Storm Damage Scenarios and How to Deal With Them
According to the catastrophe modeling company RMS, the insured losses in the United States from storms average to about $17 billion per year. This puts storm damage on par with hurricane damage and shows just how widespread and damaging storms can be. Naturally, there’s very little you as a homeowner can do to prevent a storm (the only long-term solutions are to invest in things like major flood defenses and the like, but even these can only delay or mitigate most of the damage – they can’t prevent catastrophic storms from causing damage).
However, as an individual, you have two main courses of action.
The first is to be prepared
Making sure that you have prepared for the eventuality of a storm means that you will be able to minimize the damage that does occur, while also being ready for the worst excesses of a storm.
The second is to react quickly & efficiently
Part of this means having a plan, but it also means having done your research so as to know who to call when a storm does hit so you can immediately begin storm damage restoration. The way in which you respond to a storm can be the difference between minimal damage and severe damage.
This guide will walk you through different scenarios and how you can deal with the worst nature can throw at you.
STORM-RELATED FLOOD DAMAGE
If you leave near a body of water, then storms can lead to extremely dangerous scenarios. According to the United States National Severe Storms Laboratory, flooding kills more people each year than lightning, hurricanes, and tornadoes combined. Depending on where your home is in relation to the body of water, and the nature of the surrounding area, you will experience different risks from flooding.
River floods and flash floods are usually caused by either large amounts of rain or snowmelt in a short period of time. In both cases, rivers can easily surge and burst their banks, causing homes within the wider flood plain to be flooded. Coastal floods and storm surges are even more dangerous (Hurricane Katrina in 2004 was a coastal flood). These are usually caused by hurricanes and are accompanied by an evacuation notice. These can damage entire neighborhoods or cities in their entirety.
One of the most dangerous aspects of all types of flooding is the debris floating in the water, which is usually made up of heavy mud or plant material. This can sweep away people, livestock, and houses.
HOW TO RESPOND
The most important course of action is to listen to government warnings. If you are encouraged to evacuate, do so. It often means that emergency help will not be forthcoming if you get into severe difficulties, so it’s always better to be well away from the damage, even if it means leaving your home behind.
When the storm surge comes, there’s very little you can do to stop it from damaging your house, so there’s really no benefit to remaining there. You should always have a ‘go bag’ packed, with items you need to salvage from your home.
THESE SHOULD INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
Driver’s license, passport, birth and marriage certificates
Items needed to work
Professional certifications, diplomas
Life insurance, wills, insurance documents
Bank account information, pension plans
This is in addition to things like water and food supplies. Generally, the above documents should be easily accessible so that when it comes time to evacuate you can go quickly.
If the flood is not severe enough to have damaged your home, you should call in a water restoration professional before you do anything else. They will be able to advise on things like mold, biohazards, and structural damage.
The sooner you act, the faster. Water restoration experts can even act before the flood water has receded (helping to dry your home is part of the service).
WINTER STORM DAMAGE
Every year, large parts of the United States and Canada are hit with snow and freezing temperatures. These winter storms can bring ice and freezing rain. Features of winter storms include blizzards, lake effect storms, and snow squalls. As such, what would be a fairly innocuous rainstorm in the warmer months can cause major damage when dealing with frozen (and therefore solid) precipitation.
Compounding the problems of the cold temperatures are the high winds common with winter storms. These can create problems with utility lines, leaving many without power during the coldest times of the year.
The most common forms of damage from winter storms are damage to the roof and general exterior structure of your home, as well as damage to the fascia, pipes, and siding. Many times, extreme winter storms cause shingles to come loose from roofing, which not only damages the roof but can cause damage to other parts of your property, as the shingles act as projectiles.
A lesser-known type of damage is ice dams, which is where water gets trapped between your roof and the layer of ice on top. These are often hard to see but can lead to leaking, and resultant damage to the structure of your roof (or mold when the weather gets warmer).
HOW TO RESPOND
The first point to note after a winter storm is to remain safe when assessing the damage. Many Americans are injured each year when slipping on ice in and around their home. This is particularly dangerous when it comes to checking your roof.
If in doubt, call a home restoration contractor to check for any damage – particularly signs of leaking. They should pay extra attention to the pipes around your home as well as the corners where your roof meets the walls.
After an ice storm, there may be significant ice left on surfaces. In these instances, it may not even be safe for you to leave your home because of the danger of falling power lines and trees. In such an instance, you should be prepared by having emergency stores of food, water supplies, and alternative power sources. If you live in the northern United States (i.e. where winters regularly see snowfall) it is imperative that you have an emergency store of supplies to last at least a week.
Although hail damage is often lumped in with winter damage, it doesn’t always require winter conditions for hail to strike. Certain parts of the United States are extremely susceptible to the atmospheric conditions that result in hail, with the midwest in particular being prone to hail. Hail storms are actually most common in the summer months, between May and September. Hail pellets are usually between .2 and 2 inches in size (although there are outliers that can be much bigger).
The most common damage caused by hail is to the shingles on the roof of a house. In addition, other exterior parts of the house are also susceptible, such as roof vents, pipes, or siding. However, hail can also cause invisible secondary damage, particularly when substrate materials underneath shingles are damaged.
HOW TO RESPOND
One of the biggest problems when it comes to hail damage is the assumption that the damage is purely superficial. After all, being pelted with small balls of ice doesn’t seem like it would cause underlying structural damage.
However, after a serious hailstorm, it’s important that you get an expert opinion on the damage to your home. In particular, you should have a professional check your roof to ensure that there are no leaks. Even a small leak in your roof can lead to serious structural problems later down the road.
HURRICANE, TORNADO, AND
Although hurricanes and tornadoes tend to take place in certain parts of the United States, high winds can occur anywhere. There are thousands of hurricanes and tornadoes that take place each year in the US. Severe winds are defined as being anything exceeding 50 miles per hour.
Depending on the type and severity of wind, the damage to your home may vary. However, the most common types of damage are to the exterior of homes, particularly caused by falling trees (or limbs), as well as the danger of falling power lines. There is really no limit to the damage a wind storm can cause – from a damaged fence to a roof being blown off.
HOW TO RESPOND
If it is safe for you to do an exterior tour of your home to assess the damage, do so. However, you should also call in a professional to give your home the once over. This is true even if you can’t see any damage, as a contractor may be able to see structural damage that you cannot.
In April 2011, a storm hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and the surrounding areas. The total insurance damage resulting from the storm was $8.4 billion, thus demonstrating how totally devastating storms can be.
The best protection you can have from a storm is an insurance policy. Making sure you have all the right documents, and that your insurance hasn’t lapsed, means that you will be able to rebound from any damage relatively quickly. Secondly, you also need to call on the right professionals.