July 17, 2019 7:12 pm
Updated: July 18, 2019 8:03 am

There’s a tornado warning, what now? Safety do’s and don’ts

WATCH: After several tornado warnings across southern Saskatchewan in the past week, tornado preparedness is discussed.

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During a tornado warning, do you know what to do?

We’ve gathered some tornado safety tips from the Canadian Red Cross’ disaster expert Georgie Schuring and Environment Canada on how to prepare for a tornado and what to do if there is one.

What’s the difference between a funnel cloud and tornado?


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“A funnel cloud is the initial development of a tornado,” Schuring explained. “It’s in the sky, it’s rotating, but it’s not touching the ground.

“A tornado is when it’s actually on the ground and it’s creating destruction whether it’s in the prairies or a municipality.”

Tornadoes are rotating columns of high winds, according to Environment Canada. Their speeds can reach up to 70 km/h and cause long, wide paths of destruction. Some are smaller, though, and touch down here and there, causing little to no damage.

READ MORE: Two tornadoes touch down near Rockglen, Sask.: Environment Canada

When they’re big, though, tornadoes have the ability to uproot trees, lift and flip cars, and demolish houses and structures.

Environment Canada says they usually hit in the afternoon or evening, but have been known to strike during the night.

What to do if you’re caught in a tornado’s path:

If you’re in a house, go to the basement, if possible, or take shelter in a room on the ground floor such as the bathroom, or a closet or hallway. You can also protect yourself under heavy tables or desks.

According to Environment Canada, stay away from windows, outside walls and doors.

If you’re in an office building, do not take an elevator. Take the stairs to get down and into a basement or ground floor where you can find cover.

“If you’re in a car, we recommend that you get to a safe place — a building where you can shelter within the building,” Schuring said.

If you do not need to drive anywhere, don’t. It is also highly dangerous to seek shelter in mobile homes. According to Environment Canada, “more than half of all deaths from tornadoes happen in mobile homes.”

If you’re driving when a tornado warning occurs, Schuring says to stop and get out.

“If you’re out on the highway, our best advice is to get into a ditch and lie as flat as possible,” she said. “Or, find a building around you, a shelter away from where the tornado is coming from.”

If you’re seeking shelter in a ditch, be prepared for flooding and ready to move if need be.

A map of Canada’s ‘Tornado Alley’.

Environment Canada / JustinWX

Tornadoes and Pets

“If you’re at home, take your pets to wherever that space is in your house, whether it’s the basement or room,” Schuring explained.

“This is where the preparedness piece comes in — when you’re getting a kit together that you can just grab when you’re at home, make sure you have water and food in there, not just for you but for your pets.”

Livestock sense and hear impending tornadoes, according to Environment Canada.

“If your family or home is at risk, the livestock will be a non-issue. If your personal safety is not an issue, you may only have time to open routes of escape for your livestock. Open the gate, if you must, and then exit the area in a tangent direction away from the expected path of the twister.”

READ MORE: Storm safe rooms as a wedding gift? Sure, in Tornado Alley

Weather “watch” or “warning”?

A “watch” is the “possibility of [said] weather”, according to Schuring. She said this wording is to prompt people to “turn on their local radio, TV, and listen out for what’s happening.”

The “watch” phase is when you could call friends, family, co-workers, and knock on elderly neighbours’ doors, for example, and to let others be aware that there could be dangerous weather conditions in the area.

When there’s a warning, “That’s when you have to take cover.”

Signs of a tornado:

  • Severe thunderstorms, with frequent thunder and lightning
  • An extremely dark sky, sometimes highlighted by green or yellow clouds
  • A rumbling sound or a whistling sound.
  • A funnel cloud at the rear base of a thundercloud, often behind a curtain of heavy rain or hail.

taylor.braat@globalnews.ca

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