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Enemy at the Gates: Winter Storms

Making the right preparations for winter is crucial. Harsh storms can cause serious damage to property and your wallet. Here are some dangers that can come with inclement weather and how to address them.

Falling Trees

Trim branches that brush against your house and check for dead or rotten trees at risk of falling. Dying trees often rot from the top-down. Bare branches or an exposed trunk at the treetop—especially during the spring and summer, when leaves are typically present—is a sign of an unhealthy tree. Falling trees aren’t just a risk to your home, but to your neighbor’s as well. While fallen trees are generally the responsibility of the owner of the property on which the tree fell, you may be responsible if your neighbor can prove intentional negligence in failing to remove a dangerous tree growing on your property.

Unsafe trees aren’t always obvious. Some may have heart rot, a fungal disease that softens the core. Signs of heart rot include dead leaves clinging to branches through winter, leaning trees, and bare spots where bark won’t grow back. Hiring a local arborist to assess your property is the most effective way to spot problematic trees.

Check the Pipes

Be sure to consistently check for weak and brittle pipes, which should be replaced before they become a problem. During exceptionally cold days and nights, keep a slight drip on faucets and showers to prevent pipes from freezing. It’s also important to winterize your outdoor plumbing and water features. Be sure to drain sprinklers, seal the pool, and shut off outdoor faucets. If you live in an area with exceptionally harsh winters, it’s recommended to have a professional install a heat cable and insulate vulnerable pipes.

Prepare for the Worst

When a violent storm comes to pass, and your home loses power or you’re snowed in, be sure to have the necessities handy: plenty of non-perishable food and water (one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days). Don’t forget the can opener! Other essentials include—but are not limited to—a weather radio, a flashlight with batteries, copies of important documents, medications, and a first-aid kit.

Anticipate the Thaw

Throughout the season your roof will take a beating. Inspect it regularly at ground level for cracked shingles caused by freeze and thaw cycles, which force shingles to rapidly expand and contract. Punishing cold can make shingles stiff, brittle, and more susceptible to damage. If you live in an area with harsh winters, and are looking to replace your roof, consider polymer-modified shingles like CertainTeed NorthGate® ClimateFlex®. These specialty shingles are made with a rubberized asphalt blend that is resistant to shrinking and cracking, offering greater impact and tear resistance, and better surface granule adhesion than standard asphalt shingles.

Sometimes damage happens no matter how much you prepare. In the case of winter storm damage, check your insurance to see what kind of storm coverage you have. In the meantime, visit FEMA’s website for more information on how to prepare your home for the winter season.


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