When Nature Gets Down and Dirty

When the Storm Clouds Gather

It’s not easy to prepare for the unexpected.

What is the probability of a tornado or earthquake hitting Canada? Pretty good, actually. Canada is second only to the United States for the number of tornadoes that occur annually.

Extreme weather resistance can take many forms. To get a perspective on what a natural disaster entails, look through our Tornadoes & Hurricanes, and Earthquakes section.

Tornadoes and Hurricanes: When Nature Goes Wild …

Tornadoes and hurricanes are characterized by violent winds accompanied by rains and storms. The cause of a wide range of damage and accidents, they are not to be taken lightly.

A Less Than Reassuring Distinction

Did you know Canada is the country with the second highest number of tornadoes in the world – no less than seventy? Happily, the majority of them are too weak to cause much damage!

These columns of air which turn counter clockwise and move in a swirling fashion above the earth, however, can be very violent. Tornadoes are recognizable by funnel-shaped clouds rising out of storm clouds. They hit suddenly, at random, and often without warning. Their winds can reach 360 km/hour and cause serious damage.

Tornadoes visit all Canadian provinces, but they are most often seen in the following regions:

  • Western Quebec
  • South and North-Eastern Ontario
  • South central Alberta
  • Southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba


Although Canada is not directly exposed to hurricanes, the east (from the Atlantic provinces to Lake Superior in Ontario) can experience effects in the form of violent winds and floods. In 1954, for example, Hurricane Hazel dumped 18 cm of rain in no time at all, causing floods and resulting in the death of 80 people.

A hurricane is, in fact, a tropical storm accompanied by winds which swirl around a low-pressure centre – the eye of the storm – at speeds reaching 120 km/hour. It can measure between 500 and 1000 km in diameter and last seven to nine days, depending on its path which is measured in thousands of kilometres. Its most destructive effect comes from the serious floods that it causes, because it can lead to a temporary sea level increase in a region.

Earthquakes: An Impressive Natural Phenomenon

Have you ever felt the earth suddenly tremble under your feet? Or seen the furniture in a room abruptly start to shake?

If so, chances are that the smallest details of those moments are firmly engraved in your memory. Earthquakes are geological phenomena that leave lasting impressions.

Canada, an Earthquake Region?

During the 20th century, Canada has experienced more than15 earthquakes stronger than 5 on the Richter scale. One of the strongest hit the Saguenay region in 1988. Registering 6 on the Richter scale, it caused damage estimated at tens of millions of dollars.

An earthquake registering 5 hit Mont-Laurier in 1990 and another at 5.2 struck Cap Rouge in 1997.

South western British Columbia is Canada’s most active earthquake region with over 300 quakes per year. Other “at-risk” zones include the coastal areas of British Columbia, the southern Yukon, the Mackenzie Valley in the Northwest Territories, the Arctic Islands and the Ottawa and Saint Lawrence Valleys in Ontario and Quebec.

There are approximately 300 earthquakes per year in eastern Canada, about four of which register higher than 4. In a ten-year cycle, an average of three earthquakes will register higher than 5.

The risk of having your home shaken by an earthquake is not negligible and that’s why it’s important – depending on which part of the country you live in – to make sure you are adequately insured.

What is an Earthquake?

The earth’s crust is made up, among other things, of rigid layers hundreds of kilometres thick. Abrupt movements can occur between these tectonic plates along a fault line in the earth’s crust. The movement has repercussions from seismic focus deep inside the earth, all the way to a point of the earth’s surface called the epicentre, located directly above.

The intensity of an earthquake, or magnitude, is measured by seismographs which record the energy released by the seismic focus on the Richter scale, named after its inventor. There are nine degrees on the scale, each of them ten times higher in magnitude than the previous one.

For example, the earthquake that struck Kobe, Japan, in January 1995 reached 6.9 on the Richter scale : in 20 seconds it caused 5,470 deaths, injured 33,000 people and was responsible for major property damage.