For many parts of the United States, stormy winter weather has been relentless.
In late January, the East Coast was attacked by the Winter Storm Jonas, which produced record levels of snowfall in multiple locations in Pennsylvania, New York and Baltimore.
Around the same time, much of the West Coast got drenched with rain from El Niño that was badly needed in drought-stricken areas such as California, but also caused massive floods that kept insurers very busy.
For some unlucky residents, the damage of Jonas was unavoidable. For other recent victims of storm devastation, preventative steps could have been taken to prepare for the potential consequences of extreme weather.
Related: Get ready for what could be a busy hurricane season this year
Here are five steps homeowners can take to protect their property during stormy weather to reduce the chance of catastrophic damages:
During a storm, lawn and deck furniture and other items can become dangerous projectiles, damaging your home or your neighbors' homes.
1. Clear away outdoor items
Make sure all lawn furniture, gardening tools, sporting equipment and other outdoor items are stored away if a storm is heading your way.
High winds during a heavy storm can potentially pick up these items and send them flying through a window or far away from your home.
Putting away loose outdoor items in this situation can protect your house (and your neighbors’ houses) from unnecessary damage.
Related: Let it blow: 5 steps to make your home resistant to high winds and hurricanes
Also, make sure your windows and doors are closed and secured if you know a big storm is coming.
Keep you trees trimmed to protect your home, and neighboring homes, from branches that can be snapped off during a storm.
2. Trim the trees
Take time to examine the trees in your yard or surrounding your house.
Storms will often snap large tree branches, which can damage your home's siding, smash your car or even topple power lines and cause outages.
Stand up on a ladder (carefully) and check how the branches are attached to the trunks of trees around your house.
If the tree has a loose connection with a big branch, consider sawing it off. It might reduce some shade in the yard, but can potentially protect your home.
Related: 6 ways to tornado-proof your home
The key is to not cut down any branches or trees when a storm is approaching, as the loose vegetation could be dangerous if left in your yard, and services to remove the materials may be suspended or closed.
Shutters can protect your windows from heavy winds and flying debrisin storm.
3. Install storm shutters
No matter how many preventative measures you take in your yard and around your home, the turbulent winds and heavy rains of a storm can still damage your windows.
If you live in an area that frequently gets hit with high winds or is prone to hurricanes, storm shutters can prevent your windows from shattering and protect you from harsh debris.
Related: Capturing proof of damage after a storm
Installing impact resistant storm shutters adds an additional level of security to the fragile glass planes.
Consider getting a home generator to keep the lights on in the event of a post-storm power outage. But make sure you don't run it inside your house.
4. Have standby power
Electricity lines are vulnerable during storms.
Fallen branches can easily snap the power lines, and lightning strikes can blow up transformers, causing major power outages.
A whole-house surge protective device runs in the $200 to $300 range and is easy for an electrician to install.
Related: How to make repairs and rebuild wisely following storm damage
For more-extreme weather patterns, consider purchasing a home generator to keep your power on in the event of long-term electricity outages.
There are steps you can take to keep floodwaters out of your home.
5. Flood-proof your home
Heavy rainstorms can lead to flooding, which can potentially wreak havoc on homes.
Water damage can devalue a house and cause significant problems with the foundation.
According to Westerra Real Estate, if a 2,000 square-foot home gets even six inches of floodwater in it, this can cause approximately $40,000 in damage.
If you live in areas with a high probability of flooding, there’s a chance your Homeowners’ insurance won’t cover the repairs, so be sure to research your policy.
One preventative option is dry flood-proofing your house by making the foundation watertight with concrete. This prevents water from being able to enter the enclosed areas of a house.
Another option to consider is wet flood-proofing, which consists of modifying uninhabited areas under your house, such as a basement or crawlspace, to allow floodwaters to enter and exit. Be sure to seek necessary professional guidance before determining a flood-proofing method for your home.
Nobody can control the weather, but if you’re a homeowner in an area that could potentially get struck by a large storm, you should always be prepared for the worst.
Doing your due diligence now can prevent major headaches, unexpected expenses and future safety hazards. While having a good Homeowners’ insurance policy to protect your property and finances is highly advisable, it’s even better when you don’t have to use it.