The storm system that spawned a string of deadly tornadoes across central Florida had been pushed farther south than normal by El Nino.

``This was another storm on the El Nino conveyor belt,'' said Craig Fugate, chief of preparedness and response in the state Division of Emergency Management.

Such winter storms usually occur across Georgia or the Carolinas. They are less frequent in northern Florida.

``We may see one or two storms like this in a given winter, and this year this is probably our eighth or 10th to take a track like this,'' said Scott Spratt, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Melbourne. ``Obviously, this is not a typical year and El Nino is affecting our weather down here.''

The storms originated in the Pacific, caused havoc in California and weakened as they moved east, but picked up moisture and strength in the Gulf of Mexico.

El Nino alone was not responsible for the tornadoes.

``A lot of other ingredients are kind of the luck of the draw as to what is going on at any point in time,'' said Dan Cayan, a researcher with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

Satellite measurements have indicated that the heart of the El Nino phenomenon, a vast area of unusually warm water in the central Pacific, is starting to shrink. However, the federal Climate Prediction Center cautioned earlier this month that its wet, stormy effects on the West Coast and the Southeast are likely to persist through April.