How to prepare for extreme weather
Our country is the most beautiful in the world. But with its magnificent landscapes and exceptional wide-open spaces come extreme weather events. When the elements break down, things such as fog, ice storms and hailstorms can quickly put our safety in jeopardy. Here is a series of tips to help you react with caution when these extreme weather cases arise.
Fog is a cloud that is formed by suspended water droplets. It occurs at ground level and can cause serious visibility problems. It can be caused by different conditions such as a mass of warm air passing through a cold surface or a mass of cold air passing through a warmer water surface or moist soil. Fog is more common in the spring and fall.
As fog reduces visibility, it can present a hazard to drivers. It is better to avoid driving in fog. If possible, wait for it to dissipate before hitting the road. If you are surprised by fog while driving, here are some tips to keep you safe.
- If your vehicle is equipped with fog lights, turn them on.
- Get off the road as quickly as possible. Pull over to a safe place, turn on your hazard lights and wait for the fog to clear before setting off again.
- If you do not have fog lights, use the low beam. The high beams reflect in the fog’s moisture droplets, further reducing your visibility.
- Do not accelerate to pass other vehicles. Maintain a greater distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you so that you can brake safely.
- Use your defroster and windshield wipers to ensure maximum visibility.
Unlike sleet (rain that turns to ice when it comes into contact with the ground or surfaces), hailstorms are storms in which pieces of ice, called hailstones, form and fall to the ground. Most hailstorms occur in the afternoon or evening and last less than 15 minutes. Hailstones produced during a storm can strike the ground at 130 km per hour. Hailstones with a diameter exceeding 25.4 mm can cause damage.
Hailstorms occur across Canada, but are more common in Alberta, the Southern Prairies and Southern Ontario. If you are surprised by a hailstorm on the road:
- Stay calm and pull over to the shoulder as quickly as possible. Hailstones can reduce visibility, and if your vehicle is in motion, the damage may be more severe.
- Park in a safe place that is protected from the hail, such as a garage, an indoor parking lot or even under an overpass.
- If you can’t find shelter, position your vehicle so that the hail hits the front of the car and windshield, which is designed to withstand greater impact than the side windows.
- To avoid the risk of injury, do not leave your vehicle until the storm is over.
If you are surprised by a hailstorm while outdoors:
- Seek shelter immediately.
- If there is no other option, shelter under a tree. Be careful, however, because the branches of the tree may break and the tree may attract lightning.
- If you can’t find shelter, look for something to protect yourself or, at the very least, protect your head.
Severe weather means a host of potentially dangerous weather conditions, including strong thunderstorms, windstorms and tornadoes, flooding and ice storms. These climatic episodes are qualified as violent, as they pose a risk to life or to material goods.
When different severe weather scenarios arise, it is important to have a safety plan and practice it with family members. Certain episodes of severe weather could warrant an evacuation.
It’s also important to have an emergency kit, both for your home and your car, if you happen to encounter bad weather while driving. Here is what your kits should ideally contain: