Do you remember the devastating winter storms of 2007? Can it really already be 12 years ago?
For many of us on the Twin Harbors, those howling hurricane-force gusts are still fresh in our memories. Most of the Harbor was without power for five days or longer, and wind and rain damage was widespread throughout the coast.
More recently, the 2015 storm brought a river in the sky — 11 inches of water in 24 hours. It included flooding and slides due to the inability to drain or convey this volume of water out of our streets and city stormwater systems.
Already this year, crews are prepping for winter rains. As weather patterns change, we hope that we won’t have to endure such devastation again.
But actively preparing for major weather events — having our homes prepared and streets, storm drains and pumps ready — is just smart living. We all have an overlapping civic responsibility to be involved in this effort. Here are a few things you can do.
Check outside first
To protect your home from wind and heavy rains, first think about things that can fly or “go bump” on a windy night. Clearing off sun-brellas, patio furniture and all the extra summertime equipment is a good start. What else do you see? Toys, hand tools or any other paraphernalia that could be ruined or become missile-like during a storm should be stored now.
Also, take a good look at the trees in your yard, especially those near your power lines and within reach of your home. Do you have any large branches that are a potential threat to your home or your neighbors’? Could they crunch a parked or passing car or hit a passer-by? Trim them so they are at least a foot or two from your house.
Topping tall trees around our homes is an effective high-wind control measure. If you don’t feel qualified to determine what needs to be trimmed, or you’re not able to do the work yourself, find an expert. The Twin Harbors have several licensed, bonded and insured tree trimmers and fallers to do the work properly and beneficially for you and the trees. The relatively small expense now could save you a fortune later, and it will certainly yield peace of mind in the meantime — maybe even save a life.
Keep gutters clean
Fall brings many leaves and needles to your gutters — especially after a storm. If they aren’t cleared out, water can overflow your gutters, causing erosion below and even direct damage to your house.
When clearing out gutters, we highly recommend using a stand-off attachment on an extension ladder and focus on best safety practices. While you’re at it, run water into the downspouts to be assured they are not plugged. To avoid water puddling near your foundation or basement, place a splash block or connect additional piping at the bottom of each downspout. Water in your basement is one indicator that rainwater is concentrated too close to the house.
Clean out storm drains
This next reminder is more about your neighborhood than just your house. When the street storm drains are plugged with leaves, paper and plastic sacks, water starts pooling, making driving and walking difficult and contributing to much wider flooding issues that can affect walking, traffic and even homes.
Keep an eye out early before any storm for debris in the storm drains on your street. City crews work hard to keep them clear, but sometimes it takes a village to maintain a city. More and more residents are paying attention — even keeping rubber boots, gloves, and a rake or shovel in their car trunk so they are prepared to step up and remove obstructions that open the drain. That’s good citizenship in action.
Litter comes from many sources and is an unfortunate fact of life. Regularly clearing plastic sacks and paper from the storm drains and the street near you is everyone’s responsibility and makes the neighborhoods look much better. The ocean will thank you!
A fast approach to contain leaks
Wind and water are very powerful forces — and when they come at the same time, they can push water deep into a home. Having a few items on hand is useful to contain water damage until the storm is over. Our list includes plastic tarps, thin plastic painters drops, a ball of twine, packing tape, a box of tacks or a staple gun, and some buckets.
If you get a leak in your roof and water is dripping from one or several spots at once, hang a wide plastic tarp from the ceiling like a funnel to catch most of the drips that will go to one area of the tarp — and then, with a small hole, into one bucket. Poke a wire clothes hanger into the center of the tarp under the pooling water and let it hang down. You may have to change the shape of the hanger to guide water into a bucket.
If wind-driven rain is pushing rain through a window area, tape the plastic sheet right to the glass and drape it into a curtain funnel directed into a bucket. Safely tackle the outside repairs once the storm is over.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. This is a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. For questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or buying, call 360-533-7828 or visit 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen. Our office is fully ADA-compliant.