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Severe Weather

Storm Clouds

In British Columbia, Severe Weather, can include: thunderstorms, hail, blizzards, ice storms, high winds or heavy rain. Any of these can happen with little to no warning and during any season.

With severe weather often comes a loss of power, so be prepared to be on your own for a minimum of 72 hours by developing a household plan, putting together your emergency kit and connecting with your neighbours.

Heavy Rain

  • Heavy rainfall can result in flooding. This is particularly true when the ground is still frozen or already saturated from previous storms


  • Thunderstorms are often accompanied by high winds, hail, lightning and heavy rain
  • Thunderstorms are usually over within an hour, although a series of thunderstorms can last for several hours
  • If lightening is accompanied by the thunderstorm, avoid open fields, tall trees and metal objects and remain indoors if possible

High Winds

  • Strong winds, and especially gusty winds, can cause property damage or turn any loose items into a dangerous projectile, and create unsafe travelling conditions
  • When there is a wind warning in your area, you should expect inland winds to be blowing steadily at 60-65 km/h or more
  • Secure or put away loose objects such as outdoor furniture or garbage cans
  • Twigs and small braches could also blow off trees and cause a hazard, so stay inside until it is safe


  • Hailstorms occur mostly from May to October, although they can occur at anytime, anywhere
  • Take cover when the hail begins to fall, stay indoors and keep away from windows


  • Blizzards are often defined by winds of 40 km/h or more that will cause widespread reduction in visibility due to blowing snow
  • Poor visibility, low temperature and high winds combine to create a significant hazard

Ice Storms

  • Ice from freezing rain accumulates on branches, power lines and buildings. Pay attention to branches or wires that could break due to the weight of the ice and fall on you.
  • Never touch power lines as the wires could be live.
  • When severe freezing rain is forecasted, avoid driving if possible. Wait several hours after freezing rain ends so that road maintenance crews have enough time to spread sand or salt on icy roads.

General Tips

  • Monitor local media, social media and the University's website for campus closure or delays
  • Do NOT call 911 unless there is an emergency
  • Have a battery-operated radio and listen to your local station for warnings, advice and instructions
  • Stow flashlights around the house and remember to have extra batteries on hand in case of power failure. Other safe lighting options include glow sticks, crank-flashlights, headlamps and battery-operated lanterns
  • Winterize your home by insulating walls and attics, weather-stripping doors and windows, clearing rain gutters and removing tree branches that could fall during strong winds
  • Inspect your chimney or flue to help prevent structural fires and ensure smoke, carbon monoxide and other potentially harmful gases are properly vented
  • Fireplaces, woodstoves, barbecues and camp stoves can be used for emergency cooking, just don't use the last two indoors due to the risk of carbon monoxide build-up
  • Consider a home generator during extended power outages, as long as it's used in accordance with manufacturer's guidelines and never operated indoors

Weather Alerts

When severe weather threatens, Environment Canada is here for you, issuing special alerts that notify those in affected areas so that they can take steps to protect themselves and their property from harm. These public alert bulletins are issued through the media, as well as through the department's Weatheradio service, and our website.

Type of Alerts

The type of alert used depends on the severity and timing of the event:

  • Special Weather Statements are the least urgent type of alert and are issued to let people know that conditions are unusual and could cause concern.
  • Advisories are issued for specific weather events (like blowing snow, fog, freezing drizzle and frost) that are less severe, but could still significantly impact Canadians.
  • Watches alert you about weather conditions that are favourable for a storm or severe weather, which could cause safety concerns.
  • As certainty increases about the path and strength of a storm system, a watch may be upgraded to a Warning, which is an urgent message that severe weather is either occurring or will occur. Warnings are usually issued six to 24 hours in advance, although some severe weather (such as thunderstorms and tornadoes) can occur rapidly, with less than a half hour's notice.

These alerts are updated regularly so that members of the public can stay on top of a developing situation and take the appropriate action.