A tornado is a violent rotating column of air extending between a thundercloud and the ground and can reach speeds of up to 400 kilometres per hour in some cases. Most develop in the late afternoon and early evening.
In most of Alberta, a wind warning is given for winds expected to reach at least 70 kilometres per hour, or gust at least 90 kilometres per hour.
May through September is tornado and hail season, with mid-June to early August being the peak time. 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. A tornado is deceptive – it may appear to be standing still when it is moving toward you.
During a Tornado
The actions you take during a tornado, a tornado alert or a tornado warning will depend on where you are at the time.
When you are aware of a tornado or extreme winds in your area, seek shelter immediately and remain in place until the severe weather passes. If you are outdoors, get to low-lying ground, lay flat and protect your head from flying debris.
General steps to follow
- If you’ve been directly impacted, make sure you are safe before assisting others. Check yourself and those around you for injuries; administer first aid, if needed, and call 9-1-1 if there are life-threatening injuries.
- Activate and follow your emergency plan.
- Get your emergency kit and keep it nearby.
- Monitor alerts from Alberta Emergency Alert.
- Listen to a local radio or television station for information from local authorities.
- Access your local authority's website and/or social media channels for information.
- Listen to instructions from authorities.
- Limit non-emergency phone calls to keep phone networks free for those who require emergency services. This also helps to save battery power if you are using a cell phone.
If you are in a large building, such as a mall or arena
Buildings such as an arena or shopping mall may collapse if a tornado hits.
- If possible, find shelter in another building.
- If trapped inside, take cover under a sturdy object such as a table or desk.
If you are in a mobile home or RV
Mobile homes and vehicles are not safe during tornadoes and extreme windstorms.
- If you know severe weather is approaching and do not have safe shelter, leave the area well in advance and seek shelter in a building (preferably with a solid foundation). If it is too late to leave the area by vehicle, seek shelter in a nearby solid building immediately.
- If there is no solid building near you, take shelter in a ditch, culvert or low-lying area away from vehicles and mobile homes. Cover your head for protection, beware of flooding from downpours, and be prepared to move.