Storms cause extensive damage to homes each year in California and throughout the United States. Because weather patterns shift and change it is important to prepare for upcoming storms and events such as fire or flood that could damage your property. The best time to prepare for a storm is before it happens. The California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) is pleased to offer some recommendations to help protect and prepare your outdoor space for winter storms.
o One of the most important things you can do is clean your gutters, including downspouts and drains where water exits your property. Extensive water damage can be caused by blocked gutters and drains which force the water to find another path to escape.
o Check your drains and downspouts to make sure they are clear and working properly. If it does not, now is the time to clear or repair your drains. Also, consider putting covers on your roof gutters to prevent leaves and other debris from clogging your drainage system during a storm.
o Damaged trees that have branches that are cracked or overhanging homes, driveways etc., that can be a future hazard, should be removed. Trees that have shifted in the soil due to wind or burn damage and those with burned roots should be removed as well, because they are now considered unstable and could potentially fall or be picked up by the wind and blown against your home or windows.
o Pick up branches, toys, furniture, patio umbrellas, bicycles and other items around the yard before storms arrive. These items can be a hazard in high winds if picked up and thrown. If possible cover and tie down patio furniture that needs to remain outside by anchoring it to something solid. Tornados, hurricanes and high wind storms can pick up patio furniture and cause extensive damage.
o Rake your yard and remove any fallen leaves before a storm. Leaves can clog gutters and existing drainage systems.
o Trees close to the home need to be trimmed or cut back so in high winds they do not hit your house. Strong winds can cause gutter, roof and exterior home damage by forcibly whipping trees up against your home.
o Check all flowerbeds against the home and all downspouts. Do these flowerbeds have adequate drainage away from your home if they start to overflow? Some downspouts empty into flowerbeds to water the plants, however in heavy rains they can cause your flowerbed to flood. If applicable, consider adding a channel drain to these downspouts and/or flowerbeds that directs water away from your house. Also, adding a layer of mulch will help prevent erosion by helping to break up rain drops before they hit the soil.
o If you have an outdoor sump pump as a backup for excessive rain, consider what will happen if the electricity goes out. If you need the sump pump to handle excessive water, it may be time to add another drain to help water exit your property quickly.
o Large trees can be an excellent wind breaker and help protect your home and property from wind and rain, however it is important to trim them enough that some wind can pass through them to help keep them from falling over in high winds. Any large trees too close to a home can cause damage and even loss of life if they fall on your home. Some trees have shallow roots or may be unhealthy making them a risk to your home. If you had high winds, do you have a tree that could be a possible danger to you or your family? If you are not sure, talk to an expert and/or consider getting it removed.
o Last year many areas in California experienced weeks of heavy rains. Examine how your house sits on your property. Are you at the top of a hill or at the bottom? Are you at risk for soil slippage underneath your house or a neighbor’s? Is water or earth going to flow towards your home or away from it? Now is the time to examine and proactively prepare for excessive rain, add an additional drain or get help if you are at risk for landslides or erosion.
o In areas where protective plants are removed or destroyed, soil becomes vulnerable to erosion. Soil erosion can happen slowly or it can happen very quickly in a heavy rain. The exact measures needed for your property are based on your soil type, slope grade, home location, weather, water availability etc. Also areas exposed by fire can open the door for invasive species and weeds. In some areas erosion control materials or mechanical control measures may need to be applied. Contact your local CalTrans office or local forest service for guidelines in your area.
o Water flow is an important factor of any erosion plan. Never underestimate the power of storm water and debris. Evaluating the area and planning for storm events is a critical first step to protecting your property and improper or inadequate measures can aggravate potential problems. If your home or business is on a slope, water needs to be captured and drained to a safe area to help prevent erosion. If you need help with erosion control or fire prevention landscaping, be sure to hire a licensed professional who specializes in that area of expertise. Ask for references, insurance certificates and request to see their license. You’ll want to protect your home and your neighbors’ as well.
o Most homeowners are not aware that homeowners insurance does NOT cover a flood. Be sure to check with your insurance company to make sure that you are covered for storm damage AND flood to your property. It is a good idea to check with your insurance company about once a year to make sure that you are adequately covered for your home at full replacement cost. Full replacement costs allows replacement at the time of the loss. The actual cash value is considered to be replacement cost minus depreciation.
Now is an important time to evaluate your property’s landscape and to examine weak areas and those that were damaged from prior storms. Take a look at what worked and what did not and try to determine how to better protect your property for the next one. Proactive steps now can help prevent property damage later.