In 2018, Hurricane Florence made landfall in Wilmington, NC, just south of Wrightsville Beach. Even though it was only a Category 1, the big, slow-moving storm caused major storm surge and significant rainfall. Rain accumulation topped 35 inches, and flooding reached as far inland as Raleigh, damaging 75,000 North Carolina homes.
Although the 2019 hurricane season was less severe in North Carolina, the 2020 hurricane season is expected to be worse than average.
The average homeowners insurance claim for a hurricane can be $115,000. The hurricane preparations you do now can help your home sustain less damage, and they may even reduce your home insurance premiums.
With a difficult season ahead, combined with the increased challenges of a hurricane during the coronavirus pandemic, now is the time to get proactive about preparing your home for hurricane season. Knowing your evacuation route can help you protect yourself, but what can you do to protect your home from a natural disaster?
Learn the four ways to prepare your home for a hurricane.
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1. Prepare for Hurricane Flooding
We’ve all seen the photos where streets become waterways. The risk of flooding during a hurricane is very high. There are heavy rains, combined with storm surge, ocean tides, overflowing rivers, and water management systems at max capacity.
The problem is that flooding causes a lot of damage and is very expensive. FEMA reports that just one inch of water in an average home can cost more than $25,000 in damage. A home with one foot of water could see a loss of more than $72,000.
When it comes to flooding, the adage is true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, every $1 spent on mitigation saves $6 in repairs. Plus, FEMA says that many flood insurance policies will reimburse homeowners up to $1,000 for flood mitigation efforts. Flood preparations can also lower your insurance premiums. FEMA reports that in some cases, homeowners could see a 15 percent reduction in flood insurance premiums.
There is a clear financial incentive to reducing flood risk, but what should you do?
When preparing for a hurricane, one of the first steps is to waterproof your basement. Because basements and crawl spaces are at ground level or below ground, the work you do to add waterproofing can have a significant effect on how well your home can withstand rising floodwaters.
Following an initial assessment of your basement’s needs, professionals commonly recommend repairing foundation cracks where water could enter your home, adding interior drainage systems, and adding encapsulation or sealant. Secondly, a major aspect of hurricane preparedness is installing a sump pump. These automated devices can help you quickly manage water problems, pumping up to 2,000 gallons of water per hour. The faster you’re able to get water out of your house, the less flood damage you could experience. Not only can sump pumps help you better manage a flood, but they give you the peace of mind of knowing you’re prepared.
After making these ground-level preparations well before a hurricane, that only leaves your entryways to secure before the storm hits. Create a sandbag perimeter to prevent water from entering your home at the bottom of a doorway. Start with a layer of plastic sheeting, and build your sandbag wall against it. Even if you still get water seeping in through your sandbag barrier, your sump pump will be able to quickly deal with it.
2. Prepare for Heavy Rain
Throughout the hurricane season, regular yard maintenance will position you to better withstand the storm.
Start rain preparations by clearing your drains and gutters. For example, if you’re facing three feet of rain, you want to make sure all of that water has somewhere to go. Clean up yard debris so that gutters function smoothly and rain is directed away from your foundation. You may also need to contact local officials to maintain storm drains in your neighborhood.
Removing yard debris before a hurricane can help you reduce the chances that you’ll have a drainage clog in the midst of the storm. More than just leaves and sticks, consider how heavy rains could take down tree limbs. Addressing large problems beforehand can help you avoid major roof damage during a storm.
And it’s always a good idea to have tarps ready to manage hurricane rains. If something does happen where you have rainwater coming inside, a tarp can help you to manage or mitigate the worst of the water damage.
3. Prepare for Hurricane Winds
The wide coastline of North Carolina makes the state especially susceptible to hurricane damage. When Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Cape Hatteras in 2019, there were sustained winds of more than 100 MPH, causing extensive damage.
To prepare for high winds, start with the most breakable part of your structure – the windows. Covering your windows is an important preparation. Not only can a broken window result in significant damage to your belongings, but it can cause a tunnel effect where the wind could blow your home apart. A sheet of 5/8” plywood is a common tactic, but there are also options such as permanently installed storm shutters.
In addition to windows, doors can be vulnerable to wind damage. A garage door is a weak point, and if your garage door fails, the wind will likely cause your roof to fail. Secure your home with a wind-load garage door or by retrofitting your existing garage door with a brace or hurricane shutter.
Also prepare for wind by reinforcing your roof. Hurricane straps and ties can secure the joints and improve the stability of your structure. One of the strongest protections against wind is to use a system that anchors the roof, walls and foundation together to create a continuous load path.
4. Prepare for Hurricane Outages
Often, the area of power outages extends far beyond the area that has the worst flood damage. However, the worst effects can occur when there’s the combined impact of flooding during a power outage. To protect against these circumstances, it’s important to have backup power for your water management system.
With a backup battery for your sump pump, it can keep pumping water out of your home even when the lights go out. Many sump pumps have an integrated battery so you won’t have to worry about hook-ups or connections. During a flood, it can be a while before it’s safe to activate power lines or use a generator, but sump pump batteries are designed to function safely in wet conditions.
Also, prepare the rest of your household for power outages. This includes having ice for perishable food and having a generator to run appliances after the immediate water threat has passed.