How to Prepare for Summer Windstorms in North Carolina

Windstorms not only cause a great deal of damage, but they can also be life-threatening. Here’s some insight into how to protect your home and family from summer windstorms.

Get a Free Estimate

In our article Top 20 Windiest and Stormiest Cities and Towns in North Carolina, you would have read with some concern that the top-ranked city, Taylors Bridge, experienced 74-mph winds. 

Those ferocious winds bring about significant property damage, including downed trees, blown-in windows and doors, downed power lines, and the resultant loss of electrical power. During the Taylors Bridge storm, a school’s roof lifted and the gymnasium’s outer wall partially collapsed. The overall storm’s property damage was estimated at $250,000.

Property damage is certainly reason enough to take the time to prepare for summer windstorms. But there’s also potential injury and even death due to these ferocious storms. Given that, preparation is essential in protecting your family and your property.

We’ve developed checklists to help you get ready for storms, guide your actions during a storm, and what to do after the storm.

Windstorm Preparation Checklist

While there are a few things you’ll need to do in the hours prior to a windstorm arriving, proper preparation needs to happen throughout the year. Here’s our listing of items to consider.

  • Keep trees trimmed. It’s a sound maintenance practice to trim trees and shrubs in the spring and fall. During a windstorm, any dead branches can be driven by the wind into your home through a window or door. Not only that, but dead trees can also be toppled over onto your home or any outbuildings.
  • Maintain your roof. Loose or missing shingles allow rain and snowmelt to enter your roof, rotting the wood, and setting things up for serious damage. Replace or repair your roof and consider installing a hail-resistant roof.
  • Store backup fuel for grill and power tools. With a power loss, cooking meals could become a real challenge. Have extra propane tanks on hand for your grill. If you have a chainsaw, it could come in very handy in removing downed trees and limbs, but only if you have sufficient gasoline to keep it running.
  • Consider purchasing an emergency generator. A small gasoline and/or propane-powered generator can provide enough electrical power to keep refrigerators and computers running during a power outage. Make sure you test the system well beforehand so you know it works and you have the needed extension cords. It’s also a good idea to invest in a battery backup sump pump to continue to keep your basement or crawl space dry during power outages.
  • Be ready for power loss. Backup fuel, as well as an emergency generator, is the perfect way to respond to a power loss. It’s also wise to use your home’s circuit breaker or fuse box to disconnect power to avoid power surges as electrical power comes back online.
  • Develop an emergency plan. Review work and school emergency plans and integrate them into your family plans. Document what to do if you’re away from home when a storm hits. That could include meeting places after a storm as well as guidance on what to do prior, during, and after a storm.
  • Secure outdoor furniture and other items that can become airborne. Wind can pick up most things and propel them into and onto your home. Secure lawn furniture, picnic tables, etc. to help prevent them from causing damage to your home and your neighbors’ homes.
  • Protect your automobiles. Park them in the garage to protect them from windblown debris, including falling trees and branches. Make sure you know how to manually open the garage door. When power is lost, you may have a hard time getting them out of the garage.
  • Stay informed on the storm’s progress. Add a weather app to your phone and use a battery-powered radio to keep up with the news. A weather app can also provide alerts and storm warnings to help keep you on top of changing conditions.
  • Build a family emergency shelter. It doesn’t have to be a dedicated storm cellar. Instead, you can designate an area in your home. That could be a first-floor interior room away from windows or a part of your basement. It just needs to provide enough space for your family. Also, stock it up beforehand with an emergency supply kit.

Create an Emergency Supply Kit

Not only will an emergency shelter prove extremely valuable during any storms, but taking the time to pull together an emergency supply kit will also go a long way toward your preparation and help you feel 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
  • Blankets
  • Medications and prescription drugs
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Extra cash

It’s also a good idea to 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.

Actions to Take During a Windstorm

Any steps you can take in preparation will only make your time during and after the storm much easier. 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 you’re on the road, seek shelter. Find a safe place to park. Do not drive during a windstorm. Underground parking garages are absolutely perfect in these situations. Bridges and overpasses are not. High winds can cause serious problems in these areas.
  • Keep a close eye on the situation. Whether you’re at home in your emergency shelter or parking in a safe place, monitor the situation with a radio or a weather app. Windstorms can appear very quickly even though it may appear to be safe outside from your limited vantage point. Only venture outside when you’re absolutely sure the storm has passed.

Actions 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.

  • Look out for natural gas leaks. If you smell gas, leave your home at once and call the gas company. Winds and flying debris can crack or even break gas lines.
  • Watch for downed power lines. Don’t go near downed electrical lines. Report them at once to your utility company. They can be life-threatening shock hazards.
  • Keep refrigerator doors closed. Even though electrical power may be lost, keeping refrigerator doors closed can keep food frozen for up to two days.
  • Start your emergency generator. If you added an electrical generator as part of your preparation, fire it up to power your refrigerator and freezer. Also, use it to charge your phone so you don’t lose this vital communication tool.
  • Record the damage to your home. Inspect the roof, siding, windows, doors, and the outdoors, including trees. Take photos of the damage. Evacuate at once if your home has any structural damage.
  • Notify your insurance company. If you discover damage, get in contact with your insurance company to begin the claims process. Make sure you record all the damage you can find.

Windstorms in Our Hometowns

In our article on Windiest Cities in North Carolina, we dug into the numbers for the locations in North Carolina where we have offices.

In Raleigh, storm winds reached 50 mph during a thunderstorm on April 13, 2020. Gusts up to 58 mph were reported as trees were uprooted and power lines came down. Winston-Salem caught 50-mph winds on July 23, 2020. Trees were downed and fell on several cars, making for a tough day for those drivers.

You can tell that high winds can cause serious damage. 

We’re hopeful that high winds won’t damage your home’s foundation. But 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 Tar Heel Basement Systems 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.