Tornadoes are violent wind storms identified by their twisting funnel-shaped cloud. They are always produced by thunderstorms, but not every thunderstorm produces a tornado. They travel between 20 and 90 km/h, are erratic, and can change course suddenly. DO NOT follow tornadoes in your car or attempt to take photographs of them – if you see a tornado, take shelter immediately.
Listen to your local radio or television stations for severe weather warnings and advice. Environment Canada issues watches, advisories and warnings through national, regional and local radio and TV, Environment Canada’s website, and The Weather Network (see Alert Ready section). Tornado Watch means the weather could develop a tornado. Tornado Warning means a tornado has been seen or it is very likely that one will develop shortly.
Environment Canada reports that Manitoba gets 7-10 tornadoes every year. The peak tornado season for Manitoba is mid-June to mid-August, but a tornado can occur at any time from May to September. Tornadoes usually hit in the afternoon and early evening, but they have been known to strike at night too. About 85% of the tornadoes will come from a southwest direction.
Storms such as tornadoes usually strike too quickly for us to do any last minute planning and preparation. Our best defence or protection comes with being informed and prepared ahead of time. Learn to recognize the warning signs of a potential tornado.
The warning signs include:
• Severe thunderstorms, with frequent thunder and lightning.
• An extremely dark sky, sometimes highlighted by green or yellow clouds.
• A rumbling sound such as a freight train or a whistling sound similar to a jet aircraft.
• A funnel cloud at the rear base of a thundercloud, often behind a curtain of heavy rain or hail.
What to do during a tornado:
If you are near a building or at home:
• Listen to your radio during severe thunderstorms.
• If a Tornado Warning has been issued take cover immediately.
• Go to the basement or take shelter in a small interior ground floor room – bathroom without a window, closet or hallway. Failing that, protect yourself by taking shelter under a heavy table or desk.
• Stay away from windows and outside walls and doors.
• Stay as close to the floor as you can; always protect your head and chest from flying debris.
• Do not use elevators.
• Avoid large halls, churches, arenas, etc – their roofs are more likely to collapse.
If you are driving a vehicle or are in a mobile home:
• If you are driving try to get to a nearby shelter – drive away from the tornado at a right angle. If the tornado is too close, get out of your car and lie down in a low-lying area, such as a ditch. Cover your head to protect it from flying debris.
• DO NOT get caught in a car or a mobile home – get out, take shelter elsewhere. If no shelter is available, lie face down in a ditch or culvert away from the vehicle or mobile home. Stay close to the ground and remember to cover your head and chest.
• DO NOT try to outrun the tornado in your vehicle or on foot – you could lose the race and your life.
• If a tornado seems to be standing still, it is either travelling away from you or heading right for you.
In all cases, get as close to the ground as possible. Protect your head from flying debris.