In our article Top Windiest and Stormiest Cities and Towns in Alabama, you would have read that we have 70 to 80 days a year with thunder across the Gulf Coast. Then, not content with Tornado Alley, we have our own Dixie Alley, along with two tornado seasons, spring and late in the year.
Given that, it’s clear that we can count on windstorms in our state. This should drive our full effort to protect our homes and our families. Preparation is an essential part of that protection.
We’ve developed three checklists to help you: windstorm preparation, steps to take during a windstorm, and after a windstorm. Plus, we’ve provided a list to guide your efforts in preparing an emergency supply kit.
Preparing for Windstorms
Where our homes are concerned, the best preparation is routine maintenance that’s conducted year-round. In addition to that listing, we’ve provided critical actions to take immediately before a windstorm.
- Provide regular tree trimming. Conduct regular tree and shrub trimming in the spring and fall. Remove any trees or branches that threaten your home should they come down in a windstorm.
- Conduct ongoing roof maintenance. Repair any loose or missing shingles. The wind can readily rip up shingles and allow rain onto the wood or into the attic.
- Have backup fuel on hand. Keep extra propane tanks on hand for your grill, which will come in very handy for cooking meals if power is lost. Gasoline for chainsaws can also be useful in clearing downed trees and limbs.
- Add an emergency generator. A small gas or propane-powered generator can keep refrigerators and radios running as well as charging cell phones. Have suitable extension cords on hand. Never run the generator inside your home. It’s also a good idea to invest in a battery backup sump pump to help keep your basement or crawl space dry in the event of a power outage.
- Develop an emergency plan. Document and share with your family what to do if they are caught away from home when a storm hits. Review any workplace and school plans so you know what to expect. Integrate those plans with your own.
- Disconnect electricity from your home when power is out. Be ready to turn off the power to your home at the circuit breaker or fuse box. Power surges when electricity is being restored can cause damage. Never connect your emergency generator to your home’s electrical system. Instead, connect appliances directly to the generator.
- Remove or secure outdoor furniture. Winds can pick up and propel anything that isn’t secured to your home or roof. Before a storm, secure picnic tables, patio umbrellas, lawn furniture, and anything else that could become airborne.
- Move your vehicles into the garage. While most windstorms won’t move your car, the windblown debris can do considerable damage. Get them out of harm’s way and into the garage. In case power is lost, make sure you know how to open the garage door manually.
- Build a family emergency shelter. While a dedicated storm cellar would be nice, you can build a suitable shelter in your basement or in a first-floor interior room away from windows. Stock it with an emergency supply kit.
- Keep an eye on the storm’s progress. Use a cell phone weather app or battery-powered radio to keep up with the storm. A weather app can also provide storm warnings that can alert you at any time of day or night to take shelter.
Creating an Emergency Supply Kit
An emergency shelter is essential during a storm. The shelter needs to be stocked with an emergency supply kit. This kit will also go a long way toward helping you feel more secure once you head to your shelter.
Here are our recommendations on what to put in your kit.
- At least three days’ supply of non-perishable food for the family and any pets
- First aid kit
- Bottled water
- Battery-powered radio
- Candles and matches or lighter
- Flashlight and lots of batteries
- Battery-powered cell phone charger
- Sleeping bags and pillows
- Blankets and pillows
- Medications and prescription drugs
- Multi-purpose tool
- Extra cash
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
With sound preparation, as outlined above, you should be all set for any windstorms. Here are the key elements for safely riding out the storm.
- Get everyone to your emergency shelter. Gather your family along with any items needed to bolster your emergency supply kit. If some members are away from home, contact them to ensure they have found or are seeking shelter elsewhere.
- If you’re on the road, seek shelter at once. Do not drive during the storm. Find shelter. An underground parking garage is perfect. But get off the road and find shelter before the storm hits.
- Monitor the storm’s progress. Monitor a weather app or radio to keep up with the storm’s development. Do not leave your shelter until you’re absolutely sure the storm has passed.
What to Do After a Windstorm
There can still be considerable danger to you and your family even after a storm. Here are the key items to watch.
- Family check-in. If members of your family were caught on the road or couldn’t make it home in time, conduct a check-in via cell phone. Make sure everyone is accounted for and safe.
- Natural gas leaks. High winds can crack or break natural gas pipes. If you smell gas, leave the area immediately and notify the gas company.
- Downed power lines. Don’t go near downed power lines. They typically carry very high voltages that can kill. Report them to your utility company.
- Food supply. Ideally, you have plenty of food in your emergency supply. You can also keep the door of your refrigerator closed, which will keep food frozen for up to two days even without power.
- Emergency generator. Start your emergency generator and use it to power the refrigerator, freezer, computers, and keep your cell phone charged. Make sure the generator remains outdoors at all times. Its exhaust fumes can be deadly.
- Damage documentation. Carefully inspect the exterior of your home for damage incurred during the storm. Take photos and notes covering in detail what you find.
- Insurance company notification. Contact your insurance company to report any damage and to initiate the claims process.
Windstorms in Our Hometowns
In our article on Windiest Cities in Alabama, we reviewed the storm winds for the locations in Alabama where we have offices.
Birmingham, located in Shelby and Jefferson Counties, experienced 65-mph thunderstorm winds on April 12, 2020. That storm, which extended across a broad area, had tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding. Damage came from trees falling on homes along with roof losses.
Mobile is in Mobile County, which saw 61-mph winds on Dauphin Island during an April 9, 2020, thunderstorm.
Huntsville saw a peak wind of 54 mph at the Madison County Jetport on Dec. 16, 2019, as the result of a thunderstorm that produced at least six tornadoes.
You can tell that high winds can cause serious damage here in Alabama.
We’re hopeful that high winds won’t damage your home’s 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 AFS Foundation and Waterproofing Specialists for a free inspection and repair estimate to identify any issues with your foundation, basement, or crawl space that need attention in preparation for windstorms.
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