Hurricane season is right around the corner, and experts say homeowners along South Carolina’s coast should start gearing up for potentially dangerous storms.
It’s impossible to know just how active the Atlantic will be this year, and the National Hurricane Center doesn’t release its official forecast until later this month. But it’s not too early to start prepping your home, according to Dr. Anne Cope of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). In fact, for a lot of these to-do list items, the earlier the better.
10 tips for hurricane prep from IBHS and the National Weather Service:
Consider a wind-rated garage door
High winds during a storm can cause the garage to collapse inward, opening up the rest of the home to wind, rain and other storm elements. The best option to avoid this is a wind-rated garage door that will withstand higher winds.
“If the garage door fails, now you’ve got wind coming in and trying to pop the roof off,” Cope said, referencing research done in the IBHS research facility where hurricane conditions are replicated. “Having that garage door fail makes the home more vulnerable to significant damage.”
Check your roof for leaks
If any leaks in your roof exist, chances are they’ll get much worse during severe weather. Check your roof for weak spots or leaks, particularly near skylights, chimneys, flashing and roof valleys. Make sure the gutters are secure and ready to handle the level of water that could come during harsh storms. If the gutters are loose, they’re more likely to break under strong winds and possibly cause further damage.
Stay in-the-know on your insurance policy
Review your insurance policy ahead of hurricane season in case you need to file a claim. It’s best to keep your insurance agent’s contact information accessible, Cope said.
Along with that, take some time in the spring to shoot a video of your home in the event that there’s damage after a storm.
“God forbid, you have to file a claim, that video will be worth its weight in gold,” Cope said.
Cope said renters insurance is also a good option for people who don’t own their own home.
Know your area’s vulnerability to severe weather
It’s not just the coastal homes that are susceptible to hurricane damage. Depending on the structure of your home and your area, you could be facing different challenges when it comes to hurricane season, according to Steven Pfaff, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, NC.
For example, mobile homes will be more sensitive to wind damage and certain inland areas are prone to flooding.
Pfaff recommended looking through Horry County’s “Know Your Zone” information for more details on your area’s evacuation plan and more.
Trim your trees
Homes further from the coast are especially vulnerable to damage if they’re surrounded by trees, Pfaff said. Cope recommended doing some yard work during the spring to remove dead branches and trim trees before it gets too warm to spend hours in the sun.
Inspect your roof and repair if necessary
Unsealed shingles are vulnerable to wind and rain. If you need a new roof before hurricane season, Cope suggested a fortified roof to ensure strength during high winds. She said it can be expensive to install a fortified roof, so if you need to replace your existing roof, it’s best to “do your homework” and get the fortified version at the same time.
Purchase hurricane shutters
Homeowners closer to the coast should consider hurricane shutters to protect the home from winds strong enough to break glass.
“We love the windows, we love to see the ocean out there, but glass is glass,” Cope said.
Be sure to install shutters on all sides of the home, not just the windows that face the coast, Cope said. The wind direction can change quickly and all sides of the home are vulnerable to winds and damage.
Plywood should be used as a last resort, and taping windows “doesn’t do a darn thing.”
Renting a place? Check for vulnerabilities and know the area
For vacationers and apartment-dwellers in coastal areas, replacing your roof or getting hurricane shutters won’t make much sense. But it’s still best to stay informed and look for features that could protect you and the property during a storm.
Visitors coming to coastal areas should keep a close eye on forecasts, evacuation procedures and emergency management from local governments in case they need to leave the area abruptly, Pfaff said.
If you’re renting a house, condo or apartment long-term, Cope recommended checking for faults in the structure ahead of the onset of hurricane season and reporting them to management to be maintained.
Buy a generator in case of lost power
In the event of weather severe enough to shut off power, it’s helpful to have a generator as a backup. Cope recalled the thousands of homes without power during extreme cold in Texas earlier this year.
“Because of the loss of power, whatever it was Mother Nature was doing was exacerbated,” she said.
Stay up-to-date with credible information
Pfaff said it’s easy to get misinformation when it comes to the weather, and that can lead to one of two things. People either panic unnecessarily, or they aren’t as worried as they should be.
He recommended keeping up with local media outlets and emergency management divisions of local government.
“Each hurricane is unique in itself, makes it challenging,” Pfaff said. “But when you’re dealing with misinformation it just magnifies.”
Invest now to save later
The price of some prep items could defer some people. It can get expensive. But spending money on reaching building codes to avoid damage can pay off in the long run, according to a 2020 report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
South Carolina has avoided more than $6.7 million in losses related to hurricane wind, according to the report.
“Keeping that community whole after the event is something that is good for residents, it’s good for business,” Cope said.