A tornado is a rotating column of high-velocity wind, moving at up to 70 km/hour. It can appear without warning. A tornado can occur at any time of the year, although most commonly from June to August. Tornadoes often occur in the mid-afternoon to early evening and during severe thunder storms when heavy rain or hail is present. Ontario averages 20 tornadoes a year.
- Remove dead or rotting branches and trees from your property.
- Develop an emergency plan so every member of your household knows what to do in the event of severe weather or tornado. Make sure you have an emergency kit ready.
- 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. Include this in your emergency plan.
- Make sure everyone in your household is aware of tornado warning signs.
- Conduct a tornado drill so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
- Stay informed – be aware of extreme weather conditions and the possibility of a tornado. Environment Canada will issue a tornado warning through radio, television, newspapers and its Public Alerts website.
If a tornado warning has been issued for your area, follow these instructions:
If you are outdoors:
- Look for shelter, preferably a building with a strong foundation.
- Don’t go under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
- If no shelter is available, lay flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Beware of flooding from downpours and be prepared to move.
- Watch for flying debris.
If you are close to shelter:
- Get inside — don’t wait until you see the tornado.
- Choose a building with a strong foundation and go to the basement or lowest level. Choose an inside room, restroom or hallway, or get underneath a staircase or sturdy piece of furniture.
- Avoid buildings such as barns, auditoriums, shopping centres and supermarkets with large roofs.
- Stay away from windows, doors and exterior walls. Flying glass is extremely dangerous.
- Don’t open windows.
- Avoid areas near high walls or large chimneys which may collapse.
- At school, seek shelter in small windowless rooms such as a washroom instead of a gymnasium.
- In shopping centres, stay out of aisles and away from exterior walls and windows. Don’t go to your parked car.
- In high-rise buildings, move to lower levels, small interior rooms or stairwells. Stay away from elevators and windows.
If you are in a vehicle or mobile home:
- If you spot a tornado in the distance, go to the nearest solid shelter.
- Don’t chase tornadoes – they are unpredictable and can change course abruptly.
- If the tornado is close, get out of your car or mobile home and take cover in a low-lying area – lay flat and cover your head with your hands. More than half of tornado deaths occur in mobile homes.
If you live on a farm:
Ensure the safety of you and your family first. If there is time, open routes of escape for your livestock then exit the area for safe shelter.
Know what to do in case of a power outage. Visit our Power Outage page for more information.
Inspect your home
Make sure that your home is structurally safe. Look for buckled walls or floors, holes in the floor, broken glass and other potentially dangerous debris. If there is damage to your home, vehicle or other property as a result of severe weather, check with your insurance provider to determine your coverage.
Prepare for the next time
Refill your emergency kit and update your household emergency plan, if needed.
Visit the Emergency Management Ontario website, the Federal Government's Get Prepared website, and the Halton Region website.
Visit the Climate Change Adaptation Initiative page to review the Town of Oakville Climate Change Primer.
Visit the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction's YouTube channel for videos on preventing basement flooding.