In our article Top Windiest and Stormiest Cities and Towns in Tennessee, you would have read that we have 50 days of thunderstorms every year. Not only that, but we also have an average of 15 tornadoes every year.
Given those averages, it’s clear that we can certainly count on windstorms in our state. This also means we should take every precaution we can in preparation for these storms to protect our families and our homes.
To help with that effort, we’ve developed three checklists: windstorm preparation, what to do during a windstorm, and steps to take after a windstorm. Plus, we’ve provided a list to guide your efforts in preparing an emergency supply kit.
Where your home and property are concerned, conducting routine maintenance is the starting point. We’ve listed those items along with the critical steps you need to take immediately prior to a windstorm sweeping into your area.
- Tree trimming. Remove trees and branches that pose a threat to your home and outbuildings. High winds can bring down branches and topple trees. Do this in the spring and fall every year.
- Roof maintenance. Review your roof on a regular basis and replace any loose or missing shingles. Wind can easily tear them off exposing your roof and attic to rain.
- Backup fuel. It’s a good idea to keep extra propane tanks on hand for your grill. It can be used to cook meals should you lose power. Gasoline for chainsaws can be important in clearing any downed trees or branches.
- Emergency plan. Document your action plan for when a storm hits. Share it with your family. It’s also wise to review workplace and school emergency plans to take those into account in your family plan.
- Emergency generator. Should you lose electricity a small gas or propane-powered generator can prove very helpful. You can keep refrigerators and freezer running, the weather radio on, and charge cell phones. Never run a generator inside your home or in an enclosed area. It’s also a good idea to invest in a battery backup sump pump to keep your basement or crawl space dry in the event of a power outage during a storm.
- Electrical power. Should you lose AC power, it’s a good idea to turn off your main fuse or circuit breaker box. The possibility of power surges on startup could damage computers and appliances. Don’t connect your emergency generator to your home’s electrical system. Connect appliances directly to the generator.
- Outdoor furniture. Anything left outside and not secured can become a windborne missile causing considerable damage to your home and your neighbors’ homes. Secure lawn furniture, picnic tables, and anything else that can cause damage.
- Garage. Bring your vehicles into the garage to protect them from wind and objects flying through the air. Make sure you know how to manually open the garage doors in case you lose power.
- Family emergency shelter. If you don’t have a dedicated storm cellar, you can build a suitable shelter in your basement or in an interior room on the first floor away from any windows. Stock it with an emergency supply kit and make sure your family knows where to go in case of a storm.
- Storm monitoring. A cell phone weather app can be very helpful in alerting you to the presence of a storm. It can also keep you advised on the storm’s progress. A battery-powered radio can also be very helpful.
Creating an Emergency Supply Kit
An emergency shelter is essential during a storm. That shelter needs to be stocked with an emergency supply kit. 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, 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 solid preparation along with an emergency supply kit, as outlined above, you should be all set for any storms.
Here are the key elements for safely riding out the storm.
- Gather in your emergency shelter. Alert your family to meet in your emergency shelter. Bring along any items needed to bolster your emergency supply kit. If some family members are away from home, contact them to ensure they have found or are seeking shelter elsewhere.
- Seek shelter at once if you’re on the road. Do not drive during a storm. Get off the road and find shelter before the storm hits. An underground parking garage is perfect.
- 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
The danger from a windstorm doesn’t stop when the storm stops or moves out of your area. The damage it causes brings more hazards. Here are the key items to watch.
- Locate all family members. 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.
- Watch for natural gas leaks. High winds can damage natural gas pipes. If you smell gas, leave the area immediately. Then notify your gas company.
- Stay clear of 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.
- Secure your food supply. Ideally, you have plenty of food in your emergency supply. In addition, your refrigerator can keep food frozen for up to two days without power. Just keep the doors shut.
- Start your emergency generator. If you’ve lost power, start your emergency generator. It can power the refrigerator, freezer, computers, and keep your cell phone charged. The generator must remain outdoors; exhaust fumes are deadly.
- Document any damage. Carefully inspect your home for damage incurred during the storm. Take photos and make notes covering in detail what you find.
- Notify your insurance company. Contact your insurance company to report any damage and to initiate the claims process.
Windstorms in Our Hometowns
Our article on Windiest Cities in Tennessee dug deeper into the windstorms in locations in Tennessee where we have offices.
On May 3, 2020, Nashville Airport reported winds of 62 mph with gusts up to 71 mph, which is the fifth-highest on record. That storm has been classified as a derecho, the worst straight-line wind event since the derecho of July 2004. Total damage from the 2020 storm across middle Tennessee was estimated at $16 million, with power lost to 130,000 customers for up to one week.
You can tell that high winds can cause serious damage here in Tennessee.
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.