One of the mightiest forces on our planet, tornadoes wreak outlandish damage, completely devastating some areas while leaving other bizarrely untouched. Snapshots of a tornado’s after-effects can be hard to believe. An unbroken record is shoved halfway into a telephone pole. A tie rack rests 40 miles away from its original location, neckties still dangling jauntily. Five spooked horses are found miles from their barn, fastened to an uprooted hitching post while concrete steps blown into a field hold an open and brimming can of soda.


Winds from tornadoes, derechos, hurricanes, nor’easters and thunderstorms damage homes and businesses in strange and tragically ordinary ways. Even winds that aren’t storm-driven can pack awesome force, powered by air moving from high atmospheric pressure areas to lower pressure areas. The spinning of the earth also pushes winds in different directions, as do heating and cooling of the earth’s surface. Meteorologists are gaining expertise in forecasting winds, but speed, location and duration remain difficult to estimate.


Properly harnessed, wind is a renewable resource that powers millions of North American homes. Uncontrolled and unpredictable, it’s a threat that smart home and business owners guard against before the breeze picks up. Preparation focuses on three areas to protect residences and livelihoods:


Ensure adequate insurance coverage. Discuss coverage for wind damage with insurance agents in advance of storm season. Many policies cover wind damage, but may have restrictions like “anti-concurrent causation clauses.” These specify that if two disasters occur simultaneously – one covered and the other uninsured – the insurance company is not liable. For instance, if the roof blows off in a hurricane as the home floods, insurers may refuse coverage.


Prepare property. Ensure buildings are well sealed and maintained with securely fastened siding, windows, doors and exterior components like signage and lighting. For particularly storm-prone areas like Tornado Alley, structures can be constructed or retrofitted with wind-resistant components including storm shutters, pressure-rated windows, deadbolted doors, heavy-duty hinges and sturdy fiberglass shingles. Vehicles should be garaged or parked in protective fenced areas that prevent objects from striking them in high winds. Consider safeguarding indoor property as well. For instance, shield expensive electronics against wind-related power outages by installing surge protectors, and secure heavy items like bookcases to walls.


Prepare surrounding environment. Wind also harms property indirectly by turning surrounding objects into projectiles. Gravel landscaping may look lovely during a calm summer’s day, but mulch hits vulnerable windows with far less force. Regularly trimmed and healthy trees are less likely to drop limbs or fall in windstorms. Outdoor structures like playsets should be secured to the ground, and prudent property owners move vulnerable items like patio furniture into protected areas when not in use.


With advance preparation, homes and businesses escape many wind events unscathed or with greatly minimized damage. For all those instances where planning ahead simply isn’t equal to the earth’s fury, Paul Davis steps in for recovery.