Graphic of a cloud and snowflakeSEVERE WINTER STORMS 

Severe winter storms can cause widespread damage and disruption (see also Power Outage). Heavy snow often results in paralyzed transportation systems, automobile accidents due to slippery roads and stranded vehicles. When accompanied by intense winds and extreme cold, snow can isolate entire communities. Bitter cold and severe winter storms kill more than 100 people in Canada every year. That is more than the number of Canadians killed by tornadoes, thunderstorms, lightning, floods, hurricanes and heat waves combined.

Ice storms are often winter's worst hazard. The severity of ice storms depends on the accumulation of ice, the duration of the event, the location and extent of the area affected.  Ice can bring down power lines, tree limbs and sometimes even fully uproot a tree, makes repairs on the utility side more difficult

 During a blizzard, piercing winds blow snow into drifts that can bury people, animals and possessions. The snow loads can also cause the collapse of structures. In the later stages of a blizzard whiteout conditions can be formed. During a whiteout the snowfall is so dense that it is hard to tell the earth from the sky.

If you are indoors:

  • Stay indoors. Only travel when absolutely necessary.
  • When going outside, ensure that you have proper clothing to protect you from the elements. A heavy coat, gloves, boots and a hat are a must.
  • It is easier to keep a smaller space warm. During the ice storm, some families closed off most rooms but a few, and managed to keep quite warm.
  • Listen for radio and television broadcasts of storm warnings.

 If you are outdoors:

  • If you have to go outdoors, prepare yourself against the cold and find shelter as soon as possible.
  • Several lightweight layers give more warmth than a single heavy coat. Try thermal underwear, a turtleneck, a medium sweater, and a jacket.
  • Wear a hat to prevent heat loss. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs. Wear gloves and hiking or snow boots.
  • Always tell someone where you are going, how you are getting there, and when you think you will arrive. This way, someone will know where you might be if you are stranded.

 If you are in a vehicle:

  • Travel can be dangerous during a severe storm.
  • Keep spare hats, scarfs and blankets in your vehicle.  Having some dried food is also advised.
  • If you hear news of a blizzard warning, find shelter as soon as possible.
  • If you are stuck in your car, stay with the vehicle

 Image of a car windshield in winter


  • Provide a signal to rescuers such as a bright cloth tied onto the vehicle.
  • Keep the window open a crack for fresh air.
  • Stay warm by moving your arms and legs, keeping the blood flowing.
  • Start the car engine once every hour, and use the heater for ten minutes.
  • When the engine is running, leave the dome light on.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear so that fumes can escape.
  • Always tell someone where you are going, how you are getting there, and when you think you will arrive.

A Winter Safety Reminder

It's important to keep snow and ice from building up on your gas meter. Although these devices are designed for outdoor use, gas meters need to vent. If ice or snow builds up around your gas meter and prevents it from venting, the gas buildup could be forced back into the house, with potentially dangerous consequences.

The below video shares some important safety tips for your natural gas meter and vents.


Protect Your Home This Winter

  • Use a broom to sweep your gas equipment free of snow and ice. Never kick or hit your gas meter, pressure regulator, or piping to free up snow or ice buildup
  • Keep all your exhaust and intake vents clear
  • Keep a clear path to your gas meter
  • Do not shovel, blow, or plow snow up against your gas meter equipment
  • If there is a fire hydrant near your home, make sure the hydrant is clear and accessible in case there is an emergency.
  • Please remove icicles from your overhead eaves trough and watch for buildup of freezing rain or water dripping from the roof or eaves trough onto your meter.
  • In extremely cold weather, water pipes are at risk of bursting. To help prevent pipes from bursting, it is recommended to leave taps to drip slowly and increase the temperature within the home over night.

 Additional resources:



Image of a person standing in front of a question mark

During the winter season, you should stock up on heating fuel, ready-to-eat food, battery-operated flashlights and have a radio with extra batteries.


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