Tornadoes and Driving Safely

With an average of 15 tornadoes per season in Ontario, it is possible that you could encounter a tornado while driving this summer. Because a tornado is one of the most violent and unpredictable types of storms, it is important to know in advance how to respond if one catches you while you’re on the go:

Understand the Weather Alerts

There is a difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A watch means that a tornado is possible within the watch area. When a watch is in effect you should be alert and prepared to respond if you are in or near the watch area. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted on a weather radar. You should take immediate action to get you and your family to adequate shelter if you are in the warning area.

Know the Warning Signs

Tornadoes have distinctive characteristics that let you know they are nearby. Some things to look for include:

  • Dark, sometimes greenish clouds
  • Flying debris
  • Large hailstones
  • A roaring noise that could range from the sound of a waterfall to a jet engine
  • A rotating funnel cloud–this cloud extends from the base of a thundercloud and reaches toward the ground. Once a funnel cloud touches the ground, it officially becomes a tornado.

Steps to Take If You’re Driving

If you hear a tornado warning on the radio while driving, don’t wait for the funnel to appear to get to shelter. Drive to the nearest sturdy building and go to the basement or lowest level possible. Stay away from windows and exterior walls. Mobile homes are never a safe shelter in a tornado. On your way to shelter, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Do not attempt to outrun a tornado. They can move across the landscape at 60 mph.
  • If large objects begin flying past as you are driving, pull over, get out of the car and lie down in a ditch protecting your head with your hands. If a ditch is not available, stay in the parked car and lower your head below window level. Cover your head with a jacket, blanket or other wrap if available.

ost importantly, never underestimate a tornado. They can turn violent quickly so take them seriously. You may even want to run a few drills with your family so you all know how to respond safely at a moment’s notice.


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