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What to do during a tornado

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Prepare for an emergencyDuring a tornado

High risk season for tornadoes in Calgary is from mid-June until early August and are most likely in the late afternoon or evening. If you see a tornado approaching, you have a short window to make decisions.

The likelihood of a tornado touching down in Calgary is relatively low and the risk trend remains stable, but the consequences could be catastrophic. The most recent experience of a tornado in Calgary was a tornado warning that was issued in 2015. Our Disaster Risk Explorer has information about the risk of disasters in Calgary and what the City is doing to prepare for it.

How to prepare for a tornado

  • An approaching cloud of debris can indicate a tornado, even if you cannot see a funnel. The wind may die and the air can be quite still before a tornado.
  • Tornadoes can occur anywhere in Calgary and generally last less than one hour (seconds to minutes is the most likely).

Tornado watch vs. warning

  • A tornado watch means conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms with one or more tornadoes.
  • A tornado warning means a tornado has been reported; or when there is reliable evidence based on radar or a reliable spotter that a tornado is imminent.
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Staying safe during a tornado

  • Take shelter in the basement or lowest level of your home or building immediately:
    • Find a small interior room with no windows, like a closet or under the stairs, and stay near the wall under a sturdy piece of furniture.
    • Put as many walls as possible between yourself and the outside for protection.
  • If you are instructed to evacuate, bring your 72-hour emergency kit and emergency contact list to the reception centre or shelter.
  • If you are outside and can't get indoors, find a low-lying area like a ditch. Cover your head with your hands and avoid overpasses or bridges.
  • Be aware of debris and flying objects.
  • Avoid buildings with large-span roofs such as shopping malls and auditoriums.
  • If you are in a car, do not try to outrun a tornado. Leave your vehicle immediately and find an indoor shelter or low-lying area like a ditch.
  • If you are in a mobile home, leave immediately as they offer little protection from tornadoes. Get to the lowest point inside the closest safe, sturdy building.
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After a tornado

  • Follow the instructions of the authorities.
    • Check in at any reception centres or shelters that have been set up so you can be accounted for and reunified with any missing family members.
  • Do not go into damaged areas. There may be structural damage that may or may not be visible.
    • Be aware that debris can present hazards – tripping, puncture wounds, collapsing structures, etc.
    • Watch for sharp objects like nails and glass.
    • Injuries due to tornadoes are often caused after the tornado has ended, when walking among and cleaning up debris.
  • Watch out for downed power lines or ruptured gas lines. If you smell natural gas, get away from the source and notify authorities of a gas leak.
  • Check to see if you or others are injured.
    • Do not move seriously injured or trapped people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury (such as from a collapsing structure).
    • Seek medical assistance for them as soon as possible.
  • Stay informed:
    • Continue to monitor local weather information, preferably from battery-powered or wind-up radios.
    • Use battery powered lights or lanterns, rather than candles, to light a home.
    • Open flames can be dangerous if gas lines are compromised.
    • Never use generators, camp stoves, or other fuel-burning appliances inside.
    • Carbon monoxide, a clear, colorless, and odourless gas, can be emitted from these appliances and causes illness or death.
  • Use battery powered lights or lanterns, rather than candles, to light a home. Open flames can be dangerous if gas lines are compromised.
  • Never use generators, camp stoves, or other fuel-burning appliances inside.
    • Carbon monoxide, a clear, colorless, and odourless gas, can be emitted from these appliances and causes illness or death.