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Tips to reduce damage from high winds

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POSTED: May 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.
ATLANTA -- The recent tornadoes that struck Georgia came with little notice. Taking precautions long before storm clouds form is the best answer for minimizing damage from such foul weather.
While major structural damage is often unavoidable, there are simple preventive steps homeowners can take to minimize damage.
State and federal recovery officials stress that taking action before disaster strikes by implementing these mitigation measures to reduce damage can dramatically lessen the costs in dollars and lives from windstorms.

Avoid windborne missiles
High velocity winds from thunderstorms and tornadoes can turn patio furniture, grills and tree branches into destructive missiles. If the area immediately surrounding your house contains trees, outbuildings, trashcans, debris or other materials that can be moved by the wind, your house will more likely be damaged during a windstorm.
Storage sheds and other outbuildings should be anchored, either to a permanent foundation or with straps and ground anchors. The straps and ground anchors used for manufactured homes can anchor outbuildings that are not placed on a foundations. Outdoor furniture and grills can be secured by bolting them to decks or patios or by attaching them to ground anchors with cables or chains.
Even trashcans can be secured with cables or chains attached to ground anchors or to wood posts firmly embedded in the ground.

Reinforce vulnerable areas
High winds can damage garage doors or even blow them in. If wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage to the home. A garage door can be reinforced by adding braces across the back and strengthening the glider wheel tracks.  If the existing door is old or damaged, it should be replaced. These modifications should be done only by a trained garage-door technician. If your home is under construction, look into a garage door built to withstand high winds.

Trim tees and landscaping
Tall leafy oaks and maples beautify yards and cool homes with their shade, but they also can provide the ammunition for flying debris to break windows, crush walls and puncture roofs. Proper maintenance and siting of trees will minimize tree loss and home damage.
The surest way to prevent storm damage on a home from falling trees is to locate trees far enough away from your house that they can't fall on it. The distance between your house and any nearby tree should be greater than the height the tree will reach when it is fully grown.
Proper care of trees can also prevent storm damage. Three-fourths of the damage that trees incur during storms is predictable and preventable. Trees with wounds, decay, structural defects, stem girdling roots, severed roots and soil compaction are prime targets for experiencing storm damage.
Here are some basic steps in keeping your trees healthy and beautiful, as well as limiting the damage that can be caused by flying tree debris:
A. Plant the tree at the correct depth by making sure the roots are at the soil surface. Trees planted too deep can develop stem girdling. In this condition, tree roots encircle the stem, weakening it just below the ground and making it susceptible to snap off at the stem-girdled point in the event of a forceful wind.
B. Avoid wounding trees by such things as banging with a lawn mower and cutting with a weed trimmer. Wounds lead to decay and decay is the number one pre-existing condition which leads to storm-damaged trees.
C. Prune trees to correct defects, such as multiple leaders and weak branch attachments. Prune trees as soon as the defect is detected because younger trees will heal faster from the pruning.                                             
For more information on protecting your home from storms, tornadoes and flooding go to www.fema.gov and click on Planning Ahead.
 

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