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Floods, Tornadoes, Severe Winter and Lightning Storm

Flash Flood?

Flash floods develop from intense thunderstorms dropping large amounts of water in a short time. Flash floods occur with little or no warning.  During periods of urban flooding, streets can become swift moving rivers and basements can fill with water.

If you are indoors:

  • Turn off your basement furnace and outside gas valve
  • Make sure basement windows are closed
  • Turn power off to circuit breaker or fuse box
  • If the area is wet, stand on a dry board and shut off power with a dry wooden stick
  • Move furniture, electrical appliances and other belongings to higher levels
  • Remove toilet bowl water, plug basement sewer drains and toilet connection
  • Turn on a battery-operated radio or television and listen for the latest emergency information
  • If told to leave, grab your preassembled disaster safety kit and go immediately to the designated shelter.
    Be sure to follow the recommended evacuation routes – never take shortcuts

If you are outdoors:

  • In a flooding emergency, always make sure you are on firm ground whether you are walking or driving
  • Quickly move towards an elevated area but stay away from flood regions
  • Climb to high ground in a highly visible and safe area
  • Never cross floodwaters. Water even as shallow as 15 cm. could sweep you off your feet

If you are in a vehicle:

  • Travel carefully, and only if absolutely necessary, through flooded areas where roads may be washed away
  • If you come across a flooded road, take a different route as the fast moving water could sweep you away
  • If you become caught in fast rising floodwaters and your vehicle stalls, leave it to move yourself and your passengers to higher ground
  • Avoid remaining in your car. As little as 60 cm. of water can carry a car away



Tornadoes result from hot, humid weather meeting a cold front.  With these conditions, a tornado could be imminent. A funnel cloud hanging from a dark cloud may appear before the tornado actually occurs. A tornado may be accompanied by lightning, high winds and hail.

If you are indoors:

  • Go immediately to the basement, storm cellar or the lowest level of the home
  • If there is no basement, go to a closet, a bathroom or under a staircase
  • Stay away from windows and doors
  • Get under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a workbench or a heavy table.  Hold onto the furniture with one hand and use the other arm to protect your head and neck from falling or flying objects
  • If you are in an office or apartment building, take shelter in an inner hallway or room, ideally in the basement or on the ground floor.  Do not use the elevator and stay away from windows
  • Avoid being in the corners of the room because they attract debris
  • If in a mobile home, get out and seek shelter elsewhere

If you are outdoors:

  • If possible, get inside a building
  • If there is no shelter, lie down in a ditch or ravine
  • Use your arms to protect your head and neck
  • Stay away from bridges and overpasses

If you are in a vehicle:

  • Never try to outdrive a tornado. Tornadoes can change direction suddenly and could lift up the car and toss it through the air
  • Immediately stop the car and turn off the engine
  • Get out of the car and seek shelter in a building, ditch or ravine

Severe Winter Storm

Severe winter storms can cause widespread damage and disruption. 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.

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 an ice storm, some families closed off most rooms in their home 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, gloves and hiking or snow boots. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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


Severe Lightning Storm

Thunderstorms bring a wide range of threats. These include hail, lightning, strong winds and heavy rainfall. All of these hazards can result in property damage, injuries or fatalities. React immediately when you first see lightning, hear thunder or are given some other warning. There are a few simple precautions that you can take to protect yourself.

If you are indoors:

  • If you are in a building, stay inside
  • Large hailstones can shatter windows, so stay away from windows, skylights and doors
  • Unplug TVs, radios, toasters and other electrical appliances
  • Do not use the phone during the storm, and do not contact metal objects like radiators, stoves, metal pipes, sinks or other potential conductors of electricity
  • If the storm is safe distance away, close your drapes, blinds or window shades to prevent the wind from blowing broken glass inside. Consider unplugging televisions and other electrical appliances that do not have surge protectors

If you are outdoors:

  • Move immediately to a place of shelter. Go to a building or vehicle. Large enclosed structures tend to be much safer than smaller open structures
  • Avoid water, high ground, isolated trees, picnic shelters and open spaces
  • If lightning strikes when you are outside, crouch down and put your feet together. Minimize your contact with the ground, and do not lie down
  • Keep away from telephone and power lines, fences, trees and hilltops
  • Get off bicycles, motorcycles, golf carts and tractors

If you are in a vehicle:

  • Stop the car safely at the side of the road and stay there
  • Completely close all windows and do not touch any metal objects
  • Do not park near power line or trees which could fall
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