Emergency Management Ontario :: Tornadoes

TORNADOES

Did you know Ontario has an average 12 tornadoes a year? Most tornadoes occur between the months of May and September. Tracking where they will hit is more difficult to calculate. From the extreme southwest of the province to the farthest northern tip, a tornado can strike anywhere. Think about that when you are building your family emergency plan and discuss these safety tips with your entire household to ensure everybody knows what to do in a tornado.

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What is a tornado?

A tornado is a powerful column of winds spiralling around a centre of low atmospheric pressure.

Also known as twisters, tornadoes often appear behind a shroud of heavy rain or hail in a sky that is green, yellow or black. A tornado can form quickly. They descend as roaring funnel clouds that can move at speeds of up to 90 km/h. Very large thunderstorms can spawn multiple tornadoes or a single tornado with a number of smaller but destructive vortices within it.

Tornadoes typically snake erratically from southwest to northeast. They can last for a few minutes or a few hours, and usually leave a path of destruction in their wake. The strongest tornadoes, which rank as an F5 on the Fujita scale, boast winds of just over 500 km/h.

General Tips

If you are indoors:

  • The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room.
  • If there is no basement, go to the centre of an interior room on the lowest level 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.

If you are outdoors:

  • Do not wait until you see the tornado to get inside.
  • If you are caught outdoors, lay flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris.

If you are in a mobile home:

  • Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately. Mobile homes, even when tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

Prepare Now

  • Designate a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Conduct a tornado drill so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching (e.g. practice going to your safe room).
  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage.