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Severe storms

Manitoba can experience a number of severe weather storms throughout the year. These severe weather events can include: thunderstorms, hail, lightning, heavy rain, tornadoes, freezing rain/ice storms, and blizzards/heavy snowfall.

Preparation for each type of storm can differ but one of the most important things you can do to protect your family in all severe weather events is to stay informed and receive frequent weather updates from Environment Canada.

Environment Canada monitors the weather 365 days a year. They issue special weather statements, watches, and warnings by radio, television, and on their website.

Environment Canada also uses a weather radio system. Weather radio is broadcast at 162.400, 152.475, and 162.550 megahertz and is picked up by dedicated radios and shortwave.

To learn more about weather warnings from Environment Canada, visit Public Weather Alerts for Canada.


A thunderstorm develops in an unstable atmosphere when warm moist air near the earth's surface rises quickly and cools. The moisture condenses to form rain droplets and dark thunder clouds. These storms are often accompanied by hail, lightning, heavy rain, high winds, and tornadoes. Thunderstorms are usually over in an hour, although a series of thunderstorms can last for several hours.


Hail forms when updrafts in thunderclouds carry raindrops upwards into extremely cold areas and freeze layer upon layer until they are too heavy and fall to the ground. Hailstones vary in size from peas to grapefruits and fall at great speed. People have been seriously injured by hailstones.

Things to do in case of a hail storm

  • Take cover when hail begins to fall.
  • Do not go out to cover plants, cars, or garden furniture, or to rescue animals.


During a thunderstorm the air is charged with electricity. Bolts of lightning hit the ground at about 40,000 km per second - so fast that the series of strikes hitting the ground appear as a single bolt.

Things to do in a lightning storm

  • Estimate how far away the lightning is -- every second between the flash of lightning and the thunderclap equals 300 meters. If you count fewer that 30 seconds, take shelter immediately.
  • If indoors, stay away from windows, doors, fireplaces, radiators, sinks, bathtubs, appliances, metal pipes, telephones, and other things which conduct electricity. (You can use a cellular phone.)
  • Unplug radios, computers, televisions and other electronic equipment.
  • Do not go to rescue the laundry on the clothesline as it conducts electricity.
  • If outdoors, take shelter in a building, ditch or a culvert but never under a tree
  • If caught in the open, do not lie flat but crouch in the leap frog position and lower your head.
  • Do not ride bicycles, motorcycles, or golf carts or use metal tools as they conduct electricity.
  • If swimming or in a boat, get back to shore immediately.
  • If you are in a car, stay there but pull away from trees which might fall on you.
  • You may resume activity 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

Lightning in Canada - Government of Canada

Heavy Rain

A heavy rainfall can result in flooding. This is particularly true when the ground is still frozen or already saturated from previous storms. Floods may also result if a heavy rain coincides with spring thaw.

Things to do in case of a heavy rain storm

  • Do not drive through flood waters which can sweep your car away.
  • 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 in, or drive through, flood waters. The strong current may sweep you downstream.


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 travel between 20 and 90 km/h often moving from the southwest to the northeast. They are erratic and can change course suddenly. It is not a good idea to chase tornadoes.

The warning signs are:

  • 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.

Things to do in case of a tornado

  • Listen to your radio during severe thunderstorms.
  • If a tornado warning has been issued, take cover immediately.
  • Go to the basement or take shelter in a small interior ground floor room, closet or hallway.
  • Protect yourself by sitting under a heavy table or desk.
  • Stay away from windows and outside walls and doors.
  • Use stairways, not elevators.
  • Avoid large halls, churches, arenas, etc.; Their roofs are more likely to collapse.
  • Avoid cars and mobile homes -- take shelter elsewhere. If no shelter is available, lie face down in a ditch or culvert away from the vehicle or mobile home.
  • If you are driving, try to get to a nearby shelter. Drive away from the tornado at a right angle.
  • If the tornado is close, get out of your car and take cover in a low-lying area, such as a ditch.
  • If a tornado seems to be standing still, it is either traveling away from you or heading right for you.
  • In all cases, get as close to the ground as possible, protect your head and watch for flying debris.
  • For more information on Tornadoes, please visit the Public Safety Canada website at


Visit the Environment Canada website for more information on hazardous weather.

Last update: July 12, 2019

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