Preparing Your Outdoor Spaces for a Hurricane

Decks and Porches
Appraisal and Home Inspection
Outdoor and Gardening
By Dikran Seferian September 09, 2021

We all know what happened when Elsa decided to pay us a visit. A hurricane on its course has the potential to annihilate everything without discrimination. While having an emergency kit ready is crucial when entering hurricane season, it is also essential to have a preparedness checklist for your outdoor living space as well. From small pieces of patio furniture to withered tree limbs, everything in your lawn can fall into the storm’s path of destruction. Preparing your backyard for a hurricane would essentially reduce a great deal of inevitable damage. Not only will you be securing your own outdoor space, you will also be preventing your home from taking a hit or somebody getting injured by a projectile. 

Trim Your Trees and Shrubbery

Hurricane winds are often strong enough to snap branches from trees, turning them into projectiles on a course for destruction. Additionally, trees that are near the roof can tear off shingles due to heavy winds. Trimming down the weaker limbs of trees will allow the wind to pass through with fewer obstructions in the way. Consider opting for hurricane-proof trees in the first place if you have the chance. Trees with the label “Florida Fancy” or “Grade #1” are known to be resistant to extreme weather. If you have any young trees, you may want to stake them as they can be uprooted during the storm. To do so, run a 2x4 into the ground and tie it to the tree tight enough to secure it while allowing slight room for movement. The best time to prune your trees and shrubbery is before the start of the hurricane season. Don’t wait for a government-issued alert to take action.

Prepping Your Greenery for Hurricane Season

Prepping Your Greenery for Hurricane Season

Protect Your Plants

Your plants, whether potted or in the ground, are especially vulnerable in severe weather conditions. Besides the possibility of being hurled away, the heavy rain can take its toll on them too. You can protect your potted greenery by bringing them inside. Although that may not be possible for your ground plants, you can still give them some extra protection with a fabric covering. 

Reduce the Water Level of Your Pool 

To avoid having a mini tsunami in your yard, you may want to mind your pool (if you have one). Reduce its water level by no more than two feet — you don’t want to drain your pool all the way. Draining it completely would cause the pool floor to pop out due to hydrostatic pressure. Since you’re preparing the pool for hurricane season, it would also be a good idea to shut off the power to the motor, pump, and other fragile equipment. Better yet, consider bringing the motor inside if possible.

Clean Your Gutters and Downpipe

Clogged gutters pose an issue whether you’re expecting a hurricane or not. A buildup of dead leaves, twigs, and other debris in your gutter and downspout can block water from rains. This would cause the water to make its way into your home’s foundation and basement walls. Turn that rain into a storm and you get a flood in your home. Clearing the gutters and downpipe as part of semi-annual maintenance or before the advent of hurricane season is absolutely vital.

How to Maintain Your Gutter and Downspout

How to Maintain Your Gutter and Downspout

Clear Your Garage

Your garage can be an ideal place to store your outdoor items — if there’s enough space, that is. Prior to entering hurricane season, consider cleaning out your garage. You’ll be surprised how much room would open up by getting rid of clutter. Shelving solutions such as an overhead rack and heavy-duty plastic totes can also be a smart way to help you organize your garage. 

Secure the Front and Garage Doors

Intense hurricane winds have the potential to blow your front door straight off its hinges. Garage doors, while they may seem relatively sturdy, are no match for such storms either. There are two ways to protect your front door. The first line of defense is a storm door, which usually goes on the outside of the main door. Reinforcing the latter with heavy-duty bolts can serve as a second line of defense. As for your garage door, horizontal and vertical braces can prevent it from falling victim to the hurricane.

Weak Points of a House and How to Protect Them

Weak Points of a House and How to Protect Them

Mind the Patio Furniture 

While you can bring smaller furniture pieces inside, it may be hard to accommodate the larger ones. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t secure them. Consider anchoring large patio furniture to the ground with chains or bungee cords. Although you can lay them in the pool for protection, pool service professionals advise not to — especially if your pool is lined with vinyl or fiberglass; the bulky furniture may tear the liner as the storm thrashes them around.

Remove Loose Items

Any loose patio items such as bicycles and trash cans are fair game for the hurricane. Strong winds can and will turn them into projectiles. Imagine a bicycle flying towards you or your car at full speed — that probably wouldn’t end well. The best way to keep these items from being hurled across the street is by bringing them into your garage or your house.

Ways to Minimize Storm Damage In Your Backyard

Ways to Minimize Storm Damage In Your Backyard

Turn off Irrigation Systems

Flying objects or even trees landing on sprinklers and other systems can break them. Since there would already be heavy rain, water leaking from damaged irrigation can aggravate the flooding. Coupled with strong winds, this may over-saturate the soil and lead to uprooting trees. You can prevent this issue by shutting off the water supply to your irrigation system. 

Spring Maintenance

If you know a storm is coming and you skipped your last yard maintenance, now is the time to do it. Check your outdoor living space for any loose deck boards, wobbly railing, broken pots, and other items that can be easily picked up by extreme winds. Carry out swift repairs where necessary, and get rid of unneeded items.

Maintenance Tasks to Check Off When Expecting a Hurricane

Maintenance Tasks to Check Off When Expecting a Hurricane

Check the Roofing

Inspect your roof for loose, cracked, or broken shingles, fixing or replacing them along the way. Roof tiles are yet another weapon in the storm’s arsenal of projectiles, especially with nearby branches scraping them off. A hit from one can cause substantial damage or even injury. After finishing up with the roof maintenance, consider securing your roof with roof clippings.

Stay Safe, Stay Posted

While material belongings can be replaced, you and your family can not. If you didn’t manage to finish the preparation in time and the hurricane is right around the corner, leave everything and head inside — or evacuate if you have to. Make sure you have an emergency kit prepared beforehand, especially if you’re staying in. Stock up on batteries, flashlights, canned food, water, medicine, a first aid kit, and other necessities that you and your family will need to make it through the storm. Do not attempt to leave the safety of your house until the authorities announce that it is safe to do so. That being said, make sure to have a battery-operated radio with you at all times. Your local radio station will be making frequent announcements about road closures, places to avoid, evacuation routes, as well as for instructions and advice.

Should you be evacuating, you may need to have a spare gallon of fuel as a provision; and make sure you’re tuned in to the radio for important developments. It would also be a good idea to be carrying snacks for you and your family because you won’t be making any stops until you’re far enough from the danger zone.

Post-Hurricane Damage Control

Once the storm passes, it will inevitably leave behind considerable damage. Even if you cross out every item on the preparedness checklist for your yard, you will still have some cleaning up to do — more so if you skipped a few tasks. After making sure that it's safe enough to leave your house or return to your property, you can begin with the damage control. 

Check the Drainage

Excessive water retention in a yard can be rather problematic as it causes a buildup of mold and moss, attracts mosquitoes and other insects, and damages the grass. Check the gutter for any damage and clear any blockages that might be accumulated around the drainage as well as the gutter itself. This will effectively help drain your lawn from any pooling.

Stay Away from Flood Water 

Avoid going near any deeper pools of water or flooding that may have developed during the hurricane. The floodwater can be quite dangerous and unsanitary, so it is best to call a professional to handle the issue.

Remove Debris

Getting rid of the debris in your yard will help you survey the overall damage better. Remove any branches, tools, and pieces of junk that have ended up on your lawn or patio. You may want to wear protective gloves when handling debris as they can be sharp or filthy.

Look Out for Broken Branches

When clearing your lawn post-storm, make sure to be cautious of broken branches that are still clinging to a tree. You never know when they might fall off, potentially injuring anyone nearby. A landscaping expert can help saw off any damaged tree limbs.

Check Up on Shrubbery

Unlike trees, shrubs are rather vulnerable to heavy storms and will probably retain more damage. You can salvage what’s left of your shrubbery by pruning away the damaged parts. This would allow the plant to only nourish the portion that is intact and healthy.

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian