When a Tornado and Severe Thunderstorm watch is issued it means conditions are favorable for the development of just that. Thunderstorms. These are often accompanied by high winds, hail, lightning, heavy rain and in rare cases can produce tornadoes. It is common for our ‘Heat Warning’ days to turn into ‘Severe Weather Warning’ nights.
There are a few things that can be done to better prepare yourself, your family & your home for a severe storm.
Keep your dead branches trimmed and cut down all dead tress surrounding/on your property. This will help reduce the danger and risk of them falling into your house during a storm. Clean gutters, drains and downpipes. Consider getting rid of that beloved trampoline – they have a tendency to turn into kites during storms. Make sure your roof is in good repair. Be sure that any pergola or awnings are properly secured.
Make an Emergency Plan
Every Canadian household needs an emergency plan. It will help you and your family to know what to do in case of an emergency. Remember, your family may not be together when a storm or other emergency occurs. Identify safe places where everyone should meet if they have to leave home during an emergency.
Start by discussing what could happen and what you should do at home, at school or at work if a severe storm strikes. To be prepared, make a list of what needs to be done ahead of time. Store important family documents, such as birth certificates, passports, wills, financial documents, insurance policies, etc. in waterproof container(s). Identify an appropriate out-of-town contact that can act as a central point of contact in an emergency.
Write down and exercise your plan with the entire family at least once a year. Make sure everybody has a copy and keeps it close at hand.
Prepare an Emergency Kit
In an emergency you will need some basic supplies. You may need to get by without power or tap water. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.
You may have some of the items already, such as a flashlight, battery-operated radio, food and water. The key is to make sure they are organized and easy to find. Would you be able to find your flashlight in the dark?
Make sure your kit is easy to carry. Keep it in a backpack, duffel bag or suitcase with wheels, in an easy-to-reach, accessible place, such as your front hall closet. Make sure everyone in the household knows where the emergency kit is.
Basic Emergency Kit:
Water – at least two litres of water per person per day. Include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order.
Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (remember to replace food and water once a year).
Manual can opener.
Crank or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries).
Crank or battery-powered radio (and extra batteries).
First aid kit.
Special items such as prescription medications, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities.
Extra keys to your car and house some cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills and change for payphones, a copy of your emergency plan and contact information
Know the Risks & Warning Signs
Thunderstorms are usually over within an hour, although a series of thunderstorms can last several hours with hail most frequently seen in our home province of Alberta. Hailstones vary in shape and size – from the size of peas to be as big as grapefruits. Hail comes down at great speed, especially when accompanied by high winds and can cause serious injuries and damages.
If hail is forecast, protect your vehicle by putting it in the garage or other enclosed space. Take cover when hail begins to fall. Do not go out to cover plants, cars or garden furniture. When a hailstorm hits, stay indoors, and keep yourself and your pets away from windows, glass doors and skylights which can shatter if hit by hailstones.
Warning signs of a potential tornado include severe thunderstorms, an extremely dark sky, sometimes highlighted by green or yellow clouds, a rumbling or a whistling sound caused by flying debris, a funnel cloud at the rear base of a thundercloud, often behind a curtain of heavy rain or hail.
What to do in such cases?
Get as close to the ground as possible, protect your head and watch for flying debris. Do not chase tornadoes – they are unpredictable and can change course abruptly. A tornado is deceptive. It may appear to be standing still but may in fact be moving toward you.
If you are in a house go to the basement or take shelter in a small interior ground floor room such as a bathroom, closet or hallway.
If you have no basement, protect yourself by taking shelter under a heavy table or desk.
In all cases, stay away from windows, outside walls and doors.
Located on a farm? If your personal safety is not at risk, you may have time to open routes of escape for your livestock. Open the gate, if necessary, and then exit the area in a direction perpendicular to the expected path of the tornado.
In a recreational vehicle or mobile home? Find shelter elsewhere, preferably in a building with a strong foundation. If no shelter is available, crouch down in a ditch away from the mobile home or recreational vehicle. Beware of flooding from downpours and be prepared to move.
In a high rise building? – Take shelter in an inner hallway or room, ideally in the basement or on the ground floor. Do not use the elevator. Stay away from windows.
In a gymnasium, church or auditorium? Keep in mind that large buildings with wide-span roofs may collapse if a tornado hits. If you are in one of these buildings and cannot leave, take cover under a sturdy structure such as a table or desk.
If you are trapped in your vehicle and spot a tornado in the distance, go to the nearest solid shelter. If the tornado is close, get out of your car and take cover in a low-lying area, such as a ditch. Do not take shelter under an overpass or a bridge. Winds can accelerate under an overpass or a bridge and cause injury or death from flying debris.
For more information on making an emergency plan, call 1-800-O-Canada or visit www.GetPrepared.ca to download or complete an emergency plan online.
You can purchase a pre-packaged emergency kit from the Canadian Red Cross at www.redcross.ca.
Visit www.GetPrepared.ca or call 1 800 O-Canada for a list of additional emergency kit items, including a car emergency kit.
Remember – severe storms & tornadoes can develop quite rapidly and it is better to be prepared for nothing than unprepared for something.