Winter Storms

Winter Storms

Winter weather conditions can become severe or hazardous with little or no warning.  Proper preparation plus a knowledge of weather conditions can reduce potential harmful effects to you and your family.

Winter storm events can take two significant forms:

 A major winter snow blizzard – the primary issues are the varying degree of snowfall, wind, temperature, and visibility.  Travel becomes difficult or impossible.  Blizzards come in on a wave of cold Arctic air, bringing snow, bitter cold, high winds and poor visibility. 

 A major winter ice storm – an event accompanied with heavy snow or ice, significant winds, plus the loss of provincial, municipal, and/or public utility services, particularly electrical and communication services.  Freezing rain or drizzle coats roads, trees, and hydro lines causing dangerous driving conditions and power failure.

The length of either of these events can be as short as a few hours or as long as 3 days or more.  On average, the storms and cold of winter kill more than 100 people every year which is more than the total number of people killed by hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, lightning, and extreme heat.

Residents should be prepared to look after themselves for 72-hours until help can arrive.  Making a family emergency plan and preparing a 72-hour Disaster Preparedness Kit can help make this possible.  See the Emergency Kits section for information on building a Disaster Preparedness Kit.

A basic landline phone can be used during a power outage.

Protective clothing if you must go outdoors:

 Wear several layers of loose-fitting, light-weight clothing.  This will keep you warmer than a single heavy layer of clothing.  The outer garment should be tightly woven and water resistant.

 Wear mittens, not gloves, for more warmth and protection.

 Wear a hood or hat.  You lose much of your body heat from the head and face area.

What to do in a winter storm:

 When a winter storm (blizzard or ice) is forecast, stay tuned for updates.

 Be prepared in case of a power failure.  Have a good supply of food and fuel on hand.

 Wait out the storm indoors, and avoid unnecessary travel.

 If you must go outdoors, dress for the weather. 

 Sidewalks and streets may be icy, so use extreme caution.

 String a lifeline between your house and any outbuildings you many have to go to during a blizzard.

Travel precautions:

 The best safety precaution during severe weather conditions is to avoid travelling.  However, if you must drive, be prepared.

 Have your vehicle tuned-up for winter driving and keep your vehicle full of fuel.

 Plan your trips in advance and drive on well-travelled roads.

 If you plan to go on a trip, tell family or friends of your route, the time you leave or the time you expect to be at your destination.

 Listen to the radio for weather updates.

 If driving conditions become serious, turn back or stop on the side of the road. 

 Carry a winter survival kit.  See the Emergency Kits section for suggestions.

Stranded travellers:

If you get trapped in your vehicle, stay with the vehicle.  DO NOT panic and remember the following:

 Avoid exposure and overexertion.

 Check the exhaust pipe to ensure it is not blocked with snow.

 Keep a window partially opened.

 Run the engine sparingly for heat.

 Avoid overuse of headlights as they will wear down the battery.  Use the interior dome light sparingly at night, as an emergency signal.

 Exercise by moving your arms and legs.

 DO NOT let all occupants sleep at the same time.

 Keep watch for searchers and other traffic.

Home precautions:

Severe weather conditions may result in power failures which can affect your home heating system.  Anticipate possible heating system failures by preparing these materials in advance.

 Keep a battery powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.  The radio and flashlight should use the same size batteries.

 Keep a supply of candles and matches on hand.

 Keep adequate food stocks and medical supplies on hand.

 Have a CSA-approved alternate heat source.

 If you have a wood stove or fireplace, have the chimney cleaned at least once a year.

 Check your home fuel supplies such as wood, heating oil, kerosene, etc.  DO NOT store liquid fuels in the house.

Heating system failure precautions:

If your heating system fails, take these precautions.

 Stay calm – your house will keep you warm for several hours.

 Avoid opening doors unnecessarily.

 During a power failure, turn off all electrical appliances.

 Begin using your alternate heating unit before the house cools down.

 If freezing is possible, turn off the main water valve, drain the water lines and put antifreeze in the toilet bowl, sink and bath drains.  The hot water heater should also be turned off and drained.

 Check operator manuals of major appliances for frost protection requirements.

 Listen to the radio for emergency instructions.

If you have pets:

 Keep extra food/feed on hand.

 Provide shelter for animals, especially young and small animals or pets.

 Keep the water source flowing.  Most animals die from dehydration because the water source was frozen, not from lack of food.  For household pets, keep them inside or in a dry place.