Information about Preparing for Tornadoes & Thunderstorms

Learn how to prepare for tornadoes & thunderstorms.

Preparing for a Tornado/Thunderstorm

  • Plan ahead. Be sure everyone in your household knows where to go and what to do in case of a tornado warning.
  • Know the safest location for shelter in your home, workplace and school.
  • Load bearing walls near the center of the basement or lowest level generally provide the greatest protection.
  • Know the location of designated shelter areas in local public facilities, such as schools, shopping centers and other public buildings.
  • Have emergency supplies on hand, including a battery-operated radio, flashlight and a supply of fresh batteries, first-aid kit, water and cell phone.
  • Make an inventory of household furnishings and other possessions. Supplement it with photographs of each room. Keep in a safe place.

When a Tornado/Thunderstorm Warning is Issued for Your Area

  • Quickly move to shelter in the basement or lowest floor of a permanent structure.
  • In homes and small buildings go to the basement and get under something sturdy. If no basement is available, go to an interior part of the home on the lowest level. A good rule of thumb is to put as many walls between you and the tornado as possible.
  • In schools, hospitals and public places move to designated shelter areas. Interior hallways on the lowest floors are generally best.
  • Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Broken glass and wind blown projectiles cause more injuries and deaths than collapsed buildings. Protect your head with a pillow, blanket or mattress.
  • Mobile homes and vehicles offer virtually no shelter. Leave them and go to the nearest shelter.
  • If there is no shelter nearby, the best alternative is to find a low spot away from trees, fences and poles, but not in a place subject to flooding. Shield your head with your arms.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and shelter immediately.
  • Follow the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule. Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder. Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur more than 10 miles from any rainfall!
  • If you feel your skin tingle or hair stand on end, lightning may be about to strike. Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Minimize contact with the ground.
  • Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances not necessary for receiving weather information. Use plug-in telephones only in an emergency.

After a Tornado/Thunderstorm

  • Inspect your property and motor vehicles for damage. Write down the date and list damages for insurance purposes. Check for electrical problems and gas leaks and report them to the utility company at once.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines. Stay out of damaged buildings until you are sure they are safe and will not collapse. Secure your property from further damage or theft.
  • Use only approved or chlorinated supplies of drinking water. Check food supplies.


  • Listen to the radio, television and cable stations for the latest weather updates. To ensure a continuous flow of weather information, make sure the radio or television has a battery back-up.
  • For more information about tornadoes or to access tornado resources, please visit the tornado information and resources page on the Canadian Federal Government website at

Facts About Tornadoes

  • What is a tornado?
    It is a column of violently rotating winds extending down from a thunderstorm cloud and touching the surface of the earth.
  • What is the difference between a tornado and a funnel cloud?
    A funnel cloud is also a column of violently rotating winds extending down from a thunderstorm; however, it does not touch the earth.
  • When do tornadoes generally occur?
    Most tornadoes occur during the months of May, June, July and August in the late afternoon and evening hours. However, tornadoes can occur any time of the day or night in almost any month during the year.
  • How fast do tornadoes travel?
    Sometimes they move quickly (up to 70 km/hour) and leave a long, wide path of destruction. At other times the tornado is small, touching down here and there.
  • How far do tornadoes travel once they touch the ground?
    The average tornado is on the ground for less than 10 minutes and travels a distance of about 5 miles. However, they do not always follow the norm, and have been known to stay on the ground for more than an hour and travel more than 100 miles.
  • What is a tornado watch?
    A tornado/severe thunderstorm watch is issued whenever conditions exist for severe weather to develop. Watches generally cover large areas and are approximately two to six hours long. Watches give you time to plan and prepare.
  • What is a tornado warning?
    The local weather service issues a tornado warning whenever a tornado has been sighted or Doppler Radar indicates a thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado. A severe thunderstorm warning is issued whenever a severe thunderstorm is observed or Doppler Radar indicates a thunderstorm capable of producing damaging winds or large hail. Warnings are for smaller areas, such as counties, and are usually 30 to 90 minutes in length. You must act immediately when you first hear the warning. If severe weather is reported near you, seek shelter immediately. If not, keep a constant lookout for severe weather and stay near a shelter.

For more information about tornadoes, please visit the Federal Government’s tornado page by clicking the button below.

Click Here for Tornado Information and Resources