Winter is fast approaching and has already touched many parts of the country. Blizzards and heavy snow storms can come upon us unexpectedly and very suddenly; if we are not prepared, winter conditions can have serious consequences. Storms and extreme cold claim more lives in Canada than floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning and extreme heat combined.
While Environment Canada has put in place a number of warning systems to help alert us of approaching weather conditions, being prepared ahead of time is the best plan of action. Blizzards can be particularly dangerous as they can come up quite suddenly and often cause white-out conditions that significantly reduce visibility. Environment Canada suggests that people stay indoors to ride out the storm but if one must venture out, it is important to wear appropriate winter clothing and they also advise that you if you must step outside of your home – tie a sturdy rope to your door and hold on to the other end to make sure you are able to find your way back. The type and amount of clothing you wear is extremely important as well. It is best to dress in thin layers that are loose fitting; this will help trap body heat and allows for air circulation. The outer layers should be made of material that is tightly woven, have an attached hood as well as being water-repellant.
The chance of having a power outage during a winter storm is quite high. Although emergency crews do their best to return power to as many people as quickly as possible, neighbourhoods and especially more rural areas can find themselves without water or electricity for several days or even a week. Planning ahead to make sure you are equipped with enough food and water for everyone in your family, including pets and unexpected guests is the best and safest way to ride out those winter storms that can hit throughout the winter months.
The other danger that Environment Canada warns us about has to do with shoveling out once the storm is over. Never over-exert yourself and take lots of breaks and remember to dress appropriately. Many people do not realize that shoveling is an extreme cardiovascular workout and even individuals who are otherwise physically fit can overexert themselves very quickly.
Of course there are those circumstances where one might find themselves stuck in a vehicle for several hours during, and just after a severe storm or blizzard. Keeping warm and safe is much more difficult in a car or truck if you are not prepared. Be sure you always have a winter emergency kit that you can reach easily from anywhere in your vehicle. Flares and signals need to be an automatic part of any vehicle emergency kit so that vehicles, including emergency crews are able to see you.