St. Paul, MN -- The tornado that struck Glenville May 1st swept through the small southern Minnesota town with little advance notice. "The storm came up so fast we had no time to react," said Wes Webb, Glenville mayor. "It formed so quickly that one of our county deputies on weather watch just about drove right into it."
That's why taking precautions long before the clouds start to form is the best answer for minimizing damage from windstorms, tornadoes, and flooding. Homeowners can protect their homes, both inside and out, against disaster damages by following steps suggested by mitigation experts at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Keeping Outdoor Gear from Becoming Windborne Missiles
High velocity winds from thunderstorms and tornadoes can turn patio furniture, grills and tree branches into destructive missiles. If the area immediately surrounding your house contains trees, outbuildings, trashcans, yard debris, or other materials that can be moved by the wind, your house will more likely be damaged during a tornado or windstorm. The wind can topple trees onto your home and can pick up smaller objects and drive them through windows and glass doors.
- All storage sheds and other outbuildings should be securely anchored, either to a permanent foundation or with straps and ground anchors. The straps and ground anchors used for manufactured homes can be used for the anchoring systems for outbuildings such as garden sheds, which are not placed on a permanent foundation.
- Outdoor furniture and barbecue grills can be secured by bolting them to decks or patios or by attaching them to ground anchors with cables or chains.
- Even trash cans can be secured with cables or chains attached to ground anchors or to wood posts firmly embedded in the ground.
- High winds from tornadoes can damage garage doors or even blow them in. If wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage to the home. A garage door can be reinforced with the addition of girts across the back of the door and by strengthening the glider wheel tracks. If the existing door is old or damaged, it should be replaced with a stronger door and tracks. These modifications should be done only by a trained garage door systems technician. If your home is under construction, look into purchasing a garage door built to withstand high winds.
Minimizing Damage from Trees
Tall leafy oaks and maples beautify yards and cool homes with their shade, but they also can provide the ammunition for flying debris to break windows, crush walls, and puncture roofs. Proper maintenance and siting of trees will minimize tree loss and home damage.
The surest way to prevent storm damage on a home caused by falling trees is to locate trees far enough away from your house that they can't fall on it. The distance between your house and any nearby tree should be greater than the height the tree will reach when it is fully grown.
Proper care of trees can also prevent storm damage. Three--fourths of the damage that trees incur during storms is predictable and preventable, said Gary Johnson, associate professor of urban forestry, University of Minnesota College of Natural Resources. Trees with wounds, decay, structural defects, stem girdling roots, severed roots and soil compaction are prime targets for experiencing storm damage.
According to Johnson, some basic steps in keeping your trees healthy and beautiful, as well as limiting the damages that can be caused by flying tree debris, include:
- Plant the tree at the correct depth by making sure the roots are at the soil surface. Trees planted too deep can develop stem girdling. In this condit...