Severe Weather

Natural hazards, such as tornadoes and severe windstorms, represent an uncontrollable risk that can have a devastating effect.

Weather Watches and Warnings

Environment Canada issues weather watches and warnings to advise of weather conditions that may affect personal safety or property. Environment Canada is the primary source of information for monitoring the threat of tornadoes and severe windstorms.

A tornado watch means conditions are favourable for the development of tornadoes. A tornado warning means one or more tornadoes are occurring. The expected direction, development, and duration will be given in the warning. 

Tornado facts

  • Tornadoes are often hard to see from far away and not all have a visible funnel cloud. 
  • Tornadoes usually come from the south or west but can quickly change direction without warning. 
  • Large hailstones often accompany tornadoes. Take cover when hail begins and do not go outside. 
  • A tornado is deceptive - it may appear to be standing still when it is moving toward you.
  • When you are aware of a tornado in your area, seek shelter immediately  

Tornado and Severe Windstorm Procedure

  • Watches and warnings are issued via Environment Canada's Weather radio and through commercial radio and television stations.

  • Look for approaching storms

  • Look for the following danger signs: 

    • a sickly greenish or greenish-black colour to the sky

    • hail

    • unusually high relative humidity

    • a strange quiet that occurs within or shortly after the thunderstorm

    • clouds moving very fast, especially in a rotating pattern or converging towards one area of the sky

    • a sound like a waterfall or rushing air that turns into a roar as it comes closer, the sound of a tornado has been likened to that of both railroad trains and jets

    • debris dropping from the sky, and or branches or leaves being pulled upwards, even if no funnel cloud is visible

    • an obvious funnel-shaped cloud that is rotating

  • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

If You Are In a Structure

  • Go to a sheltered area such as a basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level.
  • If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway, etc.) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls.
  • Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside
  • Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck
  • Do not open windows or use elevators

If You Are In a Vehicle, Trailer, or Mobile Home

  • Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a storm shelter or sturdy nearby building. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, exit the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.

If You Are Outside With No Shelter

  • Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

Be Aware

  • Be aware of new safety issues created by the disaster. Watch for washed out roads, contaminated buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged electrical wiring, and slippery floors.

Inform Local Authorities

  • Inform local authorities about health and safety issues, including chemical spills, downed power lines, washed out roads, smoldering insulation, and dead animals.