(NewsUSA) - Tornado season has already taken its toll in human life and property -- especially gut-wrenching was the death of a young Arkansas couple trying to shield their 18-month-old daughter from the twister that destroyed their home -- and history tells us we're looking at more of the same, at least through June, at which point we'll be at the start of prime time for hurricanes.
And for those who need reminding, 2012's Hurricane Sandy taught even New Yorkers that "the unexpected can and does happen," as Radley M. Horton, a climate scientist at Columbia University's Earth Institute, has said.
So, how should homeowners prepare before the next storm hits? Read on.
* Clean your gutters. Even in perfect weather, we're talking fire hazard if they're clogged with mounds of leaves, sticks and other debris. Factor in a hurricane-strength rainstorm, though, and the very roofing system component meant to control the flow of all that water -- thereby protecting your roof, walls, foundation and landscape from flooding -- can suddenly wind up being about as useful as a drugged guard dog.
"Gutter prevention is measured in pennies; repairs are measured in dollars," to quote Angie's List.
*Trim weak tree branches. Seriously, you don't even want Santa Claus crashing into your house at 74 m.p.h.
*Storm-proof your roof. Before there was Hurricane Sandy, there was 2011's Hurricane Irene. And the months that followed that $15.6-billion disaster -- Sandy caused more than four times that in damage -- was about when experts started noticing what they called "an upsurge" in storm-proofing upgrades like wind-resistant roofing.
"If you're going to upgrade, look for shingles that have passed UL 2218 Class-4 rating impact tests, which is the highest possible," says Jason Joplin, program manager of the Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence. He likes either the Timberline ArmorShield II or Grand Sequoia IR lines of shingles from GAF (www.gaf.com), North America's largest roofing manufacturer, both of which offer numerous designer shingle options that have also met rigorous AC438 performance testing requirements.
*Don't leave yourself open to con artists. "When the flood waters recede, that's when fraud comes to the surface," Neal Buccino of New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs has warned. Meaning, now's the time to prepare a list of reputable contractors in your area.
Why? The hucksters who invariably show up in rubble-strewn neighborhoods are more interested in turning a quick buck than making sure any repairs last longer than the time it takes them to beat it out of town. If you've done your homework, you'll send them packing and avoid being fleeced.