Tips for staying safe during severe summer weather

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With the potential for thunderstorms again in the forecast, Town of St. Marys Director of Emergency Services, Richard Anderson, wants to spread the word about how to stay safe during severe summer weather. See below for tips provided courtesy of Perth County Emergency Management. You can also download printable flyers at

When thunder roars, go indoors!

STOP all activities. Immediately seek shelter in a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle. Wait 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder to resume activities.

Tips on preparing for severe weather

  1. Don’t wait for a storm to hit. Begin preparing now and you’ll be positioned to react quickly when a storm is forecast. Make sure your Home Emergency Survival Kit is stocked, ready, and in a place where you can easily access it.
  2. Pay close attention to the weather. Some types of nasty summer weather can develop very quickly with little warning, so be sure to regularly check weather forecasts on trusted sources including media outlets, Smartphone Apps, or the Internet or visit Environment Canada’s Weather Office website.
  3. Factor the weather into your daily plans. If you schedule outside work or outside recreational activities, be especially aware of forecasts of severe weather that could be hazardous to you, employees, children or even pets. Have a plan of where to go if severe weather is in the forecast.
  4. When a storm is on the way, secure your outdoor property and physical belongings. If possible, move items indoors or secure them tightly to help ensure they don’t blow away. Stay away from windows until the storm has subsided.
  5. Respect the potentially destructive power of the weather. When severe weather is forecast for your area, keep a close eye on the sky and be prepared to take cover if threatening weather approaches. If you need to take shelter, ensure you stay in that shelter until the weather has calmed and the danger has passed. This is no time for recreational weather-watching or taking photos or videos to post on social media.
  6. Remember that after-storm conditions can also pose hazards. After a severe storm has passed, use special care when you leave your shelter. There may be downed electrical wires, broken trees and dangerous debris around your property and in the streets. Be extremely cautious if you decide to tackle tree removal yourself. Better yet, leave it to the professionals!

The difference between special weather statements, watches and warnings

A Special Weather Statement means actual or expected weather conditions may cause general inconvenience or concern, but do not pose a serious enough threat to warrant a weather warning. The Special Weather Statement may also be used when conditions show signs of becoming favorable for severe weather when the situation is not definite enough or too far in the future to justify a warning.

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued when conditions are likely for the development of thunderstorms, some of which may become severe thunderstorms with large hail, heavy rain, deadly lightning or damaging winds and possibly tornadoes within the areas and times specified in the watch. You should use this time to secure loose objects, shelter animals, ensure family members or co-workers are prepared to take action and listen carefully for an updated weather report.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued when a severe storm has developed, producing one or more of the following conditions: flooding rain, destructive winds with gusts greater than 90 km/h, hail of at least 20 mm in diameter (the size of a nickel) in diameter or intense lightning. Severe thunderstorms may also produce tornadoes. The storm’s expected motion and developments will be given in the warning. If you are in the area specified, be prepared to take shelter.

A Tornado Watch is issued when severe thunderstorms have developed and there is the possibility of one or more tornadoes developing within the areas and times specified in the watch. Be prepared to take action if a warning is issued. A Warning is issued when one or more tornadoes are occurring in the area specified or detected on Doppler radar. The expected motion, development and duration of the tornado will be given in the warning. You should take immediate action to get to a safe location.

A Rainfall Warning is issued when heavy or prolonged rainfall is sufficient to cause local or widespread flooding or flash floods. A Rainfall Warning for longer duration rain (50 mm or more in 24 hours or less) may often be preceded by a Special Weather Statement. For Flash Flood type events (50 mm or more in 1 hour or less), Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Warnings will often be issued making special mention of the thunderstorms’ ability to produce short-duration, high-intensity rainfall.

Tornado-specific tips

  • Take shelter immediately, if available, preferably in the basement or lowest level of a sturdy building.
  • Stay away from windows, doors and exterior walls. Flying glass and debris are extremely dangerous.
  • Do not open windows or doors since this could increase the likelihood of damage to the building.
  • Outdoors, with no shelter available, lie flat in a ditch, ravine or other low lying area, and shield your head with your arms.
  • Don’t get caught in a vehicle or mobile home, which the tornado can lift. Take shelter elsewhere or, if none is available, even lying in a ditch offers better protection.
  • Choose a location where your vehicle won’t be hurled or rolled on top of you. 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.
  • Beware of flying debris. Even small objects such as sticks and straw can become lethal missiles.

The best shelter during a tornado

  • In a house, go to the basement and take shelter under a stairway or a sturdy work table in the centre of the house.
  • In a house with no basement, the safest spot is the ground floor in the centre of the house. Small rooms tend to be more structurally sound so seek shelter in a hallway, small room, closet or bathroom (the plumbing may provide some structural stability). Lying in the bathtub with a mattress on top of you may provide good protection.
  • In a vehicle or mobile home, get outside and find other shelter. North American officials still debate whether seeking shelter in a car during a tornado is safe. Some experts advise, if the tornado is weak, a car can offer protection against flying debris and rollovers if the occupants fasten seat belts and keep their heads down.
  • However, there is no way of knowing how strong or violent a tornado is without the proper tools, so the safest strategy is to get out of the vehicle. As a last resort, lie in a ditch or culvert but be aware of flooding.
  • Avoid wide-span buildings, such as barns, auditoriums, shopping centres and supermarkets with large roofs.
  • Go to a nearby sturdy shelter, preferably, on the lower floor, an inside room, restroom or hallway, or get underneath a sturdy piece of furniture.
  • 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.
  • In shopping centres, stay out of aisles and away from exterior walls and windows. Do not go to your parked car.
  • In apartment buildings, move to lower levels, small interior rooms or stairwells. Stay away from elevators and windows.



Perth County Emergency Management
519-271-0531 ext. 540

Richard Anderson, Director of Emergency Services, Town of St. Marys
519-284-2340, ext. 201