Ottawa severe thunderstorm: Storm safety preparation tips & what to do during a tornado

Ottawa severe thunderstorm: Storm safety preparation tips & what to do during a tornado

Storm safety prep for you and your pets: What do I do during a tornado?

Ottawa is facing another severe thunderstorm today, Thursday, June 16, 2022, and meteorologists report that the storm will have all the ingredients for a "likely tornado." I want to share some quick storm prep tips for folks in the area- and their pets. It's important to prepare for the thunderstorm and a possible power outage or worst-case scenario- a tornado 

Ottawa severe thunderstorm: Storm safety preparation tips & what to do during a tornado

Where do I go if there is a tornado?

This is a good question to know the answer to because this is our new normal. The effects of rapid human-caused climate change guarantee that severe weather events will become more frequent. We are seeing this now, and it's important that we talk about climate change when discussing these storms. If a tornado develops you should:

  • Go to a lower level of the home or apartment. The best room to retreat to is a windowless room with no exterior walls. In a house, the basement is likely the best room, provided there are no large windows. In an apartment, small bathrooms are best and often have no windows, no exterior walls and concrete walls. 
  • Stairwells on the lowest level (with no windows) under the stairs.
  • If that is not an option retreat to a ground floor room as close to the centre of the house. Run to a bathroom, closet, or under door arches. In an apartment retreat to the hallway on a lower floor, provided it has no windows.
  • You can also go under a sturdy table or desk.
  • If you're in a car get to a building where you can take shelter right away or stop the car and get out to find shelter on foot. You should not be driving anywhere during a tornado. 

Where NOT to go during a tornado

  • Near windows
  • Exterior doors. Stay away from doors leading outside
  • The elevator!! Do not use elevators if there is a risk of a tornado. 
  • Exterior walls. 
  • Buildings with high ceilings like barns, gyms, museums, churches, and event spaces. The rooftops of these buildings are at greater risk of collapse.
  • Outside or close to windows to take photos. It's tempting, I know, but if a tornado is in close proximity to you, it's not worth it. 
  • If you are outside and can't find shelter lie down in a ditch as flat as possible. Keep in mind heavy rainfall could cause flooding.
  • If a tornado looks like it is standing still (not moving or following a patch) it means it is coming directly at you.

Ottawa severe thunderstorm: Storm safety preparation tips & what to do during a tornado

How do I know if a tornado is developing?

You need to know the signs of a tornado to know when to take cover. Watching local weather reports and keeping in contact with family and friends can be helpful but the weather will tell you a lot as well. Signs of a potential tornado that you should watch for are:

  • A lot of clouds before the storm. Clouds will join to make a 'sheet' of cloud cover.
  • Livestock acting strangely. Often they group together or lie down before a storm. Companion animals like dogs and cats may hide or before anxious. 
  • Extremely dark sky. Sometimes the sky will get very dark with highlights of yellow or green clouds before a tornado strikes.
  • Severe thunderstorms. These storms usually have very frequent thunder and lightning.
  • Hail.
  • Whistling sounds.
  • Rumbling sounds, louder and longer than typical thunder.
  • A funnel cloud- this is the biggest indicator that a tornado will develop. The funnel cloud will develop at the base of a thundercloud, often behind a heavy curtain of rain or hail.


How to prepare your house or apartment for a severe storm

If you have a first aid kit or emergency bag, make sure it is stocked and that you have easy access. If you are on medication make sure you have enough so you don't have to go outside or in case your pharmacy loses power. These are some quick and easy things I do to prep at home:

  • Bring things that can blow away or that you don't want to be damaged inside. If outdoor furniture can't be stored inside or in a shed or garage, group it together and secure it as best as possible. If you have a balcony and don't want things to get wet, move items to the centre of the balcony. 
  • If a tornado comes windows may break. Stay away from windows and move valuables away from windows.
  • Have candles, matches and lighters at the ready. Make sure you have working batteries in all flashlights and battery-powered lights. 
  • Fill up extra water and store it in the fridge. If you lose access to water you will need it for drinking and possibly to manually flush your toilet, so LOTS of water is recommended- three days' worth of clean water for each person and pet.
  • Stock your fridge and pantry with food that doesn't need to be cooked!
  • Charge all of your devices! If you have no power you may want some entertainment.
  • Folks living in an apartment who live higher up will need to go to a lower floor if a tornado develops. You should make arrangements in advance with someone on a lower floor in case you need a place to hide out. Don't forget to include your pets in this discussion. 
  • Keep an eye on local weather reports so you know how the storm is developing.
  • Have an emergency plan that includes a place to retreat to and a plan to get to the closest hospital.
  • It's likely to be humid after the storm. If you have an air conditioner run it during the day or overnight before the storm in case you lose power and your living space warms. 
  • If you have livestock, they sense coming storms and tornados. Make sure you have an up-to-date count of all animals so you know if any are missing. They will instinctively take shelter, so worry about your family and companion animals first and foremost. 
  • Learn what to do by watching videos about tornado preparation

Ottawa severe thunderstorm: Storm safety preparation tips & what to do during a tornado


How to storm prep for your pets

When preparing for your pet firstly you want to ensure your pet emergency kit is stocked and up-to-date. Make sure you have an action plan if your pet is injured or gets lost. You need to know what emergency veterinary clinics can take patients because some general practice veterinary clinics are overwhelmed with patients right now. Here's what else you should do to prepare your pet for the store:

  • Keep pets inside. 
  • Make sure you have enough food and medication for your pet in case local retailers and veterinary clinics lose power.
  • Fill water bowls and have extra water in the fridge in case you have no access to water.
  • If your pet requires calming or sedative medication you need to make sure you have enough and pre-med a few hours before the impending storm so your pet feels the effects when it rolls in. Always refill these medications BEFORE the day of the storm. You should not burden your veterinary clinic with a rushed refill the day of. Don't expect it to be filled the day of.
  • Make sure your pet has updated contact information on its pet identification tag. Your pet should be wearing a collar with ID and your leash should be at the door- think 'grab and go!'
Hopefully, we don't get another severe storm today but if we do I hope you and your pets come out of it safe and unharmed. 

Ottawa severe thunderstorm: Storm safety preparation tips & what to do during a tornado

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