Prepare your home for hurricane season

Replacing your garage door, roof, trimming trees, and getting flood insurance are all things you can do to protect your home
Replacing your garage door roof, trimming trees, and getting flood insurance are all things you can do to protect your home.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 4:41 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Mid-September is the peak of the Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane season.

There are things you can do right now to prepare your house and yard for a storm before it arrives.

Dr. Ian Giammanco works at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“IBHS is a pretty neat place to work. We get to crash test homes and businesses ... against severe weather,” explained Giammanco.

The tests they run inform science-backed tips to fortify your home.

“Your garage door is a bad weak spot in a home. It can fail. All that wind and water come rushing in. The wind starts pushing up and out on your home and then can cause damage that otherwise wouldn’t have happened had that garage door not failed,” Giammanco said.

He recommends if you’re replacing your garage door, you should get one rated for 130 mph winds or greater.

When it’s time to replace your roof, consider upgrading it too.

“It’s a great chance to go to our fortified roof standard, which actually seals the plywood seams in the deck. So when your shingles fail in a hurricane, water’s not going to come in. There’s also enhanced nails that helps keep the structural decking intact a bit better,” he described.

Now is a good time to trim any trees that may pose a risk.

“Look for trees that may be overhanging your roof. Wind can damage trees and winds that wouldn’t normally damage our home. Tree limb falls on your roof, damages your shingle. What happens next? The water comes in. So take a look for that. Trim your trees,” said Giammanco.

Speaking of trimming trees, Joel Koci knows all about trees.

He’s an urban forestry expert at Virginia State University.

Koci points out tropical systems pose a unique risk to our trees because hurricane winds often blow from the east or southeast, a different direction than our usual westerly winds in Virginia.

“The problem with most hurricanes is that the tree has developed over time based on certain angles and prevailing wind directions. Most hurricanes come from an opposite direction … that makes the tree more susceptible to the breakage,” said Koci.

Strong winds can also blow around outdoor items – so bring them inside if a storm is headed our way.

“With hurricanes, we have that time to prep. Our forecasts are so good these days. We can take that time to get all those loose things picked up, put away, secured so they don’t become projectiles, either damaging our house or our neighbors,” said Giammanco.

Scientists at IBHS discovered closing interior doors in your house reduces the risk of damage.

“We saw it in some tests where when we shut all the interior doors of one of our test homes, it actually reduced the pressure in several other rooms of the house, of the loads on the roof,” explained Giammanco.

In central Virginia, it’s often not the wind, but the water that poses the greatest threat.

Clean gutters and storm drains before a storm arrives, especially in Autumn, when leaves clog them up.

Flood insurance is separate from your homeowner’s policy, so make sure you are covered.

“Most places it’s fairly affordable if you’re not in a direct flood zone. So we like to say anywhere it rains, it can flood. So it’s always a good idea to have it,” explained Giammanco.

Finally, keep a record of any valuables in your home.

“One of the things you might not think about is just inventorying all your belongings, all the electronics, your keepsakes, all that kind of stuff stored on your phone, stored in the cloud,” he said.

Getting your home and yard ready before a storm strikes will save you time and grief.