Preparing for severe summer storms

Published on Jul 06, 2023

Severe weather can develop quickly and put people’s lives and homes at risk. Powerful winds, hail, lightning, heavy rain, and even tornadoes happen quite often in Alberta, and it’s important to be prepared and know how to respond.

Actions to take before a severe summer storm


Thunderstorms are potentially deadly electrical storms that can last for several hours. During a thunderstorm, you can expect heavy rain, lightning and hail. During a thunderstorm, go to a safe place away from windows and doors. Don’t use electrical equipment and telephones.

Heavy rain

Heavy rainfall can cause floods in a short period of time, especially when the ground is frozen or already wet. During heavy rain, avoid roadway underpasses, drainage ditches, low-lying areas and water collection areas as these areas are more likely to flood.


Hail can fall at speeds of more than 100 kilometres per hour or more, and can cause significant damage to homes, property, cars and crops. During hail, do the following:

  • Immediately take cover.
  • Stay away from windows, glass doors and skylights.
  • If you are outdoors and there is no shelter close by, crouch down with your face away from the wind. Protect your head and neck with your hands.


Each year lightning kills approximately 10 Canadians and injures many more. If you see lightning or hear thunder, consider it a threat and do the following:

  • Seek shelter in a fully enclosed building with wiring and plumbing.
  • Unplug electrical appliances and stay away from outlets.
  • Avoid windows, doors, fireplaces, sinks, tubs and showers because these areas are more likely to pass electricity.
  • Wait 30 minutes after you hear the last rumble of thunder before going outside.

If you are outdoors:

  • Do not stand near tall objects or anything made of metal.
  • Avoid open water and take shelter in a low-lying area, such as a ditch.
  • If you are out on a lake or other body of water, head to the shore immediately.
  • Avoid sheltering in your vehicle, since it doesn’t offer enough protection from lightning.

Tornadoes and extreme winds

Tornadoes are most common between May and September, with mid-June to August being the peak time in Alberta. Tornadoes are most common in the late afternoon and early evening.

Tornadoes are often hard to see from far away and not all have a visible funnel cloud. They can be deceptive – a tornado may appear to be standing still when it is moving toward you.

What to do during a tornado or extreme winds

The actions you take during a tornado, a tornado alert or a tornado warning will depend on where you are at the time. In general, take the following actions:

  • If you’ve been directly impacted, make sure you are safe before assisting others. Check yourself and those around you for injuries; administer first aid, if needed, and call 911 if there are life-threatening injuries.
  • Activate and follow your emergency plan.
  • Get your emergency kit and keep it nearby.
  • Monitor alerts from Alberta Emergency Alert.
  • Listen to a local radio or television station for information from local authorities.
  • Access your local authority’s website and/or social media channels for information.
  • Listen to instructions from authorities.
  • Limit non-emergency phone calls to keep phone networks free for those who require emergency services. This also helps save battery power if you use a cell phone.


  • Bring all household members, including pets, to the basement or underground shelter, if available. Otherwise, take shelter in a small interior ground floor room such as a bathroom, closet or hallway.
  • Make sure windows and doors are closed and secured, and then stay away from them.
  • Do not try to rescue or shelter livestock unless you feel it is safe to do so.

  • Take shelter in an inner hallway or room, ideally in the basement or on the ground floor.
  • Do not use the elevator.
  • Stay away from windows.

Buildings such as an arena or shopping mall may collapse if a tornado hits.

  • If possible, find shelter in another building.
  • Take cover under a sturdy object such as a table or desk.

Mobile homes and vehicles are not safe during tornadoes and extreme windstorms.

  • If you know severe weather is approaching and do not have safe shelter, leave the area well in advance and seek shelter in a building (preferably with a solid foundation). If it is too late to leave the area by vehicle, seek shelter in a nearby solid building immediately.
  • If there is no solid building near you, take shelter in a ditch, culvert or low-lying area away from vehicles and mobile homes. Cover your head for protection, beware of flooding from downpours, and be prepared to move.

  • If the threat is visible far in the distance, you may be able to avoid it by moving at right angles to its path. Otherwise, seek shelter in a solid building immediately.
  • If the threat is near and shelter is not available, get out of the vehicle and take cover in a ditch, culvert or low-lying area away from the vehicle. Cover your head for protection, beware of flooding from downpours, and be prepared to move.
  • Never try to outrun a nearby tornado.
  • Avoid sheltering under bridges and overpasses where wind speeds can increase.

Printable resources

SREMP is a partnership between Sturgeon County, Morinville, Gibbons, Redwater, Bon Accord and Legal. These municipalities work together to coordinate emergency preparedness, response and recovery from disasters. 

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