From thunderstorms spawning high winds to flooding and tornadoes, spring storms can bring tremendous property damage.
Hailstorms cause almost $1 billion in property damage each year, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Losses for severe thunderstorms in the U.S. have increased sevenfold since 1980, reaching almost $15 billion last year, according to Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurer.
While it's true that it's difficult to predict Mother Nature, you can take steps ahead of time to prepare your home for spring storms, minimize damage and keep your family safe. Use these tips to prepare for whatever Mother Nature has in store this season:
- Prune dead or rotting branches from trees near your home or car that could fall during a storm.
- Stock an emergency kit with water, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, flashlights and extra batteries, and a battery-operated radio in case of a storm-related power outage.
- Use surge protectors for electronic equipment in your home such as computers, televisions and appliances.
- Install a lightning protection system that will redirect lightning strikes safely into the ground.
- Know how to shut off the power to your house using the main fuse or breaker on the electrical service panel, and how to shut off water and gas support lines if instructed by disaster officials.
- Learn about flood insurance at floodsmart.gov. Floods and flash floods occur in all 50 states and most homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damages — even an inch of water can cause thousands of dollars in damage.
- Check the condition of your roof and make any needed repairs to minimize damage in a storm. Clean gutters and downspouts so water will be diverted away from your home.
If a storm is approaching, stay up to date on the latest weather conditions and heed any warnings or evacuation orders.
If a storm is imminent, it's time to batten down the hatches right away and think safety:
- Use your TV, radio or the Internet to stay up to date on changing weather conditions. Know the difference between a storm watch and the more serious storm warnings issued by the National Weather Service.
- Tie down or bring inside anything that could be blown around such as trash cans, barbecue grills and outdoor furniture.
- Get inside and close your windows and doors. Pull the blinds and drapes so that if glass is broken, it's less likely to fly into the house.
- Unplug expensive electronic equipment.
- Set your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting. In case of a power outage, food will be colder and last longer.
These steps can help you feel prepared for the uncertainty of spring storm season.