Extreme Weather

Staying Safe in Extreme Weather

Grey-Bruce is no stranger to extreme weather.

In the winter months, temperatures in Grey-Bruce can plummet to -30 degrees C or below. Frigid temperatures, heavy snowfall accumulation, and winter storms can pose a significant health risk, particularly for those who are most vulnerable in our communities.

In the summer months, Grey-Bruce can see temperatures soar above 30 degrees C. High humidity, prolonged heat waves, and rain or wind storms can also impact the health and safety of residents.

Grey Bruce Public Health, whose mission is to promote and protect the health of all residents in Grey-Bruce, has created this webpage to provide information on how extreme weather, including extreme cold or extreme heat, can affect your health and strategies to stay safe.

This webpage also includes a list of warming/cooling centres that are available in Grey-Bruce for those looking for shelter or relief from potentially dangerous outdoor temperatures.

Public Health issues media releases and uses its website and social media channels to alert community partners, the media, and residents of extreme cold or heat advisories issued by Environment & Climate Change Canada.

Impacts of Extreme Heat/Extreme Cold

The potential health impacts of extreme heat and extremely cold temperatures can be serious and, in some cases, life-threatening.

Some individuals are at a higher risk of experiencing these serious health impacts.

This includes infants and seniors, individuals affected by health inequities, and people experiencing homelessness.

Others who may be disproportionally impacted by the extreme heat or extreme cold:

  • People living in substandard housing or homes with inadequate insulation;
  • People with disabilities, pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart issues, or who are taking certain medications, such as beta-blockers;
  • Newcomers to Canada; and
  • Outdoor workers or sports/outdoor enthusiasts who spend prolonged periods outside.


There are numerous public buildings in Grey-Bruce that municipalities designate as warming/cooling centres.

Many are public buildings that can be accessed, regardless of the temperature, during regular business hours. Some are available outside of normal operating hours when the area is experiencing extreme cold or heat. It’s always a good idea to check with your municipality before heading to one of these warming/cooling centres to ensure they are open.

211 maintains an updated list of warming/cooling centres in Grey-Bruce. Link to Grey County warming/cooling centres. Link to Bruce County warming/cooling centres.

Municipal facilities available during regular business hours as warming/cooling centres include:


  • Owen Sound:
  • Blue Mountains:
    • Beaver Valley Community Centre, 58 Alfred St. W, Thornbury (also serves as the town evacuation centre in case of emergency);
    • Blue Mountains Town Hall, 32 Mill St., Thornbury.
  • Grey Highlands:
    • Flesherton Library, 101 Highland Dr., Flesherton;
    • Kimberley Public Library, 235309 Grey Rd. 13, Kimberley;
    • Markdale Library – Walter Harris Memorial Branch, 75 Walker St., Markdale.

  • Hanover:
    • P and H Centre, 269 7th Ave.;
    • Hanover Civic Centre, 341 10th St.
  • Meaford:
    • Meaford Public Library, 11 Sykes St. N.;
    • Meaford & St. Vincent Community Centre, 151 Collingwood St.;
    • Meaford Hall, 12 Nelson St. E. (Advised to call; open some evening and weekend hours as well).
  • West Grey:
    • West Grey Public Library, Durham Branch, 453 Garafraxa St. S.;
    • West Grey Public Library, Ayton Branch, 610 Alfred St., Ayton;
    • West Grey Public Library, Neustadt Branch, 511 Mill St.
    • The following facilities may also be available as warming/cooling centres. Hours are irregular, so phone first to confirm:
      • Durham Community Centre, 451 Sadler St. W., Durham (519-369-5771);
      • Neustadt Arena & Community Hall, 183 Enoch St., Neustadt (519-665-7850);
      • Ayton Arena Complex, 759 Arthur St., Ayton (519-665-7850).

  • Southgate:
    • Ruth Hargrave Memorial Library, 80 Proton St. N., Dundalk.
    • Dundalk Arena and Community Centre, 550 Main St. E. (Advised to call ahead);
    • Egremont Optimist Club, 392137 Grey County Rd. 109, Holstein (Advised to call ahead);


  • Kincardine:

  • Northern Bruce Peninsula:

  • Saugeen Shores:
  • Port Elgin Library, 708 Goderich St., Port Elgin;
  • Southampton Library, 215 High St., Southampton;
  • The Plex, 600 Tomlinson Dr., Port Elgin.
    • Saugeen Shores will open The Southhampton Coliseum, 6 Albert St. S., during extreme heat or cold alerts. Notification of opening can be found at www.saugeenshores.ca or social media.

  • South Bruce Peninsula:
    • Sauble Beach Library, 27 Community Centre Dr., Sauble Beach;
    • Wiarton Library, 578 Brown St., Wiarton.
      • South Bruce Peninsula will open the Sauble Beach Community Centre, 30 Community Centre Dr., Sauble Beach, and the Wiarton & District Community Centre and Arena, 526 Taylor St., Wiarton, during extreme heat or cold alerts. Notification of opening can be found at www.southbrucepeninsula.com or on social media.


Grey County

Grey County advises residents in need of emergency shelter to call 211. Additional information on Grey County’s Short-Term Shelter Program is available at this link.

Safe ‘n Sound, located at 310 8th St. E., in Owen Sound, offers a drop-in centre, which is open Mondays to Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

These hours differ under the following circumstances:

  • Between Nov. 1 and March 31 of each year, Safe ‘n Sound is also open weekday evenings from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.;
  • During extreme cold weather conditions, Safe ‘n Sound’s drop-in centre remains open until midnight.

M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre in Owen Sound operates an Indigenous Supportive Housing Program. More information is available at this link.

Bruce County

Anyone who is experiencing homelessness or is at risk of homelessness in Bruce County can contact YMCA Housing Services to connect with an outreach worker. The worker will assist in connecting people to a safe place to stay for the night and work with them to create an action plan to find and maintain long-term, sustainable housing.

YMCA Housing Services

519-371-9222 ext. 5 or housing@osgb.ymca.ca

Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Outside of these hours, residents can call 211 to be referred to the most appropriate supports.


Everyone – regardless of age, physical condition, or background – is at risk of developing a heat-related illness during an extreme heat event.

The following are potential heat illnesses and the symptoms of each.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke, which is the most serious heat-related illness, happens when the body can no longer control its temperature. During heat stroke, the body’s temperature can rise to 40 degrees C or more within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death if the person doesn’t receive emergency medical treatment.

Symptoms: Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, seizures, very high body temperature.

Heat exhaustion

The body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating.

Symptoms: headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, heavy sweating, elevated body temperature, and decreased urine output.

Heat fainting

Caused by the loss of body fluids through sweating and lowered blood pressure due to pooling of blood in the legs.

Symptoms: temporary dizziness and fainting resulting from an insufficient flow of blood to the brain while a person is standing.

Heat cramps

Caused by a salt imbalance resulting from a failure to replace salt lost through excessive sweating.

Symptoms: sharp muscle pains.

Heat rash

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather.

Symptoms: Red clusters of pimples or small blisters can develop. They usually appear on the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.

Heat edema

Heat-induced swelling frequently noticeable in the ankles, feet, and hands, and most often seen in people who are not regularly exposed to heat.



Heat Stress Related Illness | NIOSH | CDC

Communicating the Health Risks of Extreme Heat Events - Canada.ca




The two most common outdoor cold-weather health risks are frostbite/frostnip and hypothermia.

Frostbite & Frostnip

Frostbite occurs when a person’s skin and other tissues freeze and die because blood and oxygen can no longer circulate. Frostbite generally occurs in body parts furthest from the heart, such as the nose, ears, hands and feet.

Mild frostbite (frostnip) makes your skin look yellowish or white, but it is still soft to the touch. Your skin might turn red during the warming process, but normal colour returns once the area is warmed.

Severe frostbite can cause permanent damage to body tissue if it is not treated immediately. Nerve damage occurs and frostbitten skin becomes discoloured and turns black. After some time, nerve damage becomes so severe that you will lose feeling in the affected area and blisters will occur. If the skin is broken and becomes infected, gangrene can set in, which can result in the loss of limbs.

Treating Frostbite

Mild frostbite (frostnip) can be treated in two ways:

  • Passive warming - move to a warm room, wrap yourself in blankets or reheat your body by skin-to-skin contact with another person.
  • Active warming - this can be done along with passive warming. Add heat directly to the frostbitten area. The idea is to thaw the injured skin as quickly as possible without burning yourself. Thawing frostbitten skin is very painful, so the injured skin should be placed in water that is just above body temperature. Do not rub, massage or shake the injured skin because that can cause more damage.

Severe frostbite requires immediate medical attention. While you are waiting for help to arrive, begin treating it with passive and active warming.

Source: Health Canada.


Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can generate it, leading to a core body temperature that is too low (less than 35 degrees C) for regular functioning of the body. Hypothermia affects brain and muscle functions, making it difficult for a person to think clearly or move well.

There are three stages of hypothermia:

Stage 1 - When your body temperature drops by one or two degrees C, you start shivering, get goosebumps on your skin, and your hands become numb. Your breath can become quick and shallow, and you may feel tired and/or sick to your stomach. You may also experience a warm sensation, which means your body is entering Stage 2 of hypothermia.

Stage 2 - Your body temperature has dropped by two to four degrees C and your shivering is strong. Muscles are uncoordinated and movements are slow and laboured. You may suffer mild confusion, become pale, and your lips, ears, fingers, and toes may turn blue.

Stage 3 - If your body temperature drops below 32 degrees C, the shivering will stop, but you'll have trouble speaking, thinking, and walking. You may even develop amnesia. When your body temperature drops below 30 degrees C, exposed skin becomes blue and puffy, it will be hard to move your muscles and your behaviour becomes irrational. Your heart may be beating quickly, but your pulse and breathing will decrease. At this stage, you are at risk of dying.

Treating Hypothermia

Severe cases of hypothermia (such as stages 2 and 3) require immediate medical attention. Call 911.

The following treatment options should be followed for Stage 1 hypothermia, or while waiting for help to arrive for more severe hypothermia:

  • find shelter
  • keep your muscles moving
  • dry and (gradually) warm your body
  • wrap yourself in blankets/dry clothing or reheat your body by skin-to-skin contact with another person
  • drink warm, sweet liquids
  • don't fight shivering, this is one of the ways your body increases its core temperature
  • if the person is unconscious, lay them down and avoid shaking them or handling them roughly as they may have an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).

Sources: Health Canada & Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.



As part of our mission to promote and protect the health of Grey-Bruce residents, Grey Bruce Public Health monitors local weather advisories from Environment & Climate Change Canada.

Environment & Climate Change Canada issues Extreme Cold Warnings for southwestern Ontario communities, including Grey-Bruce, when the temperature or wind chill is expected to reach -30 degrees C for at least two hours.

Environment & Climate Change Canada issues Heat Warnings for southern Ontario, including Grey-Bruce, when:

  • two or more consecutive days of daytime maximum temperatures are expected to reach 31 degrees C or warmer and nighttime minimum temperatures are expected to fall to 20 degrees C or warmer; or
  • two or more consecutive days of humidex values are expected to reach 40 or higher.

When an Extreme Cold Warning or Heat Warning is issued by Environment & Climate Change Canada, Grey Bruce Public Health will issue a media release containing information on the warning, the risks associated with the extreme temperatures, how people can protect themselves and others from the extreme weather, and, if possible, available warming/cooling centres available in the community.

Public Health will also alert the public about the warning via its website and social media channels. Throughout the year, Public Health will also post general information on its website and social media channels about protecting yourself from the sun, cold, heat, etc.



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