RICHMOND, Va. — Hurricanes may get the most attention in the headlines, but sporadic summer storms can be just as devastating.
Thunderstorms are more frequent and directly impact more people and homes in the U.S. than hurricanes. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an estimated 100,000 thunderstorms occur in the U.S. each year.
And with thunderstorms come drenching rains, flooding, high winds, lightning and hail—and the potential for billions in damages. According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, there are approximately 3,000 hailstorms each year, causing insurance losses averaging $1.6 billion. Hail can occur in any strong thunderstorm, along with lightning, which is responsible for more than $1 billion in losses.
“Between late April and June 2022, over 1,300 storm-related claims have been reported in Virginia,” said Laurie Gannon, vice president of claims for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. “Whether it’s small, localized pop-up thunderstorms or significant storm bands with tornadic winds, the late spring and early summer have been busy for our department.”
That’s why it’s important to prepare your home in advance to mitigate damage. The IBHS’s thunderstorm preparation guide recommends homeowners install a home lightning surge protector to save electrical equipment from power surges.
To protect against tree damage, homeowners should remove overhanging branches near the home and remove dead, dying or diseased trees.
Make sure the roof is in good shape by having it inspected. The roof should be securely fastened to the roof sheathing, and any damaged shingles should be replaced. Seal the roof deck to minimize water getting into the attic in case the roof blows off.
Installing protective screens around outdoor equipment like heating, ventilating and air conditioning units can help reduce costly hail damage. Additionally, clean and maintain gutters and downspouts to minimize the risk of water damage, and make sure downspouts divert water away from the house’s foundation. Water also can enter the home through small openings, so it’s important to inspect and caulk any cracks or gaps around windows, doors, electrical boxes, vents, pipes and exterior walls.
Garage doors are one of the most vulnerable parts of the house. They are susceptible to high winds and can be pushed inward, letting wind create pressure on the house’s roof and walls. Homeowners should check their garage doors for a wind pressure rating sticker. If there isn’t one, get the garage door inspected. If necessary, install a brace for your existing garage door or purchase a new wind-rated one.
Before a storm, move and secure outdoor items like patio furniture, planters, grills, garbage cans and toys in a garage or basement so they don’t become dangerous flying debris.
For more tips on protecting your home or business against storms, visit disastersafety.org/tornado/
–Virginia Farm Bureau