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Tornado Facts

A tornado is nature’s most violent form of storm activity. It can produce upwardly spiraling winds of between 120 to 450 kilometres per hour and cause devastating damage along a path 50 to 300 metres in width. The forward motion of the tornado funnel may be quite erratic as it zigzags along a southwest to northeasterly direction (usually) at a forward speed of 50 to 70 km per hour.

Tornadoes occur in many parts of Canada between the months of May and September. In an average year, 80 tornadoes cause two deaths, 20 injuries, and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. Although we can’t do anything to prevent a tornado, we can certainly be prepared.

Understanding tornado watches and warnings

A severe thunderstorm is the driving force behind a tornado. Hot, humid weather combined with a cold front could be a sign that a tornado is brewing. A funnel cloud hanging from a dark cloud may be visible before the tornado actually occurs. A tornado may be accompanied by lightning, high winds, and hail.

The weather office issues watches and warnings. Radio and television stations communicate that information to the public. Stay tuned to your local TV and radio stations for updated storm information especially when weather conditions exist for generating a tornado.
• A tornado watch is an advisory only. It means that all the conditions that make a tornado are present. Nothing may happen, but a watch could develop into a warning. Stay alert. Listen to your radio.
• A tornado warning means that the event is imminent or a tornado has touched down. Take immediate precautions and listen to your radio.

When Environment Canada has reliable evidence that a tornado has been detected or is imminent, a tornado warning is issued for a specific area through the media or through Alberta's Emergency Public Warning System.

Tornado myths

Contrary to popular belief:
• Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are not safe from tornadoes
• The low pressure caused by a tornado does not cause buildings to explode as the tornado passes overhead
• Open windows do not equalize pressure and minimize damage
• You're not safer if you're downtown
• You are not safer sheltering beneath an underpass

What can I do to protect my family?

A tornado will contact the ground with very little warning. The wisest action is to be prepared in advance for all major emergencies and disasters. Develop your own family emergency plan and emergency kit.

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Planning for Tornadoes and severe weather

This great information was taken with permission from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency's Emergency Preparedness Week Campaign Kit
Download the brochure in its entirety here.

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