As you have probably heard, a tornado hit Port Orchard last week! Tornados are not a typical concern around here, but the people in the neighborhood that was flattened will likely never think that again, just like that crazy, relentless, multi-faceted ‘Winter Storm of 2007’ that slammed into our community is still seared into our consciousness.
Securing your home as much as possible for our typical howling northwest weather is simply a smart idea. When an isolated tornado strikes, all you can do is get out of the way and watch out for flying debris.
ROOFS, WINDOWS AND DOORS
The four main areas that should be checked for weakness before storm season are the roof, windows, doors and garage doors. If you haven’t done so yet, check them now. This is one of the times when it’s better late than never.
During a normal windstorm, the wind pushes against the outside of your home. The force of that wind is transferred from your roof and exterior walls through the interior walls to the foundation. If the energy of the wind is not properly transferred to the ground as designed, a home can sustain severe structural damage.
Our older housing stock has done well because the old craftsmen used interior sheathing on the walls, too, making the house very wind resistant, but failure does happen when there is a weak link, like foundation posts that are dry rotted or bug damaged.
Newer homes rely on the creation of interior and exterior shear walls which is basically achieved by gluing and extra screwing of drywall panels in a prescribed manner. Neither old nor new construction can stand a giant tree through the house or the whole roof structure being lifted off. Our houses are built to withstand our typical weather and at times, howling gales and driven rains. But we have all noticed that even the sustained wind speeds are longer and the volume of rain in any given event can be much more, a reminder is the 2015 flooding. Who ever heard of an ‘atmospheric river’ until then!
As we experience wilder weather throughout the country, the Washington State Building Code Counsel and our municipalities are required to adopt new construction methods and retrofit codes to ensure your health and safety. An assessment by a qualified home inspector or civil engineer isn’t a bad idea if your house is situated in a vulnerable area or you suspect there are issues with your house, like it waves in the wind.
If you have an older home or a home located in a particularly wind-prone area, you may want to consider adding additional roof frame-bracing, gable-end bracing and inexpensive but effective metal hurricane straps.
If you have a pier-and-post foundation, it might be a good time to have it checked. A professional consultant or engineer would be the best person to advise you on your home’s existing condition and advise you on specific repair or retrofit needs that offset the power of the wind, in our area.
Around Grays Harbor, the likelihood of a wind storm ravaging your home is greater than most other forms of natural devastation. Your risk of damage greatly depends on your location, the orientation of your home to severe winds, your proximity to trees and the condition of your home.
Upgrading specific components to meet or exceed modern codes is something you may want to consider as our weather is changing and getting stronger. Installing roof truss straps and foundation gussets at each post are both inexpensive and effective.
Also, inspect your windows and doors to see if they are secure. If they rattle in the wind, it may be time for replacement or repair.
TAKE A LOOK OUTSIDE
This is a busy time of year, but oftentimes preventative measures can save a lot of time – and money – later. And we definitely seem to be having a windy streak.
First, take a look around your yard and secure any toys, outside furniture, tools, or even Christmas decorations that could be ruined or become missile-like during a storm.
Are there trees in your yard, especially those near your power lines and especially 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 passerby? Even a tree branch rubbing against your siding during a windstorm is doing your house no favors. Trim them so they are at least one to two feet from your house. .
Taking out the tree tops is an effective wind control, but If you don’t feel qualified to determine what needs to be trimmed and/or you’re not able to do the work yourself, check around. Grays Harbor and Pacific counties have plenty of qualified tree trimmers and tree fallers. The relatively small expense now could save you a fortune later and will certainly yield peace of mind in the meantime -- maybe even save a life.
CLEANING GUTTERS KEY
After the winds we’ve had lately, it’s possible your gutters are full of leaves and pine needles. If they aren’t cleared out, water can damage your house.
So with care – not during a storm – clear your gutters using a ladder stand off for safety. While you’re at it check your downspouts. You not only don’t water pooling on your siding, you don’t want it puddling near your foundation or basement. Use a pipe or trough to extent your downspouts’ path at least two feet away from your foundation, but up to 10 feet if needed. This is a great job for a handy man you trust and shouldn’t take that long.