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Tornadoes

Emergency Response Guidelines


A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. 

A tornado can happen in Winnipeg. Manitoba is one of three Canadian Provinces that lies at the northern end of “Tornado Alley”. This alley, which starts at the Gulf of Mexico coast, covers most the Great Plains that stretch between the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Appalachians Mountains in the east.

Tornadoes are most probable from May through August with June and July being the most likely months. On average 7 to 10 tornadoes occur in the Province of Manitoba each year. There have been 9 confirmed tornado touchdowns within the City of Winnipeg with another 10 events that are considered possible tornadoes.

During the summer of 2007 the first recorded F5 tornado in Canadian history struck Elie. Houses were completely destroyed but miraculously no one was injured. The most devastating tornado in Manitoba history occurred on June 30, 1922 in Portage la Prairie. A total of eight persons were killed.


When A Tornado Threatens:

  1. Take shelter immediately, preferably in the lower level of a sturdy building.
  2. Stay away from windows, doors and exterior walls. Flying glass is extremely dangerous.
  3. Don't waste time opening windows to keep pressure from building up in the house. It's unlikely to help.
  4. Outdoors, with no shelter available, lie flat in a ditch, ravine or other low-lying area, and shield your head with your arms.
  5. Don't get caught in a vehicle or mobile home, which the tornado can lift. Take shelter elsewhere or, if none is available, even a ditch offers better protection. Choose a location where your vehicle won't be hurled or rolled on top of you. More than half of tornado deaths occur in mobile homes. If you live in a mobile home, it is wise to identify a nearby sturdy shelter well in advance, and go to that shelter when a severe storm is approaching.
  6. Beware of flying debris. Even small objects such as sticks and straw can become lethal missiles.
  7. In heavy rain, be on the look out for flash floods.
  8. When swimming or boating, always head to shore at the first sight of a storm.
  9. Remember that damaged and weakened structures, fallen debris, downed electrical wires, and gas leaks are potential dangers after a storm has passed.


Best Shelter:

  1. In a house, go to the basement and take shelter under a stairway or a sturdy work table in the center of the house.
  2. In a house with no basement, the safest spot is the ground floor in the center of the house. Small rooms tend to be more structurally sound so seek shelter in a hallway, small room, closet or bathroom. Lying in the bathtub with a mattress on top of you may provide good protection.
  3. In a vehicle or mobile home, get outside and find other shelter. The safest strategy is to get out of the vehicle, lie in a ditch or culvert but be aware of flooding.
  4. Avoid wide-span buildings, such as barns, auditoriums, shopping centres and supermarkets with large roofs.
  5. At school, seek shelter in small windowless rooms such as a washroom instead of a gymnasium. Avoid areas near high walls or large chimneys which may collapse. 
  6. In high rise buildings, move to lower levels, small interior rooms or stairwells. Stay away from elevators and windows.

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