March Starts Tornado Season: Are You Prepared?
The weather also brings something else: tornadoes. March starts off tornado season, especially in the Southeast, which typically sees strong winds from March to May. Tornado alley (in the Southern Plains) typically experiences the most tornados between May and June, whereas the Northern Plains and the Midwest become most vulnerable from June to July.
The U.S. experiences an average of 1,000 tornadoes per year, according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The good news? Enhanced technology and early warning systems have decreased the number of tornado fatalities. The cost of tornado property damage, however, has steadily risen.
Is your home prepared for a tornado’s devastation? Here are some tips to keep your house from becoming a loss statistic:
No matter which disasters are prevalent in your area, you should keep a home inventory – a list of all your home’s contents, their values, and their purchase dates. After a disaster, you’ll be glad you had one to help you remember what you own and document your loss.
Before the season
Get a jump on the season before it starts by preparing your home:
- Replace rock or gravel driveways with shredded bark – it’s less destructive when airborne.
- Install impact-resistant windows and hurricane shutters. They can help your home withstand wind damage.
- Secure all lawn furniture. Even items that seem too heavy for the wind to lift can tip over and damage your deck or other furniture.
While the wind blows
Tornadoes move quickly, so you may not have time to prepare when one threatens. If you do have time, close, lock, and shutter all windows and doors and bring all loose lawn furniture or potted plants inside. The warning siren for a tornado is a long, constant wail. Teach your family to recognize the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning:
- Tornado watch: Favorable conditions for a tornado currently exist in your area, but one has not yet been sighted.
- Tornado warning: A tornado rotation or landing has been sighted in your area or found on radar. When the sirens sound, get your family and pets into the basement or an interior room without windows and duck with your head against interior walls.
Picking up the pieces
When attempting to re-enter your home, take extreme caution and wear proper attire. If you hear a hissing sound or smell natural gas, evacuate immediately. The storm could’ve damaged your gas pipes, causing them to leak. If not, take a disaster inventory of everything damaged and in need of or replacement. Your disaster inventory, combined with your home inventory, will help you work through the claims process.
Standard home insurance policies will cover tornado damage. If you have Loss of Use coverage, your carrier could help pay for any hotel or restaurant bills that you accrue while your house undergoes repair. Tornadoes present excellent arguments for purchasing home insurance. If you can get any help paying for such a widespread disaster, you should take it. You don’t have to watch your home and possessions blow away.
Bonus: See our new Disaster Guide for more on preparing for tornadoes, earthquakes, and other disasters.