How weather alerts work

3 alerts Environment Canada issues & what they mean

By Ray FordRay Ford


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It seems simple: a storm hits and you automatically run for cover. But there is so much to know about preparing for thunderstorms, safety during, and the cleanup afterwards that it might be hard to remember it all when the storm finally comes. But now we bring you some comprehensive lists full of tips and ideas that can help make your surroundings safe and sound.

Weather Alerts – Statements, watches, and warnings

Environment Canada issues three types of weather alerts:

Special weather statements: “Events that are unusual, cause general inconvenience or public concern and cannot adequately be described in a weather forecast.” During the summer, EC’s Ontario office issues a daily convective weather statement outlining thunderstorm potential.

Watches: Conditions are favourable for storm development. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch indicates the potential for severe thunderstorms, with large hail, heavy rain, deadly lightning, or damaging winds, and possibly tornadoes. You should secure loose objects, shelter animals, ensure family members are prepared to take action, and listen for an updated weather report. A Tornado Watch is issued for severe thunderstorms with the potential to spawn twisters.

Warnings: Severe weather is occurring or is imminent. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means a storm has already developed one or more of the following conditions: flooding rain, destructive winds with gusts greater than 90 km/h, hail of at least 10–20 mm in diameter, or intense lightning. A Tornado Warning means tornadoes have been sighted on the ground or by Doppler radar. In either case, take shelter.


Buy a weather radio. It’s less than $100 and offers cottagers a direct line to Environment Canada’s forecasts, warnings, and advisories on a 24/7 basis. “It’s a small investment for people who do a lot of weather-sensitive activity,” says Tony Chir of Environment Canada’s Dissemination Systems.

This article was originally published on May 15, 2007

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