In our article Top Windiest and Stormiest Cities and Towns in Michigan, you would have read that we have 30 days of thunderstorm activity annually. The top wind level was at Forest Dunes on June 26, 2020, with 87-mph winds causing $1,000,000 in property damage.
It’s clear that windstorms warrant our full attention 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.
Sound home maintenance practices are always helpful in preparing for windstorms along with any other weather events. Here are our recommendations covering critical regular maintenance items as well as vital actions to take immediately before a storm.
- Trim your trees on a regular schedule. Keep your trees trimmed, removing dead branches as well as dead and dying trees. Windstorms can uproot trees and propel branches into and onto your home.
- Keep your roof in good shape. The wind will whip across your roof picking out any loose shingles, ripping them off, and exposing the wood to rain. Keeping up with maintenance and replacing the roof when needed is sound practice.
- Keep backup fuel on hand for grill and power tools. A functioning grill can become very useful in preparing a hot meal should power be lost. Likewise, a chainsaw can be very helpful in removing downed trees and branches. But you’ll need fuel to power them.
- Consider adding an emergency generator. Loss of electrical power can be quite challenging, particularly if you have no idea when it might return. A small gasoline or propane-fueled generator can provide sufficient power to keep refrigerators, computers, and cell phones running. Also consider investing in a whole-home generator, as well as a battery backup sump pump.
- Protect 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.
- Create a home emergency plan. Document and share with your family what to do if you’re caught away from home when a storm hits. Also, review any work and school emergency plans so you know what to expect. You can integrate those plans with your own.
- Secure outdoor items. Anything that’s outdoors is a candidate to be picked up by the wind and slammed into your home. Before the storm arrives, secure lawn furniture, picnic tables, patio umbrellas, and anything else that could become airborne.
- Park your vehicles in the garage. Hopefully, the wind will not be strong enough to blow your car around, but it can do significant damage with debris. Park them in the garage to protect them. Also, make sure you know how to manually open the garage doors should power be lost.
- Keep up to date on the storm’s progress. Use a battery-powered radio or a cell phone weather app to keep up with the news. The app can also provide alerts and storm warnings to help you emerge from a deep sleep in time to take emergency action.
- Create a family emergency shelter. You don’t have to create a dedicated storm cellar. But designating an area in your home can prove very helpful. Select a first-floor interior room away from windows or an area in your basement. Stock it with an emergency supply kit.
Create an Emergency Supply Kit
An emergency shelter will prove extremely valuable during any storms. The next thing is to take the time to pull together an emergency supply kit. This will also go a long way toward helping you feel far more secure once you head to your shelter.
Here are our recommendations on what to put in your kit.
- Three days’ supply of 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
- 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.
Steps to Take During a Windstorm
The steps you take now to prepare for a windstorm will help keep you and your family safe. Here are the keys to riding out the storm in safety.
- Go to your emergency shelter. Gather your family along with your emergency kit and go to your home’s emergency shelter area. If some family members are out as the storm arrives, try to contact them to ensure they are taking the correct actions to find safety wherever they find themselves.
- On the road? Seek shelter at once. Find a safe place to park your car. It needs to be out of immediate danger. Do not drive during the storm. Underground parking garages are superb in these situations.
- Keep a close eye on the developing storm. Wherever you happen to be sheltering, monitor the radio or weather app to keep up with the storm’s progress. Only leave your shelter when you are absolutely sure the storm has passed.
Steps to Take 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.
- Conduct a family check-in. If some members of your family weren’t able to make it home, conduct a check-in via cell phone. Make sure everyone is accounted for and safe.
- Watch for natural gas leaks. Gas leaks can be very dangerous. If you smell gas, leave the area immediately and notify the gas company.
- Avoid downed power lines. Electricity can kill. Don’t go near downed power lines. Report them at once to your utility company.
- Secure your food supply. Food in your emergency shelter should be ok. But make sure your refrigerators are secure and keep the doors closed. Even without power, they can keep food frozen for up to two days.
- Start your emergency generator. Now’s the time to start that emergency generator. Use it to power your refrigerator, freezers, computers, and charge your cell phone.
- Document the damage to your home. Review the roof, siding, windows, along with anything outside. Take photos of the damage and start a logbook to record the details that you find.
- Notify your insurance company. If you discover damage, get in contact with your insurance company to begin the claims process.
Windstorms in Our Hometowns
In our article on Windiest Cities in Michigan, we dug into the storm winds for the locations where we have offices.
In Grand Rapids and Kent County, the storm on June 10, 2020, saw winds of 65 mph with $100,000 in property damage, as well as downed trees and power lines. Detroit and Wayne County saw winds of 55 mph during a thunderstorm on June 26, 2020. That brought down the usual trees and power lines. Traverse City’s thunderstorm on June 10, 2020, brought high winds up to 54 mph with trees down and flooding. Toledo experienced 64-mph winds at the airport on Feb. 24, 2019, along with downed trees and power lines.
You can tell that high winds can cause serious damage.
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 FSM 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.