In our article Top 20 Windiest and Stormiest Cities and Towns in Virginia you would have read with some concern that the top ranked city, Mountain Lake, experienced 73 mph winds.
Those ferocious winds bring about significant property damage including downed trees, blown in windows and doors, as well as downed power lines and the resultant loss of electrical power. In the storm at Mountain Lake, a gust of 84 mph was recorded along with large hail.
Windstorms not only wreak havoc on trees, power lines, and homes, but they can kill. Given that, preparation is critical to protect your family and your property.
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 Checklist
While there are a few things you’ll need to do in the hours prior to a windstorm arriving, proper preparation needs to happen throughout the year. Here’s our list of items to consider.
- Trim trees. Trim trees and shrubs in the spring and fall. Windstorms can bring down any dead branches sending them into your home through a window or door. Dead trees can also be toppled over onto your home or any outbuildings.
- Maintain your roof. Loose or missing shingles allow rain to enter your roof, rotting the wood, and setting things up for serious damage. Repair or replace your roof if needed.
- Cleanout gutters, downspouts, and drainage systems. Along with maintaining your roof, every spring and fall clear the gutters, downspouts, and drainage systems. This will prevent heavy rains falling directly off the roof and onto your foundation, causing basement or crawl space flooding.
- Keep backup fuel. Cooking meals during a power loss can be a real challenge. Keep extra propane tanks on hand for your grill. In addition, a chain saw could come in very handy in removing downed trees and limbs. But only if you have sufficient gasoline to keep it running.
- Purchase an emergency generator. A small gasoline and/or propane powered generator can provide sufficient electrical power to keep refrigerators and a few lights running during a power outage. Make sure you test the system so that you know it works and have the needed extension cords, etc.
- Respond to power loss. Backup fuel as well as an emergency generator are the perfect way to respond to 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.
- Create an emergency plan. Document your family’s emergency plan. Integrate work and school emergency plans into your family plans. Also include what to do if you’re away from home when a storm hits. That could include meeting places after a storm as well as guidance on what to do prior, during, and after a storm.
- Secure outdoor furniture and other items that can become airborne. 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 your neighbors’ homes.
- Move your vehicles. Park them in the garage to protect from windblown debris including falling trees and branches. Make sure you know how to manually open the garage door in case power is lost.
- Keep up on the storm’s progress. Add a weather app to your phone and use a battery powered radio to keep up with the news. A weather app can also provide alerts and storm warnings to help keep you on top of changing conditions.
- Build a family emergency shelter. Designate an area in your home. It could be a first floor interior room away from windows or a part of your basement. It needs to provide enough space for your family. Also stock it up beforehand with an emergency supply kit.
Emergency Supply Kit
An emergency shelter will be essential during any storms. Take the time to stock it with an emergency supply kit. Here are our recommendations on what to add to your kit.
- 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
- 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 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.
What to Do During a Windstorm
Any steps you can take in preparation will make your 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 area.
- 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 radio or via a 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.
- 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 even break gas lines.
- 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.
- Keep refrigerator doors closed. Even though electrical power may be lost, keeping refrigerator doors closed can keep food frozen for up to two days.
- Start your emergency generator. If you added an electrical generator as part of your preparation, 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.
- Record the 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 Windiest Cities and Towns in Virginia we highlighted what wind can do across the state.
We also looked a little bit closer into the locations in Virginia where we have offices.
Virginia Beach saw thunderstorm winds of 50 mph on July 28, 2020. Severe storms hit central and eastern Virginia, causing quite a bit of damage with snapped and uprooted trees.
Richmond is in Henrico County. The 50 mph winds there happened during a thunderstorm on June 22, 2020, with downed trees and the resulting damage.
Roanoke had 52 mph winds during a thunderstorm on Jan. 11, 2020. Gusts of 60 mph brought down lots of trees and damaged property.
Fifty mph winds on July 5, 2020, swept through Appomattox, downing trees along the way.
In Charleston, WV, winds hit 30-40 mph on Jan. 11, 2020, causing a tree to fall on a side-by-side ATV, killing a 14-year-old boy and injuring his father and sister.
You can tell that high winds can not only cause serious damage but can kill.
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.