How to Stay Safe from Funnel Clouds and Thunderstorms in Canada

Canada has been experiencing some unusual and severe weather lately, with funnel clouds and thunderstorms reported in various parts of the country. Here’s what you need to know about these phenomena and how to stay safe.


A funnel cloud in the sky over a field in Canada

What are Funnel Clouds?


Funnel clouds are rotating columns of air that extend from the base of a cloud, usually a cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud. They are often associated with thunderstorms, but they can also form under rapidly growing clouds or weak thunderstorms. They are not tornadoes unless they touch the ground or a body of water.


Funnel clouds can vary in size, shape and intensity. Some are thin and wispy, while others are thick and dark. Some are barely visible, while others are clearly defined. Some rotate slowly, while others spin rapidly.


Funnel clouds are usually harmless, but they can pose a threat if they intensify and become landspout tornadoes. Landspout tornadoes are weak tornadoes that form near the ground from a rotating column of air that stretches up to the cloud base. They can cause damage to structures, vehicles and crops, as well as injuries or fatalities to people and animals.


A thunderstorm with lightning and dark clouds in Canada


Where have Funnel Clouds been spotted in Canada?


In the past week, several funnel clouds have been spotted in different regions of Canada, prompting Environment Canada to issue advisories and warnings.


On June 1, 2023, a tornado warning was issued for the Stettler area in Alberta, where a funnel cloud was seen before quickly dissipating. No damage or injuries were reported.


On May 31, 2023, a thunderstorm brought heavy rain, a funnel cloud and dime-sized hail to parts of Manitoba. The funnel cloud was observed near Portage la Prairie, but it did not touch down.


On June 1, 2023, a funnel cloud advisory was issued for large areas of Saskatchewan, including West-Central Saskatchewan and Saskatoon. According to Environment Canada, conditions were favourable for the development of funnel clouds.


On May 28, 2023, Environment Canada confirmed that a tornado touched down six kilometres southeast of Regina. The tornado was given a preliminary rating of EF0, the weakest rating possible on the Enhanced Fujita scale. It was reported by several witnesses and captured on photos and videos. No damage or injuries were reported.


A person taking shelter in a basement during a tornado warning in Canada

How to stay safe during funnel clouds and thunderstorms?


Environment Canada advises the public to be vigilant and prepared for funnel clouds and thunderstorms. Here are some tips to follow:


Monitor the weather forecasts and alerts regularly. You can also download the WeatherCAN app or follow #SKStorm on Twitter for updates.


If you see a funnel cloud or a tornado, take shelter immediately in a sturdy building or a basement. Avoid windows, doors and exterior walls.


If you are driving and encounter a funnel cloud or a tornado, do not try to outrun it. Pull over to the side of the road and stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on. Duck below the windows and cover your head with your hands or a blanket.


If you are outdoors and cannot find shelter, lie flat in a low spot and protect your head from flying debris.


After the storm passes, check for injuries and damages. Report any sightings of funnel clouds or tornadoes to Environment Canada at 1-800-239-0484 or [email protected].


A sign with safety tips for funnel clouds and thunderstorms in Canada


Conclusion


Funnel clouds and thunderstorms are natural phenomena that can occur in Canada at any time of the year. They can be fascinating to watch, but they can also be dangerous if they become tornadoes. By being aware of the signs and risks of these events, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from harm.


All Your FAQs Answered Here:


How Common Are Thunderstorms In Canada?


Thunderstorms are common in Canada, especially in the spring and summer months. According to Environment Canada, there are about 2.34 million lightning flashes in Canada each year, and about 100,000 thunderstorms. Thunderstorms can occur in any region of Canada, but they are more frequent and severe in the southern parts of the country, where there is more moisture and warm air.


How Long Does A Thunderstorm Last Canada?


The duration of a thunderstorm depends on several factors, such as the intensity, size and movement of the storm. A typical thunderstorm lasts about 30 minutes, but some can last for several hours. Thunderstorms usually move at a speed of 40 to 50 km/h, but they can move faster or slower depending on the wind direction and speed.


How Can We Save From Tornadoes?


Tornadoes are violent rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground. They can cause severe damage, injuries and fatalities. To save yourself from tornadoes, you should follow these steps:


Monitor the weather forecasts and alerts regularly. You can also download the WeatherCAN app or follow #SKStorm on Twitter for updates.


If you see a tornado or hear a tornado warning, take shelter immediately in a sturdy building or a basement. Avoid windows, doors and exterior walls.


If you are driving and encounter a tornado, do not try to outrun it. Pull over to the side of the road and stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on. Duck below the windows and cover your head with your hands or a blanket.


If you are outdoors and cannot find shelter, lie flat in a low spot and protect your head from flying debris.


After the tornado passes, check for injuries and damages. Report any sightings of tornadoes to Environment Canada at 1-800-239-0484 or [email protected].


What To Do In A Thunderstorm In A House


If you are in a house during a thunderstorm, you should follow these steps:


Stay indoors and away from windows, doors and fireplaces.


Unplug electrical appliances and avoid using corded phones, computers and other devices that can conduct electricity.


Do not take a bath or shower, or use plumbing fixtures that can conduct electricity.


Listen to a battery-operated radio or TV for weather updates and instructions.


If you hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Seek shelter immediately.


What To Do During A Severe Thunderstorm Warning


A severe thunderstorm warning means that severe weather is occurring or imminent in your area. Severe thunderstorms can produce strong winds, large hail, heavy rain, lightning and tornadoes. To protect yourself during a severe thunderstorm warning, you should follow these steps:


Seek shelter immediately in a sturdy building or a basement. Avoid windows, doors and exterior walls.

If you are driving, slow down and pull over to the side of the road. Stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on. Duck below the windows and cover your head with your hands or a blanket.

If you are outdoors and cannot find shelter, move to a low spot away from trees, poles and metal objects. Crouch down and cover your head with your hands.

Stay away from water bodies, such as lakes, rivers and pools. Water can conduct electricity from lightning.

Listen to a battery-operated radio or TV for weather updates and instructions.


What Can You Hear During A Strong Storm


During a strong storm, you can hear various sounds that indicate the intensity and type of the storm. Some of these sounds are:


Thunder: The loud rumbling or cracking sound that follows a lightning flash. Thunder is caused by the rapid expansion of air heated by lightning.


Hail: The sound of ice pellets hitting the ground or other surfaces. Hail is formed when raindrops freeze in the upper levels of a thunderstorm cloud.


Wind: The sound of air moving rapidly due to differences in air pressure. Wind can cause whistling, howling or roaring noises as it passes through trees, buildings and other objects.


Rain: The sound of water droplets falling from the sky. Rain can vary in intensity from light drizzle to heavy downpour.


Storm Preparedness Checklist


To prepare for a storm, you should have a storm preparedness checklist that includes the following items:


A battery-operated radio or TV with extra batteries


A flashlight with extra batteries


A first aid kit with essential medications


A whistle to signal for help


Non-perishable food and water for at least three days


A manual can opener


A cell phone with charger


Cash and important documents


Warm clothing and blankets


A fire extinguisher


An emergency plan with contact information


What To Do During A Storm


To protect yourself during a storm, you should follow these steps:


Stay indoors and away from windows, doors and fireplaces.


Unplug electrical appliances and avoid using corded phones, computers and other devices that can conduct electricity.


Do not take a bath or shower, or use plumbing fixtures that can conduct electricity.


Listen to a battery-operated radio or TV for weather updates and instructions.


If you hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Seek shelter immediately.


Safest Place To Be In A Thunderstorm Car


If you are in a car during a thunderstorm, you should follow these steps:


Slow down and pull over to the side of the road. Stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on. Duck below the windows and cover your head with your hands or a blanket.


Turn off the engine and avoid touching any metal parts of the car.


Do not get out of the car unless it is absolutely necessary.


Wait until the storm passes before resuming your journey.


Is It Safe To Walk In A Thunderstorm With An Umbrella


No, it is not safe to walk in a thunderstorm with an umbrella. An umbrella can act as a lightning rod and attract lightning to you. It can also increase your height and make you more exposed to lightning strikes. If you are caught outside during a thunderstorm, you should follow these steps:


Seek shelter immediately in a sturdy building or a basement. Avoid open areas such as fields, parks and golf courses.

If you cannot find shelter, move to a low spot away from trees, poles and metal objects. Crouch down and cover your head with your hands.

Stay away from water bodies such as lakes, rivers and pools. Water can conduct electricity from lightning.

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