How technology can help warn you about the next big storm

Watch above: Sean O’Shea has some tips on preparing for bad weather. 

TORONTO – When an EF2 tornado ripped through a housing complex in Angus, Ont. Tuesday afternoon, some residents had no idea what was happening until the funnel was right on top of them.

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Though warnings of the storm system that sparked the twister were all over local news stations and social media sites, depending on what residents were doing they may not have seen the tornado coming.

“We were outside watching the storm at first,” one resident told Global News. “And then all of a sudden the sky turned green and the wind picked up, so I yelled at my spouse to get down into the basement.”

READ MORE: Ontario’s deadliest tornadoes by the number

Angus, like most Canadian communities, does not have a tornado siren.

But there are many other ways that people can get alerts about impending storms.

Apps like Weather Alert Ontario – CAD$1.99 in the Apple App store – sends push notifications to the users’ iPhone to display storm warnings issued by Environment Canada.

According to the app’s description, alerts will be pushed “within minutes from the time Environment Canada issues them.”

The app has the ability to send audible alerts in the event of potentially life-threatening weather.

Canada Weather, CAD$1.99 in the App Store, and Weather Warnings Canada, free on the App Store, both have similar functionality for nation-wide weather models.

Environment Canada, the agency responsible for issuing tornado and storm warnings, does not currently have a mobile app that delivers storm notifications.

Weather information is available through Environment Canada’s website, automated telephone services and RSS notification systems. The agency would not confirm or deny if it was working on an app.

“Environment Canada is actively working on exploring and exploiting new technology platforms to disseminate meteorological alert information directly to the public and partner organizations,” read a statement from an Environment Canada spokesperson.

“This could include using social media as a platform for distributing local weather alerting information.”

READ MORE: Severe weather is on the horizon: “Keep an eye on the sky”

Environment Canada does stress that people should invest in a weather radio – a programmable portable radio that issues weather watches and warnings for the user’s area. These radios, with their loud alarms, could serve as personal siren systems during severe weather events.

The Eton FRX2 weather radio, CAD$50, can be cranked to charge or be plugged in via USB.

However, for a weather radio to be effective – people must make sure they use them.

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