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High Winds or Tornados: What You Can Do to Prep Your Home

High Winds or Tornados: What You Can Do to Prep Your Home


If you live in “Tornado Alley” you’ve seen the damage tornadoes and high winds can cause. In fact, if you live anywhere within the McCoy’s states, you’ve likely experienced high winds occasionally. These events can be very damaging to your property and dangerous for you and your family. However, there are steps you can take to get ready for a high-wind event — even one as severe as a tornado.

Creating an In-Home Shelter from High Winds

If at all possible, take shelter indoors during a high-wind event. If you live in a mobile home or a tiny home, it’s a good idea to plan to go to a neighbor or even a public building if there’s a high wind warning. The sturdier the structure, the safer you will be.

That’s why some people opt to build safe rooms in their homes. If properly constructed, these rooms can provide near total protection in the event of a high wind event or a tornado. It’s easiest and most cost effective to construct a safe room or storm shelter during a new build, but some existing homes can be retrofitted.

Whether it's a new build or a retrofit, the primary concern is the foundation, which must be reinforced to bear the dead load of the safe room walls, roof, and reinforced door. To be ready in case of an emergency, keep your storm shelter well stocked. You can find out what you need for an emergency readiness kit in this article.

Saferooms and Storm Shelters

There are three main types of safe room/ storm shelters that can withstand sustained winds or wind gusts up to 250 miles per hour. These strong winds can cause extensive damage to nearby structures.

  1. Basement: Located within the basement of a building, they are typically built into a corner so that two exterior walls of the room are surrounded by soil.
  2. First floor: This type is sited on the first floor of a building built on a reinforced slab. It may be located on an exterior reinforced wall, or can be built entirely within the interior confines of the structure.
  3. In ground: Think Dorothy’s family in The Wizard of Oz. This type is buried underground, away from other buildings and is surrounded on all sides by soil. Today, they are often prefabricated rather than site-built. This is the easiest type to construct for an existing home.

Saferooms and Storm Shelters

If constructing a safe room to shelter your family from damaging winds or a tornado is an option, refer to FEMA’s guidelines for design and construction.

Plan Ahead for High Winds

If a safe room/storm shelter is not a good option for you, there are many other ways you can prepare your home and family for a high wind speed event.

  • Invest in storm shutters to cover your windows and glass doors.
  • Trim your tree branches, especially dead limbs or ones that could crash through windows or bring down power lines, causing a power outage.
  • Inspect your roof and siding annually and promptly make any repairs to your shingles, flashing, and siding. Solving little problems now can save you a lot of headaches later.
  • Keep your property clear of loose objects and debris that a strong gust of wind could turn into a projectile.

When High Winds or a Tornado is Imminent

Whether you’ve had time to prep your home or not, the most important thing you can do is get to shelter. Take shelter indoors on the first floor of your home in a windowless room like a bathroom or even a closet. Go to the basement if you have one. If there are no windowless rooms, pull down blinds and draw curtains to help protect from broken glass and stay in the center of the room.

If time permits:

  • Bring pets indoors and shelter your outdoor animals in a shed or barn with the door secured.
  • Store loose items like toys, lawn furniture, trash cans, grills, and potted plants in a shed or garage.
  • Park your vehicles in a garage if the space is available. If not, try to park close to a building for some wind protection, and as far as possible from trees or powerlines.
  • If there are large items outside your home that you can’t move indoors, secure them with tie-downs.
  • If you have storm shutters, close and latch them.
  • Close and latch all doors and windows.

High Winds Are Part of Life in the McCoy’s States

Most of the McCoy’s states fall in tornado regions three and four, so it’s very likely high winds will be an issue at one time or another. The best way to be prepared is to ensure your family knows what a tornado siren sounds like and where to take shelter.

Weigh the pros and cons of a storm shelter and/or storm shutters to determine if this investment is right for you. Perform regular maintenance on your home’s exterior to make sure your siding and shingles are firmly attached. Make it a habit to clear debris from your yard and to remove or prune damaged trees. Find what you need at McCoy’s including Hardie® siding and panels, LP® SmartSide®, ZIP System® sheathing, Owens Corning® roofing shingles, and a wide range of concrete, rebar, and concrete blocks.