Tornado messages

Know the difference between a tornado watch and warning.

  • Tornado watch: When conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms with one or more tornadoes. Stay alert to changing conditions.
  • Tornado warning: When a tornado has been reported; or when there is evidence based on radar, or from a reliable spotter that a tornado is imminent. Seek shelter immediately.

Before a tornado

Monitor watches and warnings and stay alert for the following warning signs of a potential tornado:

  • A severe thunderstorm
  • An extremely dark sky sometimes with a green or yellow tint
  • Hail, particularly large hail
  • A roaring, rumbling or whistling sound often described as sounding like a freight train
  • Low rotating clouds
  • A funnel cloud at the rear base of a thundercloud, often behind a curtain of heavy rain or hail


  • A tornado's movement can appear deceptive. It may appear to be standing still, but in fact be moving toward you.
  • Not all tornadoes are easily seen before it's too late to take shelter. Many of the tornadoes that occur in Southern Ontario may be hidden behind heavy rain and not immediately visible.
  • Not all tornadoes have a clearly visible funnel cloud

If a tornado is imminent

If you're inside a building:

  • Go to the basement. If the building doesn't have a basement, take shelter in an interior room on the lowest level, such as a bathroom, closet or hallway. You want to avoid exterior walls.
  • Stay away from windows, outside walls, fireplaces and doors
  • Take shelter under a heavy table or desk if possible
  • Crouch down and cover your head with a pillow, blanket, or something similar. If nothing is available, cover your head with your arms.
  • Don't leave your shelter until the warning has been lifted for your area
  • If you're in a building such as a mobile home or a portable, seek shelter in a sturdy building

If you're outside:

  • Go to the nearest permanent building
  • Vehicles aren't a safe shelter during a tornado. If possible, stop and seek shelter in a building.
  • Don't take shelter under an overpass or bridge. Winds can accelerate and cause injury or death from flying debris.
  • If no shelter is available, take cover in a low-lying area such as a ditch and protect your head. Beware of flooding and downpours and be prepared to move.
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