Learn a lesson from the recent storm

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Wed., Aug. 31, 2011
- Contributed Photo

Connecticut's recent unwelcome visitor – Irene – wreaked devastation on many of the state’s 169 towns and cities. Some were relatively unscathed, while citizens in others endured daily life without power for many days after the storm.

So what lessons did you learn from the most recent brush with Mother Nature? Were you ready, or do you just consider yourself lucky? Whatever your answers, just remember this: hurricane season is far from over. There will be more storms. Some may fizzle out, never amounting to more than a tropical storm. Others might bounce about the Atlantic and Caribbean, whip into a category 3 or 4 hurricane, and take direct aim on the nation's east coast.

Will you roll the dice again, counting on the state's history of dodging at least the most significant meteorological events? If you are smart, you will take this opportunity to learn a few lessons before the storm passes from the news.

Loss of electrical power makes the most impact on homeowners. Two days after the storm left the state, I overheard a customer jokingly ask a store clerk if there were any generators left in the store. The clerk said the shelves were cleaned out. Then he added, “But we expect to see most of them come back this week.” It is an ethically unsound tactic, but apparently many people hurried to the store to buy a portable unit before the storm hit, planning to return it if their power did not go out. A better suggestion for you might be to rent a generator unit as a storm approaches, and use it if necessary, returning it when you get power back.

Many responsible homeowners have chosen to install an in-line generator to back up their power source whenever they lose it. Others lay out the expense for a small portable unit that can keep the refrigerator and freezer going until their home is back online. The expense of a back-up solution rises with the power capacity you require of a unit. An installed solution will cost a lot more than portable equipment.

Think about this. If your home is located on the edge of the power grid's trunk, your area may experience pretty frequent outages from storms. Check with your neighbors, and get the outage history for your area.

Just before the storm arrived, I made a quick trip to the store. The first supermarket was completely out of bottled water of any kind and size. Shocked customers were buzzing about where they could find water to put on their pantry shelves. The simple answer is to buy a case or two of water, or some large bottles, and keep them in a storage area. Rotate your stock every once in a while. Just remember to buy it when you don’t need it. As the storm approaches, clean your bath tub well, and fill it with water for bathing, flushing the toilet, and washing dishes.

Dealing with the sheer volume of a storm's water and the pace with which it attacks your property can be a tremendous challenge. The first thing to think about is keeping it outside of your house. The next most important action is getting it away from your house as quickly and completely as possible. A sound roof to collect the water, and the gutters and drainpipes that can carry it away act as an effective defense system. Even if you didn’t suffer a roof failure in the recent storm, it's a good idea to inspect your roof thoroughly now, after the severe weather, to see if shingles or flashing are loose or missing.

Inspect the gutters. They might be littered with leaves ripped off in the last storm, and access to drain pipes might be blocked. Get them cleaned out, and be confident they will work well in the next test. Pay special attention to the bottom of the drainpipes. There should at least be splash blocks there to send the water away from the house. For a better solution, add extensions at the bottom elbow to divert the flow away from the house's foundation by another 6 feet or so.

Take a ride around your neighborhood, and note the size and condition of the trees that were taken down entirely or at least split apart. Assess your own trees for strength and the potential damage they may cause. It might be worth having a professional tree man on site to prune away some of the bulk and susceptible limbs. Be especially attentive to trees with long enough reach to damage your house.

Even if we don’t have another hurricane or tropical storm come our way this season, don't forget about the winter to come. Last year we lost a lot of trees and suffered a lot of damage to houses and barns, due not only to the weight of the snow, but also from high wind velocity. Whatever you do to protect your home this season will also help you withstand the hostile weather to come over the next six months.

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