Heavy snow in Canada: What you can do

Winters in Canada can be both enchanting and challenging. The snow and ice that we've come to expect during the winter months can turn the landscape into a winter wonderland. However, these harsh weather conditions mean Canadians may want to take additional steps to help protect their homes and vehicles from damage due to heavy snow, melting ice, and high winds. In the article below, we've outlined a few ways you can stay safe at home and on the road– before, during, and after a winter storm.

What should you do before heavy snow?

Whether you're driving your car, or staying cozy at home, heavy snow can be a hazard. At home, it has the potential to cause your roof to collapse or knock down large branches and powerlines in your neighbourhood. If you're driving, heavy snow can result in slippery, slushy road conditions that require you to take extra care behind the wheel. Use the tips below to prepare your home and your car before a snowstorm hits.

Prepare your home:

  • Stock up on sawdust, wood, ash or kitty litter to sprinkle on your sidewalk and driveway. These de-icing options are more environmentally friendly than de-icer salt and can make shoveling easier after the storm.
  • Spray non-stick cooking spray on the blade of your shovel to help the snow slide off easily when removing snow from your driveway or sidewalk.
  • Start up your snowblower (if you have one) before the heavy snow arrives to ensure it's in good working order. Don't forget to grease your snowblower and fix broken shear pins if needed.
  • Get an emergency kit ready and charge your devices in case the winter storm is severe enough to knock out your power for a period of time. Your emergency kit should include bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, a battery-powered radio, fresh batteries, personal hygiene items and a first aid kit.

Read more about how you can prepare your home for freezing winter temperatures.

Prepare your car:

  •  Always keep a snow brush, ice scraper, and extra shovel in your car.
  • Change your wiper blades at least once a year and keep your washer fluid full so you're not caught without it.
  • Switch to winter tires once the temperature consistently dips below 7°C to get better traction in cooler temperatures. In some parts of Canada, winter-rated tires are mandatory for winter driving. If you live in Ontario, you could save on car insurance with TD Insurance when you equip your vehicle with 4 winter tires from December to March.
  • Make sure your gas tank is at least half full. This prevents condensation and freezing which can affect your vehicle's performance.
  • Leave an emergency kit in your car, including first-aid items, non-perishable snacks, drinking water, a shovel, warm clothing, a blanket, jumper cables, a reflective triangle, a flashlight, and extra batteries. Don't forget to include a car charger for your phone and cat litter for traction.

Read more about how you prepare your vehicle for winter driving in Canada.

What can you do during heavy snow?

When a snowstorm hits, the safest place to be is at home. Stay indoors and if possible, don't venture out until the snow has stopped and the roads have been cleared. Stay updated with Environment Canada's weather statements by following the news. If you must go outside, dress appropriately to protect yourself from the winter conditions.

What should you do after heavy snow?

After a heavy snow, be aware of potential water damage risks at home due to melting snow and take extra precautions while on the road.

At home:
  • Act quickly when the storm ends. After the storm, you’ll want to safeguard your home from the damage that snow and ice can cause. Safely removing ice and snow from your roof is a job best left to professionals. You should call them if you see a buildup of more than an inch and a half (about 4 cm) of ice. As for snow, it should be cleared off if there’s more than 18 inches (about 45 cm). A two-inch layer of snow should be left in place to ensure that you don’t damage your shingles.
  • Be ready for when the snow melts. Water from melting snow and ice can cause serious damage to your home. If you see icicles hanging from your eaves, take action. They could be a sign of ice dams, which block water from draining off your roof. When that happens, the water may be forced inside your house which could result in damage to your home.
  • Watch out for water damage. As the snow begins to melt, be alert to signs that water is seeping into your home. Blistering paint or wallpaper is one sign, as are wet spots along the base of exterior walls, water stains and rings. Signs of more serious structural damage include wall cracks, warped ceilings, unusual creaking noises, and interior doors that no longer close properly.
On the road:
  • Drive slowly. If you must drive in heavy snow, bear in mind that driving too fast for road conditions is the leading cause of winter crashes. Slow down, and drive at a consistent, safe speed. Driving slowly means you’re less likely to need to brake suddenly, causing you to slide and potentially lose control of your vehicle.
  • Keep your distance. In snowy conditions, other drivers can pose a real hazard — they might be driving too fast or driving on all season tires. Give yourself more time to react by leaving plenty of room between you and the driver ahead. Be aware of aggressive drivers and let them pass you.
  • Keep your car clear of ice and snow. Before you set out, clear all the ice and snow off your car. And don’t forget the roof. Melting snow can slide off the roof and block your windshield, or it can fly off and blind the driver behind you. In some provinces, failing to clear the roof of your car is a fineable offence.

Need to make an insurance claim? We can help. Contact a TD Insurance Claims Advisor, or manage your policy online using MyInsurance.

Our TD Insurance Customer Advice Centers are also available to answer your insurance coverage questions. For existing TD MyInsurance customers, login and chat securely with one of our Advisors. Alternatively, you can call us at 1-877-777-7136, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.