC parking lot. Other cars were overturned or blown several yards when the tornado moved through the parking lot of a Bell South office building. A Metro Mover car on Miami's public transportation elevated rail system was derailed as the tornado neared the Government Center in downtown Miami. About a dozen minor injuries were attributed to the tornado with the majority of them being cuts caused by flying glass and debris.
View of tornado moving into Biscayne Bay
looking west from MacArthur Causeway
The WSR-88D continued to indicate a rather distinct hook echo on both the 0.5 and 1.5 degree elevation angles as the tornado moved across downtown Miami and into Biscayne Bay.
CLICK HERE to view more images of the tornado along with damage photos.
Miami Tornado Videos May 12, 1997