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A tornado is a violent rotating column of air extending between a thundercloud and the ground and can reach speeds of up to 400 km/h 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 km/h, or gust at least 90 km/h.
Tornado and extreme wind facts
When you are aware of a tornado or extreme winds in your area, remember the following:
- 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.
- Large hailstones often accompany tornadoes. Take cover when hail begins – do not go outside.
- A tornado is deceptive – it may appear to be standing still when it is moving toward you.
Seeking shelter and staying safe
When you are aware of a tornado in your area, it’s important to seek shelter immediately and remain in place until the storm has passed. Remember to have your emergency kit close by. If you are outdoors and exposed, get down and protect your head from flying debris.
You can monitor tornado activity by listening to the radio and/or using the Alberta Emergency Alert app on your phone.
Always remember to follow instructions from authorities. Disobeying an order puts lives at risk.
In a detached home
- Go to the basement or underground shelter, if available.
- Otherwise, take shelter in a small interior ground floor room such as a bathroom, closet or hallway.
- Make sure windows and doors are closed and secured, and then stay away from them.
On a farm
- Shelter in your home, as above.
- Do not try to rescue or shelter livestock unless you feel it is safe to do so.
In an office or apartment
- 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.
- 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.
Mobile home or vehicle
- Mobile homes or vehicles are not safe during tornadoes or any extreme windstorms.
- More than half of tornado-related deaths occur in, or near, mobile homes or in vehicles.
- Seek shelter in a sturdy building immediately.
- Ensure your emergency plan includes a safe place close by for you to go.
- If in a rural area and the threat is visible in the distance, you may be able to avoid a tornado by moving at right angles to its path. Otherwise, seek sturdy shelter immediately.
- If the threat is near and shelter is not available, get out of your car and take cover in a low-lying area, such as a ditch, but beware of flooding.
- Never try to outrun a nearby tornado.
- Avoid hiding under bridges or overpasses.
- Speak to an insurance agent about your specific needs.
- Know your insurance options and policy limits. Make sure your home, vehicle, business and belongings are protected. Talk to your insurance agent to learn about what is not covered in your insurance policy.
- If possible, consider an emergency savings account to cover temporary expenses while you are out of your home.
- If you can, keep emergency cash handy in case banking services are unavailable.
- If you are evacuated, keep all receipts for additional expenses.
- Prepare a detailed list of all your belongings. For more information, see Home Inventory.
- Know the 7 steps for making a home insurance claim. For more information, see Claims Management.
- The Disaster Recovery Program may provide assistance for uninsurable loss and damage.
Staying informed during emergencies can save your life. Protect yourself and your loved ones by downloading the Alberta Emergency Alert app to receive critical, life-saving alerts.
You can also find out more information by contacting your community directly to find out where they post updated information during emergencies.
Before you travel, check Alberta 511 for current road conditions to help you arrive to your destination safely.
Check with your community to learn how to help others during severe weather events. If you’re concerned for someone’s safety, call:
- 211 if someone is in distress or in an unsafe place
- 911 if they’re unconscious or need medical help
Resources and translations
Educational material you can read, print and download to share online and within your community. Translated versions are also available in عربي, 简体中文, 繁體中文, ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, Español and Tagalog.
- Tornadoes and extreme winds
- Severe weather
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