The arrival of winter often makes Canadians think more of the summer gone by than of perils that may lie ahead. In many ways, thinking of lazy days on the beach, the smell of fresh-cut grass and steaks cooking on the grill is far easier (and more pleasant) than planning to tackle the challenges that cold, blustery weather may present.
However, Canadians can rest assured that preparing for winter weather does not require major lifestyle changes. Rather, it is a simple matter of thinking ahead, buying the right provisions, and making slight adjustments in behaviour, such as in the way they drive.
The difference between Watches and Warnings
The number one rule is… if you don’t have to go out in inclement weather, don’t. However, if you must drive, check weather and road conditions before you leave. Knowing what to expect plays a critical role in being prepared.
Heavy Snowfall Warnings are issued when a snowfall accumulation of 10 centimetres or more is expected in 12 hours or less, or for a snowfall accumulation of 15 centimetres or more in 24 hours or less.
Winter Storm Watches are issued when conditions are favourable for the development of severe winter weather such as a Blizzard, Heavy Snowfall, Winter Storm, Freezing Rain, or possible future Weather Warning.
Wind Chill Warnings are issued when wind combined with very cold temperatures will create outdoor conditions hazardous to human activity.
On the roads
Before each winter season, have a licenced mechanic conduct a thorough inspection of your vehicle, including tires, brakes, battery, ignition system, thermostat, lights, exhaust, defroster, wipers and fluid levels. Have four snow tires installed, regardless of whether the vehicle is front or rear-wheel-drive, and ensure that you have extra washer fluid in the car (and that it has a rating of -40° C).
If you must go out, try to wait until streets have been plowed and treated. Be extra cautious around snow removal equipment – stay well back of plows and never attempt to pass them. Stick to well-traveled roads
Clear snow and ice from the entire car – hood, roof, trunk, head lights, turn signals, tail lights, windows, mirrors and wheel wells
Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Watch your speed and allow adequate spacing between vehicles (about eight to 10 seconds following distance). Never use cruise control on wet, slippery or snowy roads
Keep the gas tank at least half full, as ice crystals can form with condensation and clog your fuel lines. Additionally, you may have to spend much more time on the road that you planned (particularly if you become stranded). The last thing you want to do in bad winter weather is run out of gas
Assemble and carry a winter emergency kit in your vehicle. Include a shovel, blanket, snow brush/ice scraper, traction aids (such as salt, sand or commercially available devices), a tow rope or chain, flashlight and extra batteries, compass, candles, matches, booster cables, extra clothing, non-perishable food items (such as chocolate or energy bars and dehydrated soup, consommé or bouillon, bottled water and coffee or tea), necessary medications, fire extinguisher, flares, a brightly coloured piece of cloth to be used as a flag, and a first aid kit. A small tool kit consisting of a pocket knife, pliers, adjustable wrench and screwdrivers is also of importance
A cell phone can also be an invaluable tool in the event you become stranded, are involved in an accident, or if you must help another
In the event you become stranded, do not leave the car except to ensure that the tail pipe is clear of snow. Run the engine for about 10 minutes every hour (depending on fuel levels). When doing so, keep a window slightly opened for ventilation. Do not use the car’s electric accessories (such as the dome light) unless the engine is on
Maintain circulation and warmth with occasional exercises, such as clapping hands and moving your arms and legs.
Bad weather need not have a negative impact if you plan and equip yourself appropriately.
The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction
Toronto Office 20 Richmond Street East, Suite 210, Toronto, Ontario M5C 2R9 Tel: (416) 364-8677 Fax: (416) 364-5889
London Office Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory Western University 1151 Richmond Street, London, Canada N6A 5B9 Tel: (519) 661-3234 Fax: (519) 661-4273