Severe weather is only getting worse, so we need to be ready.
- Secure and remove anything that could damage your home in strong winds, including overhanging branches and patio furniture.
- Prepare for flooding, including clearing gutters and sandbagging when necessary.
- Make sure your insurance is up-to-date. A lapsed policy can be expensive!
Experts agree that as climate change worsens, so will our weather. And it’s not just headline-worthy hurricanes we have to worry about. Severe storms can also bring tornadoes, hail, and increasingly, heavy flooding. Winter storms are also expected to worsen, with freezing temperatures, power outages, and whiteouts.
While you can’t stop severe storms from damaging your home, there are things you can do to (hopefully) lessen the impact. Here are a few important ways to prepare your home for severe storms.
Trim overhanging or dead trees and branches
A dead tree in your yard or branches overhanging your roof can cause all sorts of problems if they’re brought down in a storm. While most homeowners insurance will cover tree damage, it could be weeks before your roof — or wall, or fence, etc. — is fixed if companies are busy fixing everyone’s tree damage. Better to nip that problem in the bud.
Make sure to have a professional tree service cut back any troublesome tree branches that could land on your home or vehicles. (Tree removal is not a DIY type of situation!)
Secure loose items and outdoor furniture
It takes surprisingly little wind to pick up your fancy patio set and fling it three houses down — or, worse, through your patio doors. Secure outdoor furniture to something sturdy, or bring it into your garage.
Don’t just focus on the big things, however; smaller items can also wreak havoc (a 20 lb. ceramic planter can do plenty of damage!). Anything that can’t be easily secured should be moved under cover where it won’t be picked up by high winds.
Clear gutters and downspouts
If there’s one thing most storms have in common, it’s lots and lots of water. And that water has to go somewhere; letting it pool on your roof is just asking for trouble. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris that could stop the water from flowing properly.
While you’re up there, double-check that your gutters are properly secured to your house and won’t be easily ripped off in a strong gust of wind.
Get to know your gas, water, and electric systems
Severe weather has a habit of interfering with our critical power and water systems. Since help may not be available right away, it’s important to know how to shut off — and turn back on — key systems.
If you have gas lines running to your home, make sure you know where your gas shutoff valve is located. Similarly, know how to shut down the water coming into your home in case your pipes are damaged.
Even in milder storms, lightning can cause power surges. Be familiar with where your electrical breaker panel is located in case you need to flip the switches to get your power back on after a storm.
Sandbag flood-prone areas
If your home is in a low-lying area, you’re probably already used to dealing with storm-related flooding. But more and more people are becoming at risk of severe flooding as the climate worsens.
Since you can’t raise your home up, the next best thing may be to barricade it as best you can, typically with sand bags. Many cities will offer them for free to residents before big storms. But you may need to keep them on hand year-round if you have problems with flooding even during smaller storms.
Have an up-to-date emergency kit
Preparing your home for storms also includes preparing your family for storms. Keeping an up-to-date emergency kit in a secure location can make all the difference during and after a severe storm.
A basic home emergency kit should include:
- First-aid kit
- Battery-operated or hank-crank radio
- Flash lights
- Potable water
- Non-perishable food & manual can opener
- Pet supplies (food, medicines, paperwork)
- Cash (in case power/ATMs aren’t working)
- Plastic sheeting and/or tarps
- Duct tape
- Trash bags
- Cell phone with charger
Check your homeowners or renters insurance
Weathering a severe storm is bad enough without having to deal with a lapsed homeowners insurance policy when the skies clear. Make sure to double-check that your homeowners or renters insurance policies are up to date.
Severe weather is here to stay
No matter where you live, your home is at risk of some type of severe storm, be it summer hurricanes or winter blizzards. Being prepared can go a long way towards minimizing the damage to your home — and to your savings account — when severe weather hits.
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