How to Prepare for Prairie Tornadoes


Did you know that tornado season across the prairies starts in April and doesn’t officially end until September?

Over the past summer, the Canadian prairies have suffered some devastating tornadoes. In Saskatchewan alone this past summer, 19 tornadoes have been confirmed by Environment Canada. Some of these were less severe landspout tornadoes, while others were the dangerous supercell tornadoes—8 of which touched down across the prairies on the evening of July 10!

On August 3, an EF4 tornado (the first violent Canadian tornado in 9 years) struck Manitoba, reaching a width of 800 metres and staying on the ground for at least 20 minutes. The wake of destruction it left behind was disastrous, with full buildings being ripped from their foundations, vehicles being thrown into the lake and even one fatality.

Now that the prairies are looking forward to a few months of relief from tornado season, it’s a good time to start thinking ahead about how to prepare for the risk!

The first step of preparing for a tornado is determining the safest place for household members to gather during the event. This should be a room or hallway closest to the ground, ideally with no windows. If you have a designated “storm cellar,” it’s a good idea to keep blankets and supplies there. This should include at least 3 days worth of food and water, as well as a hand crank radio that carries alerts. You can find all of the emergency supplies you need individually at Total Prepare. Or you can simply choose a pre-packaged emergency kit that includes all of the basics that you’ll need! You can always add more to it later.

Below are some tips for how to survive DURING a tornado:

  • If you’ve lived in the prairies for a while, you’ve likely developed a bit of an instinct for knowing when a tornado might be about to occur. The sky will darken with a wall of cloud and may turn green, and everything will become eerily still. You’re literally experiencing “the calm before the storm.” This is a good time to grab your hand crank radio and tune into your local weather station.
  • Similar to how you’d behave during an earthquake, it’s best to get down on the ground underneath a sturdy piece of furniture and try to shield your head and neck with your arms.
  • If you’re caught outdoors, you’ll want to lie face down on the lowest ground nearby, again, covering your neck and head with your arms.
  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle. If you cannot get to a building, hunker down as low as possible and try to cover yourself with a blanket or coat.

Once the tornado seems to have passed, keep listening to the local authorities on your radio, for further directions. Be careful of debris, and don’t enter any damaged buildings until they have been deemed safe.

Tornadoes are common in the prairies but there’s a lot you can do to try to keep yourself out of harm’s way. For more information and survival tips, visit Canada’s Get Prepared website and start talking to your neighbours about what they’re doing to prepare!

BONUS: If you’re interested in learning about how to understand tornado measurements, here’s a handy guide:

Article written by Sophie Wooding

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