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How to Prepare for Summer Windstorms in Maryland

Windstorms not only cause a great deal of damage, but they can also be life threatening. Here’s insight into how to protect your home and family from summer windstorms.

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In our article Top 20 Windiest and Stormiest Cities and Towns in Maryland the top ranked windiest city in 2020 was Olney with winds at 75 mph, followed by Middlebrook, Pomfret, and Riva with 70 mph winds.

Such extremely high winds cause downed trees, snapped power line poles, lost roofs, as well as blown in windows and garage doors. That means preparation for windstorms and other severe weather is time well spent.

We’ve developed checklists to help you get ready for storms, guide your actions during a storm, as well as what to do after the storm.

Windstorm Preparation

Preparation for a windstorm needs to happen throughout the year during regular home maintenance. We’ve provided a Spring Maintenance Checklist and Fall Maintenance Tips to guide your routine maintenance activities. 

Here’s a list of the key maintenance tasks when preparing for windstorms as well as things to do just before the storm hits.

  • Trimming trees. This is a critical spring and fall maintenance activity. Windstorms can bring down dead branches sending them into your home through a window or door as well as damaging the roof and siding. Dead trees can also be toppled over onto your home. 
  • Maintaining your roof. Loose or missing shingles allow rain to enter your roof, rotting the wood, and setting things up for serious damage. Wind can rip up any loose shingles and send them flying. Repair or replace your roof if needed.
  • Cleaning out gutters and downspouts. Along with maintaining your roof, clear the gutters, downspouts, and drainage systems on a regular basis. This will prevent heavy rains falling directly off the roof and onto your foundation, causing basement or crawl space flooding.
  • Storing backup fuel. Keep propane tanks on hand for cooking on the grill when the power is lost. In addition, a chain saw comes in very handy in removing downed trees and limbs. But only if you have sufficient gasoline to keep it running.
  • Purchasing an emergency generator. A small propane or gasoline powered generator can provide sufficient electrical power to keep refrigerators and other items running during a power outage. Make sure you test the system so that you know it works and have the needed extension cords, etc.
  • Responding to power loss. An emergency generator is the perfect way to fill the gap during a power loss. It’s also wise to disconnect power at the circuit breaker or fuse box to avoid power surges as electrical power comes back online.
  • Creating an emergency plan. Write down your family’s emergency plan. Add key items from work and school emergency plans. Also include what to do if you’re away from home when a storm hits. That should include meeting places after a storm.
  • Securing outdoor furniture. Wind can pick up anything outdoors and propel it at high speed into and onto your home. Secure lawn furniture, picnic tables, etc. to prevent them from causing damage to your home and nearby buildings.
  • Moving your vehicles. Park your vehicles in the garage to protect them from falling trees and branches as well as windborne debris. In case power is lost, make sure you know how to manually open the garage door.
  • Keeping up on the storm’s progress. Use a battery powered radio and add a weather app to your phone to keep up with the news. A weather app can also provide alerts and storm warnings to get you started on activating your family emergency plan.
  • Building an emergency shelter. Designate an area in your home. It could be a part of your basement or a first floor interior room away from windows. It needs to provide enough space for your family. Stock it up beforehand with an emergency supply kit.

Emergency Supply Kit

Take the time to stock your home shelter with an emergency supply kit. Here are our recommendations.

  • Three days’ supply of non-perishable food for the family and any pets
  • Well stocked first-aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight and lots of batteries
  • Battery-powered cell phone charger
  • Sleeping bags and pillows
  • Blankets
  • Medications and prescription drugs
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Extra cash
  • Games and activities to help keep your family occupied

It’s a good idea to have a substantially similar kit ready to go on the road in case you need to evacuate your home. You may also need to add clothing and personal hygiene items.

Riding Out a Windstorm

Any steps you can take in preparation will make you and your family’s time during and after the storm easier. Here are the keys to riding out the storm in safety.

  • Go to your emergency shelter. Gather your family along with your emergency kit in your home’s emergency shelter. 
  • If you’re on the road, seek shelter. Find a safe place to park. Do not drive during a windstorm. Underground parking garages are perfect in these situations. 
  • Keep a close eye on the situation. Whether you’re at home in your emergency shelter or parking in a safe place, only venture outside when you’re confident the storm has passed. Monitor the situation with a radio or via a smartphone weather app. 

What to Do After a Windstorm

There can still be considerable danger to you and your family even after the storm has passed. Here are the key items to watch.

  • Watch for downed power lines. Don’t go near downed electrical lines. Report them at once to your utility company. They can be life-threatening shock hazards.
  • Beware of natural gas leaks. If you smell gas, leave your home at once and call the gas company. Wind along with flying debris can crack or break gas lines.
  • Keep refrigerator doors closed. Even though electrical power may be lost, keeping refrigerator doors closed can keep food frozen for up to two days. This can come in very handy if you’re without power for a lengthy time.
  • Start your emergency generator. If you purchased an electrical generator as part of your preparation, it’s time to fire it up to power your refrigerator and freezer. Also use it to charge your phone so you can keep in touch with weather developments and family members who are away from home.
  • Disconnect main electrical power. If you have lost power, it’s best to disconnect the main circuit breaker to your home. This prevents power surges or intermittent power from damaging home appliances, computers, etc.
  • Record any damage to your home. Inspect the roof, siding, windows, doors, and your yard. Take photos of the damage. Evacuate if your home has any structural damage.
  • Notify your insurance company. If you discover damage, get in contact with your insurance company to begin the claims process. Make sure you record all the damage you can find.

Windstorms in Our Hometowns

In our article on Windiest Cities and Towns in Maryland we highlighted the winds in our office hometowns.

Baltimore’s big wind event was a thunderstorm on July 6, 2020, that damaged part of the roof on the helicopter hangar at Martin State Regional Airport with 65 mph winds recorded.

Manassas in the Washington, D.C. metro area, experienced 50 mph winds during a thunderstorm on June 4, 2020. 

We’re certainly hopeful that high winds won’t damage your home or its foundation. Even so, rainwater driven by wind can find its way into your basement or crawl space if there are any cracks or if the water accumulates around your home.

We recommend that you consult the professionals at JES Foundation Repair for a free inspection and repair estimate to identify any issues with your basement or crawl space that need attention in preparation for heavy winds and storms.