When the last of the brightly colored leaves cling tightly to otherwise bare trees, you know that winter is coming. It’s a sad state of affairs, but happens every year, just like clockwork. The
Prepare Your Home For Spring Severe Weather
Dated: April 27 2019
The flowers are blooming, leaves are returning to trees, and the birds are singing. Yep, it’s springtime in Texas! Unfortunately, there is a downsize to this beautiful spring weather.
As the seasons change in Texas from cold to warm, and then again from warm to cool in the fall, conditions are ideal for some intense thunderstorms. These storms are known to bring large hail, high winds, and even tornadoes to the area, which can do a great deal of damage to Texas homes and vehicles. But don’t panic! According to the National Safety Council, the rate of weather-related injuries or deaths has declined 22% over the previous 5 years as of 2017, despite an increased number of severe storms. Proper preparation and improved prediction are big factors in that decline.
There are many steps you can take to help reduce the risk of damage to your property and protect your family storm season. The first step is to prepare and make a plan NOW before a storm is coming. Clean out your garage so that there’s room to park cars inside. Locate the best area in your home to take cover, if a storm hits, and stock up on supplies. Ideally a basement or underground storm cellar would be the best shelters during a tornado. However, basements are uncommon in Texas due to clay soils, and not every home has a storm cellar. Other good storm shelter areas would small rooms located as close to the center of your home as possible, on the ground floor, and away from any windows, doors, or exterior walls. Rooms like bathrooms, closets, or laundry rooms in the middle of your home work best. If you have a closet or room that you plan to use as your designated storm shelter, there are ways to reinforce the walls for further protection. See the Federal Emergency Management Agency (aka FEMA)’s website www.ready.gov for more information on the best materials and methods to use. There are also storm shelters that can be installed inside your home or garage, and FEMA has a grant program you can apply for to help off-set the cost of doing this.
Pack a “go” bag of supplies that includes a weather radio, flashlights, batteries, non-perishable food items (don’t forget a spare can-opener if you’re packing canned goods), pet food, first aid kit, portable cell phone chargers, and water to keep in or near your storm shelter. Some other items to consider keeping in your storm shelter, if space allows, would be thick-soled shoes for each family member, helmets, gloves, a few basic tools, and a blanket or 2. Update batteries regularly to ensure you’re never stranded without a charge. Texas has a tax-free holiday weekend this weekend (April 27-29 for 2019) for many of these and other emergency preparedness items.
Make a plan with your family. Identify your location and talk about when to use it, what to do if a storm does damage the home, who to contact afterward, etc. Practice getting everyone into the shelter, including pets, and make sure everyone fits. Discuss where you would go or meet afterward in the event anyone is separated. Designate emergency contacts that you’d call (or text) after a damaging storm. Also, if you have more cars than garage space, scout out local alternative parking areas to consider, if there’s time to move the car before a hail storm hits. Remember that most parking garages are on private property belonging to the businesses or shopping centers they serve, so inquire with the business or property management company before leaving a vehicle in their garage to avoid towing. Some businesses have policies allowing people to park there when severe weather is forecasted, and others will tow unauthorized vehicles. Also discuss what to do should a storm hit when you’re not at home. Most schools and large companies have plans for severe weather, but know what to do if you’re caught driving from one to another, or happen to be at a store or event. Also take time before a storm comes to move patio furniture and other items on porches or in your yard that could cause damage during periods of high wind.
Watch the weather. Knowing the forecast ahead of time can help you plan your activities in a way that minimizes your risk of being stuck outside of your home during severe weather. While you wouldn’t play hooky from work or school for every potential storm, should a high-risk weather event be predicted, you might want to make other plans for that time period. Recently in North Texas a storm was predicted that had a high chance of dropping large hail on the area. Many schools and businesses closed early or cancelled all evening activities, giving people plenty of time to prepare. Local news media outlet weather broadcasts and weather cell phone apps are good for predicting storms. Most offer voluntary alerts or notifications of potential weather threats. Cities and counties often offer some sort of phone call alert as well, so sign up for these. Follow your local meteorologists on social media for updates. Storm chaser blogs are some other great resources for weather information. If they plan to be in your area during a forecasted storm, it’s probably a good idea to pay attention. They seek out severe weather, so they tend to go where to the areas most likely to be impacted.
Finally, know what to do after a storm. If your home is hit and sustains damage, it’s best to get out as soon as possible, but only after the storm threat has passed. Continue listening to weather radios to determine when you can begin working your way out to safety. If you’re trapped, there’s a good chance there will be dust and particles in the air, so cover your mouth and nose before yelling for help. Also bang on pipes or walls to make loud noises that will get the attention of first responders. Once you’re out, stay on alert for downed power lines and loose debris that could fall out of trees or off of nearby buildings. Avoid any damaged buildings until they’re declared structurally secure, and seek a safe shelter as soon as possible. Remember that a damaging storm is likely to knock over cell phone towers and phone lines, so you may be unable to make calls. Try texting instead, and only attempt to contact your designated emergency contacts to avoid draining your cell phone’s battery before you have a chance to recharge.
As mentioned above, www.ready.gov is a great resource for emergency preparedness information on storms and other high-impact safety threats. There are other suggestions for further home protection steps you can take as well, like installing storm shutters. We hope you never actually need them, of course, but storms are a part of life that aren’t going away.
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