Catastrophic Weather

“Canadians are experiencing more and more extreme weather, from intense and lengthy heat waves, to suffocating smoke and haze from wildfires, to extreme flooding. Canadian scientists have made a clear link between climate change and extreme weather events. They tell us that while such events can and do occur naturally, much of what we are seeing is driven by human-induced climate change. The effects of climate change are evident in many parts of Canada and are projected to intensify in the future.” Environment Canada 2021

Natural Hazards

Five main natural hazards that lead to catastrophic events

Water: Flood related losses are the main reason for property claims. 

  • Our populations are growing: More residential and commercial buildings with more impermeable surfaces result in less green space and other natural outlets for water.
  • This threat is exacerbated by aging municipal infrastructure including roads, underground sewage and water pipes, electrical systems and more.

Wildfire: As the planet warms up and dry hot weather lasts for longer, the risk of drought and wildfire increases.

Wind: Straight-line winds can exceed 160 kilometres an hour, making them as dangerous as hurricanes and F1 tornados.

Hail: Driven by high winds, hailstones can hit the ground (and you, and your property) at 130 kilometres an hour.

Earthquake: Canada has thousands of earthquakes every year. Scientists are studying the possible relationships between a changing climate and earthquakes.  

  • Water related losses are now the principal source of property claims, surpassing both fire and theft.
  • Alberta’s summer hail storm was the costliest disaster of 2020

The real cost of weather events

Chart shows insured disasters only, uninsured losses are not included. Details.

Insurance Bureau of Canada defines a catastrophic weather event as an event that results in $25 million or more in insured losses.

NOTE: most affected are the people who do not have insurance policies that cover them for loss in an extreme weather event. The cost of uninsured loss is not counted in the above graph.

Extreme Winter Weather

Winters in Canada are getting warmer, and snowfall has generally decreased. But unpredictable and extreme winter events will continue to happen.  

A winter storm causes significant snowfall combined with other potentially hazardous conditions, such as freezing rain, strong winds, blowing snow or extreme cold. Freezing rain is drizzle or rain that freezes in contact with the ground and other objects. This frozen water forms a layer of transparent ice that makes sidewalks and driving surfaces extremely slippery.

Ice storms can be dangerous and deadly.

Blocked roads and extremely slippery conditions can last for days, making it dangerous for vulnerable people to leave their homes.


Most extreme weather events, including heatwaves, can cause power outages. This is often because broken tree branches fall onto power lines and damage electrical equipment.

Most power outages last for just a few moments. But others last for hours, or days, and sometimes weeks. 

Apartment buildings can lose power when their electrical systems are overloaded, or damaged by flooding.  

Response Pyramid

When disaster strikes, the first people on the scene will be your neighbours. Depending on the size of the disaster, it may be as long as 72 hours before official emergency help arrives.

The disaster response period for natural disasters in Canada