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Environment Canada classifies severe winter storms as a blizzard when the following weather conditions last more than 4 hours:

  • snow or blowing snow with winds of 40 km/hr or more
  • snow or blowing snow reducing visibility to less than 1 km
  • windchill of -25 C or colder

Since severe winter weather can hit suddenly, it’s important to prepare in advance.

Prepare for a blizzard or severe winter storm

  • Winterize your home and vehicle before the cold weather arrives.
  • Prepare a survival kit for your home.
  • Prepare an emergency car kit for your vehicle.
  • Get into the habit of dressing appropriately for the weather as well as checking forecasts and road conditions before going outside.
  • If travelling on the road in winter:
    • keep your vehicle in good condition and drive with snow tires or chains
    • keep your gas tank full
    • inform someone of your route and expected time of arrival
    • travel during daylight hours
    • listen to the radio for weather updates

Stay safe during a blizzard or severe winter storm

If you are at home:

  • Stay there and wait out the storm indoors.
  • DO NOT travel outside unless it is urgent.
  • Turn on your radio or television to listen for weather updates.
  • Have batteries and flashlights ready in case of a power failure.
  • Ensure your children and pets remain inside.
  • Watch and respond to potential fire hazards from overheated furnaces, heaters, fireplaces or stoves.

If you are at work or in a public building:

  • Stay calm and follow any instructions given to you.
  • Follow these tips if you are asked to Shelter in Place.

If you are outside:

  • Get indoors as soon as possible. Whiteout conditions can disorient you; high windchills may result in frostbite or hypothermia.

If you are driving:

  • Turn back or seek refuge if conditions deteriorate.
  • If you're stranded in your vehicle during a blizzard:
    • Raise the hood of your vehicle as a distress signal.
    • Use supplies in your car kit to keep warm and dry. Eat high-energy foods.
    • Stay in your vehicle and wait for emergency personnel to arrive.
    • Turn emergency flashers on. 
    • If possible, run your vehicle for a few minutes every hour to keep the interior warm. Check the exhaust pipe frequently and clear snow away to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. 
    • If you can’t run your vehicle, light a candle to keep warm.
    • Open a window slightly on the sheltered side (away from the wind) for ventilation. 
    • Stimulate circulation by moving your arms, hands, and feet.
    • Don’t fall asleep.

After a blizzard

  • Listen to local radio and television stations for updates and instructions.
  • Use caution as you shovel snow after the storm, as it is extremely hard work and can trigger heart attacks in some people.
  • Only travel if absolutely necessary; roads may be in poor condition, icy, or blocked with snow drifts.
  • Only use the telephone if necessary. Emergency crews may need all available lines.