Tornadoes occur in many parts of Canada between the months of May and September. They can cause tremendous destruction with wind speeds of up to 500 km/hour or more. In an average year in Canada, 80 tornadoes cause two deaths, 20 injuries, and tens of millions of dollars in property damage.
Although we can’t do anything to prevent a tornado, we can certainly be prepared!

It’s Up To You!

Despite advance warning, some people are unprepared for a tornado. Some may not hear the warning while others received the warning but did not believe a tornado would actually affect them. You can prepare by having a plan in place long before a tornado hits. You must make the decision to seek shelter before the storm arrives. It could be the most important decision you will ever make.

Warning Signals That A Tornado May Be Near

A severe thunderstorm is the driving force behind a tornado. Hot, humid weather combined with a cold front could be a sign that a tornado is brewing, and a funnel cloud hanging from a dark cloud may be visible before the tornado actually occurs.

A tornado may be accompanied by lightning, high winds and hail. Stay tuned to your local television and radio stations for updated storm information especially when weather conditions are right for generating a tornado. As well, it is important to know the difference between a tornado watch and a warning.

  • Tornado Watch: a tornado is possible in your area and you should be on alert.
  • Tornado Warning: a tornado has been sighted and you should take cover
  • If you are at home, go to the basement or take shelter in a small interior ground floor room such as a bathroom, closet or hallway. Failing that, protect yourself by taking shelter under a heavy table or desk.  In all cases, stay away from windows and outside walls and doors.
  • If you are at the office or in an apartment building, take shelter in an inner hallway or room, ideally in the basement or the ground floor. Do not use the elevator and stay away from windows. Avoid buildings such as gymnasiums, churches and auditoriums with freespan roofs. These roofs do not have supports in the middle and may collapse if a tornado hits them. If you are in one of these buildings take cover under a sturdy structure.
  • Do not get caught in a car or mobile home.  More than 50 per cent of all deaths from tornadoes happen in mobile homes. Take shelter elsewhere – such as a building with a strong foundation. If no shelter is available, then lie down in a ditch, away from the automobile or mobile home.
  • If you are driving and spot a tornado in the distance, try to get to a nearby shelter. If the tornado is close by, get out of your car and take cover in a low-lying area or even under an underpass on a freeway. Crawl right up the bank to just under the road of the overpass. If a tornado seems to be  standing still then it is either moving away  from you, or heading right for you

In all cases get as close to the ground as possible, protect your head and watch out for flying debris. Small objects such as sticks and straws can become lethal weapons when driven by a tornado’s winds.

After The Tornado

If your home or family is affected by the tornado, you should:

  • Monitor local media reports for advice and to find out where assistance is available.
  • Check for gas leaks in your home. If you smell gas, immediately open windows and doors; turn off the main gas valve.
  • Leave the house (post a note stating your  whereabouts)
  • Go to another location and notify the gas company, police or fire department.
  • Check for blown fuses and look for short- circuits in your home wiring and equipment – if a problem exists, call your utility company.
  • Drive carefully and watch for debris, damaged bridges/roads and dangling wires.
  • Report any emergency situations to the local police or fire department.
  • Notify your insurance agent or broker if your property is damaged.
  • Check with your local government if you need counseling to help cope with the emotional trauma associated with disasters.

Tornado Myths

Contrary to popular belief:

  • Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are NOT safe from tornadoes.
  • The low pressure with a tornado does NOT cause buildings to ‘explode’ as the tornado passes overhead.
  • Open windows do NOT equalize pressure and minimize damage.
  • You are NOT safe if you are downtown