During an Emergency

Specific Emergency Situations - Winter Storms

In Ontario, winter storms can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

Get the latest weather warnings from Environment Canada:

Types of weather alerts

Weather alerts are issued by Environment Canada. The type of weather alert used depends on the severity and timing of the event:

  • Special Weather Statements are the least-urgent type of alert. A special weather statement is issued to let people know that conditions are unusual and could cause concern.
  • Watches alert you about weather conditions that are likely to cause a storm or severe weather, which could cause safety concerns.
  • A Watch may be upgraded to a Warning as certainty increases about the path and strength of a storm.
  • A Warning is an urgent message that severe weather is either happening or will happen. Warnings are usually issued six to 24 hours in advance, although some severe weather (such as an ice storm) can happen suddenly, with less than a half hour's notice.

If a Storm Watch or Storm Warning has been issued by Environment Canada:

  • Listen to the radio or television, or check the Internet for information or instructions.
  • Stay indoors, but if you must go outside, dress to stay warm.

If you must travel during a snowstorm:

  • Make sure you have your Winter Vehicle Emergency Kit (1 page, 5.57 MB) with you.
  • Tell someone your route and estimated arrival time.
  • Bring water and non-perishable food.
  • Pack winter clothes.

Common injuries caused by cold weather


Frostbite occurs when a person's skin is exposed to extremely cold temperatures.

Since frostbite has a numbing effect, you might not know it's happening. Warning signs may include:

  • a stinging or aching feeling followed by numbness
  • skin that feels waxy and cold
  • skin that turns red, then grey, white, yellow, or blue


Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Heat loss occurs more quickly when the person is wet.

Warning signs of hypothermia include:

  • increased shivering
  • slurred speech
  • impaired judgement (the person can't make a correct decision)
  • poor muscle coordination

For more information on frostbite and hypothermia, visit Peel Public Health's Cold Weather in Peel website.

The content on this page is adapted from information provided by Environment Canada and Public Safety Canada. For more information on severe storms, read a detailed guide from Public Safety Canada.

Revised: Friday February 28 2020

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