Preparing for dealing with extreme weather

Know the risks

Canada is a vast country with diverse weather conditions and geology -- some of which can create severe natural hazards. Understanding the hazards native to your region is important: knowing how to prepare for them can make all the difference in your family's safety and wellbeing. The following can occur in all regions of Canada, but are more frequent in certain regions:


Mainly occurring in the mountainous regions of BC, Yukon and Alberta, avalanches take place when a layer of snow collapses and slides downhill. They occur where slopes are steep, the snow cover is heavy and has a weak layer within it, and an event occurs to trigger a slide. Hundreds of thousands of avalanches occur in Canada every year.


Earthquakes and tremors are caused by the constant slow movement of the Earth's tectonic plates. BC has the highest risk of major earthquakes in Canada. The St. Lawrence and Ottawa River valleys and parts of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut are also prone to earthquakes. About 3,500 mostly small earthquakes are recorded in Canada each year.


All Canadian rivers experience flooding at one time or another. The potential for flood damage is high where there is development on low-lying, flood prone lands. Floods in Canada can occur at anytime of the year and are most often caused by heavy rainfall, rapid melting of a thick snow pack, ice jams or the failure of a natural or man-made dam.


Eastern Canada is occasionally hit by hurricanes between June and November, with the seasonal peak coming in September. Hurricanes are tropical storms whose high winds revolve around a centre of low pressure. At the eye of a hurricane there is a clam area of blue sky. Around the eye, winds travel at least 120 km/h and are accompanied by torrential rains.


The most damaging landslides occur in the mountainous regions of BC and Alberta and in the St. Lawrence Lowlands of Québec and Ontario. Landslides are the downward movement of rock and/or loose sediment triggered by natural processes or human interaction.

Severe storms

Thunderstorms, hail, blizzards, ice storms, high winds and heavy rain can develop quickly and threaten life and property.

Storm surges

All coastal areas of Canada can experience storm surges during anytime of the year. Large lakes, like the Great Lakes, are also at risk. A storm surge is an abnormal rise in water levels and can often accompany hurricanes, high winds or intense winter storms.


Tornadoes are relatively common in southern Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, southern Ontario, southern Québec, the interior of BC and western New Brunswick. Tornadoes are rotating columns of high winds. Sometimes they move quickly (up to 70 km/h) and leave a long, wide path of destruction. At other times the tornado is small, touching down here and there.


Occurring with little warning in the ocean and in lakes, tsunamis result in flooding and damage. Tsunamis are a series of large waves that strike coastal areas. They are caused by events, like submarine earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions and meteoric impacts.


A natural hazard in any forested and grassland region in Canada, wildfires occur most often in BC, the Boreal forests of Ontario, Québec, the Prairie provinces, and the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The average area burned by Canadian wildfires is 2.5 hectares. Canada has about 8,000 wildfires each year.

Find your region and learn about the preventative measures you should take against potential extreme weather.

Page details

Date modified: