Preparing for Windstorms

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Regardless of where you live, major disasters can strike at any time so it’s important to be prepared.  Many Canadians don’t realize that Canada ranks second in the world in terms of frequency of tornadoes, with an average of 80 to 100 hitting us each year.

In Canada, tornado season runs from early March to late October, with the highest number of tornadoes occurring in June and early July.  These violent storms can reach speeds that exceed 600 km/hour and can result in significant property damage, injuries, and even fatalities.

Hurricane season, affecting mostly the Atlantic Provinces in Canada, runs from June through November when the waters of the Atlantic Ocean are warm enough to produce tropical cyclones. Hurricanes often cause more widespread damage than tornadoes because of their breadth – some have been as large as 1,000 kilometres across.

Knowing what to do and how to prepare for these unpredictable storms will help protect you, your family, and your home.

Before a Storm

Find and Fix Vulnerable Areas.  Consider doing the following:

  • Install impact-resistant windows or storm shutters;
  • Build in permanent wood or metal stiffeners to strengthen your garage doors; and
  • Have your roof professionally inspected every year.
  • Assess your property to ensure landscaping and trees do not become wind hazards and remove any damaged or hanging limbs from trees.

Plan Ahead.  It is important to create an emergency plan for your family.  Your plan doesn’t need to be extensive, but it should cover the basic responsibilities of each family member, as well as resources available in the area should they be needed.

Remove loose objects.  If a severe storm is in the forecast, close your windows and remove any objects surrounding your home that could become airborne during a windstorm, such as garbage bins, patio furniture, barbecues, and yard debris.

Insure Your Home.  Talk to your insurance representative and make sure you have the proper coverage if your home is damaged by a tornado or a windstorm.

During a Storm, Protect Your Family

Stay Low.  The basement or lowest level of your home is safest.  If you don’t have access to a basement, move to a small interior room such as a closet or bathroom, or take refuge under a flight of stairs.

Stay Inside.  The inside of a building is the safest place during a windstorm.  Avoid taking cover in the corner of a room as they attract flying debris.  If you can’t find shelter inside a building, lie down in a ditch or ravine and use your arms to protect your head and neck.  If you are in a vehicle, pull over and leave your vehicle for shelter, if possible. Stay away from bridges and overpasses.

Stay Alert.  The typical tornado first appears as a rotation in a thunder cloud behind a shroud of heavy rain or hail.  The sky can turn green, yellow, or black and the storm can begin to sound like the rumble of a freight train or a jet.

Stay Safe.  Tornadoes can change directions suddenly.  Never try to out-run a tornado, either on foot or in your car.  On average, they sweep along the ground at 45 km/hour and can accelerate up to 100 km/hour.

Stay in the Know. Become familiar with your community’s severe weather warning system and make sure every member of your family knows what to do in case severe weather hits.  In addition to your family’s emergency preparedness plan, learn about the emergency plans at your workplace, as well as at your children’s school and/or daycare.

While this article focusses on protection from high winds, it’s important to remember that torrential rainfall often comes with hurricanes.  So be sure to review our tips to help prevent possible water damage.

For more information on windstorm safety, visit the Government of Canada’s public safety site.