Extreme heat & summer storms
Winnipeg summers often include extreme heat conditions and summer storms. Preparing for these hazards can help keep you and your family safe.
Heat affects the body's ability to regulate its temperature. The body tries to keep a consistent temperature (about 37ᵒC or 98.6ᵒF), but prolonged exposure to heat can result in conditions such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Death can occur if the body's temperature climbs too high.
Emergency medical attention may be required depending on the severity and duration of symptoms. If you or someone you know is exhibiting symptoms of a heat-related illness, call 911.
High humidity reduces the body's ability to cope with hot temperatures because less heat can be lost by perspiration. People with chronic health conditions, older adults, infants and young children, those taking certain medications or performing strenuous activity, and those who face barriers to finding safe shelter are at increased risk for heat illness.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and other sources, such as tanning beds can be a health risk. Overexposure to UV rays can lead to sunburns, premature skin aging, other skin changes and skin cancer. Sunburn also reduces the ability to cope with heat. Eye conditions such as cataracts can also result from UV exposure.
Be prepared for extreme heat and remember to check the weather forecast. Heat illnesses and UV damage can be prevented by taking the following precautions:
- Drink plenty of water or other liquids before you feel thirsty
- Avoid getting too much sun
- Wear sunscreen, a hat, loose-fitting clothes, and UVA and UVC protected sunglasses
- Plan outdoor activities for cooler parts of the day
- Find a cool place to go to cool down when outdoors; Some civic buildings including pools, spray pads, leisure centres, libraries may be open during regular operating hours as a place for residents to find relief from the heat. Contact 311 for locations and operating hours.
- Take cool baths or showers
- Check in on family members, neighbours, and friends when it gets hot, especially older adults and people with chronic conditions
- Ensure children or pets are never left alone in closed vehicles or direct sunlight
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF 15 to all exposed skin, according to the instructions on the label and reapply regularly, especially if you are in the water or sweating
- Be mindful of sun exposure for babies and young children; try to stay in the shade when possible
- Avoid the use of artificial UV tanning equipment
- If you plan to travel anywhere by vehicle, have cool drinks in your vehicle and keep your gas tank full
Preparedness at home
- Install window air conditioners, check your home's insulation, and have central air conditioners serviced annually
- Install temporary reflectors (aluminum and cardboard) to reflect heat back outside
- Weather-strip doors and windows to keep cool air inside
- Cover large windows with drapes or shades to reduce heat entering your home
- Ensure your pets have plenty of water and access to shaded or cool areas
- Walk your pets during the cooler hours of the day to ensure they don't burn their paws on the hot pavement
Winnipeg experiences a number of severe weather storms throughout the year. These severe weather events can include thunderstorms, hail, lightning, heavy rain, and tornadoes.
Thunderstorms, lightning & hail
When the weather forecasts a thunderstorm, you should prepare for heavy rain, lightning, and the potential for hail. Thunderstorms are usually over in an hour, although a series of thunderstorms can last for several hours. You can estimate how far away the lightning is by counting seconds between the flash of lightning and the sound of the thunder. Each second is equal to 300 meters. If you count fewer than 30 seconds between lightning and thunder, take shelter immediately.
To protect yourself, your family, and your property from thunderstorms, consider the following:
- If thunder roars, go indoors - stay inside if possible as lightning, high winds, and hail can cause significant injuries
- Once inside, do not go out to cover plants, cars, or garden furniture, or to rescue animals - do not attempt to retrieve laundry from a clothesline, as a clothesline can conduct electricity
- Stay away from windows, doors, fireplaces, radiators, sinks, bathtubs, appliances, metal pipes, telephones, and other things that conduct electricity (you can use a cell phone)
- Unplug radios, computers, televisions, and other electronic equipment
- If you're outside, take shelter in a building, ditch, or a culvert - never take shelter under a tree
- If you're caught in the open, do not lie flat; instead, crouch in the leap frog position and lower your head
- Do not ride bicycles, motorcycles, or golf carts, or use metal tools
- If swimming or in a boat, get back to shore immediately
- If you are in a car, stay there but pull away from trees that might fall on you
- You may resume activity 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder
A heavy rainfall can result in flooding. This is particularly true when the ground is still frozen or already saturated from previous storms or if the rainfall is so heavy the storm sewer systems become overwhelmed. Floods may also result if a heavy rain coincides with spring thaw. If heavy rain is forecasted, take the following precautions:
- Do not drive through flood waters; you may not be able to tell how deep water on a roadway is, and high water can sweep your car away, or flood your engine, damaging your vehicle and leaving you trapped
- Avoid crossing bridges if the water is high and flowing quickly
- If visibility is impaired, slow down, or pull over and stop
- Do not wade into flood waters, as they can be electrified from fallen power lines or they may contain hazards
- If you are trapped by flood waters, either in a vehicle or on foot, call 911
Tornadoes are violent windstorms identified by their twisting funnel-shaped cloud. They are always produced by thunderstorms but not every thunderstorm produces a tornado. They are erratic and can change course suddenly. Never chase tornadoes, as they are unpredictable and dangerous.
If a tornado is forecast, you should take precautions to protect yourself, your family, and your property. Some advanced signs of tornadoes include the following:
- Severe thunderstorms with frequent thunder and lightning
- An extremely dark sky sometimes highlighted by green or yellow clouds
- A rumbling sound, such as a freight train or a whistling sound such as a jet aircraft
- A funnel cloud at the rear of a thunder cloud, often behind a curtain of heavy rain or hail.
If a tornado warning has been issued, take cover immediately. To stay safe during a tornado, follow these guidelines:
- Go to the basement or take shelter in a small interior ground floor room such as a bathroom, closet or hallway.
- If you have no basement, protect yourself by taking shelter under a heavy table or desk.
- In all cases, stay away from windows, outside walls and doors.
- Take shelter in an inner hallway or room, ideally in the basement or on the ground floor.
- Do not use the elevator.
- Stay away from windows.
- Large buildings with wide-span roofs may collapse if a tornado hits.
- If possible, find shelter in another building.
- If you are in one of these buildings and cannot leave, take cover under a sturdy structure such as a table or desk.
- More than half of all deaths from tornadoes happen in mobile homes.
- Find shelter elsewhere, preferably in a building with a strong foundation.
- If no shelter is available, lie down in a ditch away from the car or mobile home. Beware of flooding from downpours and be prepared to move.
- Those who live in manufactured homes are at greater risk of damage. Be extra vigilant about giving yourself enough time to evacuate.
- Do not travel. If you are in your car, open the windows slightly and park off the road with your brakes set, away from tall objects and power lines. Do not leave your car if there are downed lines nearby.
- If you spot a tornado in the distance go to the nearest solid shelter.
- If the tornado is close, abandon your vehicle and move at a right angle to the storm's path. If this is not possible, find a low-lying area, such as a ditch, and lie flat. Hang onto a small tree or shrub if you can.
- Get as close to the ground as possible, protect your head and watch for flying debris.
- Do not chase tornadoes - they are unpredictable and can change course abruptly.
- A tornado is deceptive. It may appear to be standing still but is, in fact, moving toward you.
- Do not follow tornadoes in your car or attempt to take photographs of them. If you see a tornado, take shelter immediately.
For more information, refer to Public Safety Canada.