No matter what its projected path, expected strength, flood potential, or cone of uncertainty, it can be nerve-wracking to see that a hurricane may be headed toward your home. Fortunately, it is easy to prepare your yard for hurricane season well in advance of any dangerous storm.
When Is Hurricane Season?
The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30, but it is important to realize that dangerous storms can occur outside that six-month span. The height of hurricane season varies for different at-risk regions, though worldwide the greatest number of strongest storms occur in September. Later in the season, the ocean is warmer and storms have more opportunities to strengthen to dangerous levels, but even a weaker hurricane can cause great damage to an unprepared yard.
Preparing Your Yard for a Hurricane
Ideally, it is best to prepare your yard for hurricane season long before storms may form, even months before the official start of storm season. To be sure your yard is ready to withstand a hurricane…
- Prune Trees and Shrubs – Remove dead, dying, or weakened branches in late winter or spring. This will keep your landscaping in good condition and provide plenty of time to dispose of yard debris before storm season. Do not prune while a hurricane is approaching, however, or the cuttings may not be collected before the winds rise and debris could become dangerous projectiles.
- Schedule a Septic Clean-Out – If your home uses a septic system, plan to have your tank pumped on its regular schedule (typically every three years) before hurricane season begins. Because these storms can produce outrageous amounts of rain and flooding, it is best if your drain field will not become overwhelmed with a full tank, which could lead to septic backups.
- Improve Yard and Street Drainage – Check the drainage in your yard and take steps to slope landscaping away from your home to minimize the risk of flooding or foundation damage. Also check any storm drains, culverts, and water retention areas, cleaning up debris or litter so storm water can drain as easily as possible.
- Clean Gutters – Check all gutters and downspouts to be sure they’re firmly attached to your home and clear of debris and clogs. Be sure the slope of downspouts is appropriate to keep water draining, and use splash guards or downspout extensions to move excess water away from your home’s foundation. Use water-loving plants that don’t mind a bit of flooding near downspout drainage areas.
- Inspect the Roof – Before hurricane season, inspect your roof and note if there are any overhanging branches that should be trimmed away from your home. Make any roof repairs, such as replacing shingles, patching holes, or securing soffit, as soon as possible.
When a hurricane watch is issued for your area, it is time to take more direct steps to protect your yard from the storm’s fury. A day or two before a hurricane may arrive…
- Mow the Lawn – A tidy, trim lawn will drain water more easily, and it will be easier to clean up debris after a storm if the grass has been cut recently. Furthermore, it may be several days after a storm before the lawn can be mowed again, so it is best to get this chore done early.
- Remove Toys and Decorations – As a storm draws closer, any loose items in the yard should be brought into a secure shed or garage to keep them from being blown away. This includes toys, bird feeders, compost bins, container plants, patio furniture, wind chimes, garden flags, portable grills, and garbage cans. Larger items that cannot be brought inside should be firmly staked down.
- Turn Off Sprinklers – Turn off any sprinkler or irrigation system, since it is likely that Mother Nature will be watering the lawn as the hurricane passes. This will also help conserve water and avoid too much pressure on pipe systems that may suffer storm damage.
- Prep the Pool – If you have a pool or hot tub, cover it if possible before the storm arrives to keep debris out of the water. Turn off power to heaters, pumps, filters, and lights to conserve energy during the storm and minimize the risk of problems if power is interrupted. Do not empty the pool, however, because the water will help keep the pool stable and grounded during the hurricane, whereas in-ground pools might suffer foundation damage or heaving if they are emptied.
- Harvest the Garden – Harvest any ripe produce from your garden, berry patch, or fruit trees before the hurricane arrives. The storm is likely to damage plants, and removing ripe produce will minimize waste and potential debris. Enjoy the bounty while it is available, as production may be reduced if the storm severely damages your garden.
While preparing your yard for a hurricane is important, don’t neglect preparing inside your home by assembling emergency kits, knowing potential evacuation routes, gassing up your vehicle, and stocking up on supplies. Review your home insurance each year well before hurricane season, and make adjustments as needed so you are fully protected. Inventory your belongings and take photos before the storm so you can compare them to post-storm photos if necessary. The more prepared you are for a hurricane, the better you and your home will be able to withstand the storm and recover after it passes.
The best preparation you can do to keep your family, home, and yard safe before a hurricane is to stay informed about potential storms. Stay tuned to local weather forecasts and community guidelines for regional storm preparation, evacuation routes, shelter locations, and other information, and take every storm seriously, no matter what its strength or projections. By staying alert to storms and knowing how to stay safe from them, you will be able to weather hurricane season as smoothly as possible.