When storms strike Central Texas, they hit hard. Our area holds the record for heaviest rain rates across the country. Spring storm clouds build tall, then the first clap of thunder reverberates loud. It's like the ominous first shake of a rattlesnake’s rattle, bolstering out a warning call for all to hear: there’s going to be a strike. Some may think there's no better place to ride it out than the safety of home. But stop and consider, is your home truly storm ready?
The Department of Homeland Security recently found the infrastructure of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather radio program to be more advanced and robust than any other network of its kind across the U.S. today. That’s why NOAA weather radio tops the chart as a must have for every home.
The broadcasts you’ll hear include all severe weather watches, warnings, and advisories. Listen for a continual roundup of current conditions and forecasts for our local area and region of the state. In addition, a wide array of civil emergency information is now carried for all types of hazards, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The president even has the capability of transmitting live through the new all-hazards radio program. A special tone will activate your radio should a particular threat arise.
Watches and warnings are issued exclusively by the National Weather Service.
Ever been through a derecho event? Produced by a line of severe storms, it’s an intense and prolonged straight-line wind storm that can cause severe and widespread property damage. Homeowners can avoid the headaches of insurance claims and lost time when it comes to damaged property and, even worse, personal injury or death by taking a few moments to prepare your home before storms strike.
A few tips:
- Roofing - remove old shingles; for reinforcement, add more nails to roof boards
- Exterior and garage utilities - elevate heating and a/c equipment above known flood levels
- Backflow valve - installed in waste lines to prevent contamination (raw sewage) from entering house during a flood
- A safe room - better suited for new home construction, this can be a window-less room (possibly a closet or small hallways) with double reinforced walls that can't easily be penetrated
- Windows - check each window for proper function and seal, repairing or replacing parts as needed. Keep window wells clean so rain drains properly
- Landscaping - keep trees trimmed and shrubs pruned. It’s a good idea to remove dead or diseased limbs so fierce storm winds don’t break and hurl them towards you or your property
Some of you may consider these great weekend project ideas, but preparing for the wrath of nature can easily turn into a major project better suited for a contractor. Keep in mind: every dollar you spend can help protect your house.
At this point, you’re ready to make your home disaster plan. By design, custom craft and tailor each aspect to your house or apartment and family. Once you make your plan, hold your own “tornado drill,” involving every person in your house. Here are the steps you should plan to take:
Get IN - get as far inside a sturdy house or strong building as possible. Mobile homes aren't safe, period. Find the center-most room without windows. That way you’ve put several walls of protection between you and the storms outside, along with debris that may be flying near 300 mph!
Get DOWN - underground is best, otherwise get to the lowest floor possible. Crawl as low as possible to the ground to avoid flying debris. The winds get near 0 mph at ground level. Sometimes a hall closet or bathroom works best.
Cover UP - If you’re inside the house, you’re covered from a thunderstorm. But if there’s a tornado warning, use whatever you can find to protect your body from debris: pillows, blankets, mattress, sleeping bags. Get into the bathtub and wrap yourself in overcoats or blankets. As silly as it sounds, that may be one of the only areas of the house left standing after an F5 tornado goes through a neighborhood!
In some houses, a closet under a staircase can offer great protection. Look for a small, sturdy, window-free room then use whatever you have nearby to cover with.
No matter where in Central Texas you live, do yourself the favor of some advance planning. Ready or not, storms will come again. The key to surviving our severe weather at home is being prepared. It’s time to get storm ready!
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