At home with Jackie How to protect your home from wind and storms
When damaging winds or rain are forecast, there are ways to prepare your home and garden, says JACKIE FRENCH
There is one weather forecast you can always rely on – if it’s February, there’ll be a storm, with rain, thunder, lightning, hail or even just a wind hot as a pizza oven. One is coming, so it’s wise to be ready.
1 CHECK YOUR TREES
All dead or dying limbs can be a danger, but gum tree branches may drop simply because it’s hot and dry, and the tree is conserving moisture. Pruning off lower branches can make trees top heavy and more vulnerable in storms.
Be cautious of trees growing in the lawn. They may have been watered just enough to keep your lawn green, leaving the tree with shallow roots, so it can easily blow over in a wind, especially if wet. Remember that 1L of water weighs 1kg, so wet branches are going to be far heavier than dry ones.
If in doubt, call in an arborist to assess your tree. They may decide to stabilise it with heavy ropes firmly pegged to the ground on three or four sides, or thin branches to reduce weight and resistance to wind.
2 SAVE YOUR SOIL
One flash storm will wash away bare soil. Cover with a tough mulch, such as sugarcane, which won’t blow or wash away easily. Fruit fly netting, well secured over a frame, can protect your soil and vegies from hail, unless there is so much of it the net can’t cope, and it collapses. But even that may mean less damage than leaving it unprotected.
3 SECURE THINGS THAT CAN MOVE
This includes anything that can blow away or crash into your French windows, such as garden furniture, bicycles, loose shutters or hanging baskets that may swing and break. A shade sail full of hail may collapse. Make a list of whatever needs to be taken indoors or made secure before a storm hits.
4 CLEAN OUT THE GUTTERS
When gutters are full of leaves, they overflow and water may seep into window or roof edges. You can buy special gutter covers these days, but even with them it’s worth checking that debris hasn’t seeped in.
5 AVOID GARDEN DAMS
If there are houses above you, leaves and debris may wash down and make a dam behind fences, which will then collapse, sending a fierce rush of water down the hill. Make sure all retaining walls have drainage holes, so water can’t build up pressure behind them.
Make sure water will flow away from your home, not puddle around it. Our ‘house drains’ are just gentle slopes in the grass, as well as garden beds that divert water around the house, not through it. Check that your paving slopes just very slightly away from your house, not towards it – not steeply, just enough so that when you hose your paving, the water flows away from the house.
6 WATCH AND LISTEN
Once you get to know your land, you may see signs days before a severe storm: the water level rising in springs, turtles heading uphill, snakes and lizards becoming savage and biting each other, or stock heading to the most sheltered spot they can find.
Check the weather advice morning and early afternoon, or watch your local radar site to see storms that may head your way. And ask! What happened in the big storm of ’88 or 2011? Where did the water run, the flood rise, the hail fall? If it has before, it will again. Simply, be prepared.