Preparing for windstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes

Written by the Square One team

Updated June 12, 2024 | Published July 17, 2012

Wind comes in many forms, from a gentle breeze to a category 5 hurricane. Many types of stormy weather bring heavy wind with them, so it’s important to know how to prepare your home for a windstorm.

From west coast cyclones, to prairie tornadoes, to hurricanes in Atlantic Canada, pretty much everyone in Canada could experience powerful winds at some point.

What’s why we’ve created this guide to preparing your home for windstorms.

Tornado

Storm warning signs

Windstorms are part of life throughout Canada Hurricanes or post-tropical storms affect the east coast each year, as do typhoons on the Pacific side. While tornadoes are usually associated with Tornado Alley in the United States, as many as 60 tornadoes are confirmed in Canada each year.

Many windstorms come on quickly, without much warning. Most of the time, though, weather forecasts will offer sufficient warning to get prepared. Hurricanes in particular telegraph their movements many days in advance.

Paying attention to weather forecasts throughout the year is your first defense against dangerous storms of all kinds.

However, tornadoes can appear suddenly and move very quickly, often leaving vast areas destroyed in their wake. No matter the size, tornadoes can uproot trees, demolish homes, destroy personal property, sheds, and swimming pools, and overturn cars. The power of a tornado is both terrifying and amazing.

Warning signs of a potential tornado include:

  • Severe thunderstorms, with frequent thunder and lightning
  • A dark sky, often with green or yellow clouds
  • A rumbling sound, or a roar, that lasts longer than ordinary thunder
  • A funnel cloud, often accompanied by heavy rain or hail
  • A debris cloud, even if there is no actual funnel visible.
  • Heavy hail, often with no rain

Preparing your home for windstorms

There is plenty you can do to keep your home and your family ready for windstorms. It’s best to be as prepared as possible, so you don’t need to panic if meteorologists issue a storm warning.

Also keep in mind that many windstorms carry heavy rain as well. We’ve also got a guide to preparing your home for heavy rain.

Keep your home roof well maintained

When heavy winds strike a house, it’s often the roof that bears the worst of the damage. Depending on the type of roof on your home, it’s useful life is probably only 20-30 years. Roofs older than that face serious risk in heavy winds.

You should have a qualified professional inspect your roof regularly, especially once it’s nearing the end of its expected life.

If you notice any missing or loose shingles, have them repaired immediately—you don’t want to be scrambling to do so as a windstorm bears down on your house.

Take care of trees and landscaping

If you have any trees on your property, take note of any dead or dying branches. These should be removed promptly, as they can easily become dangerous projectiles in a windstorm (not to mention potentially falling on someone).

If any trees near your home die entirely, you’ll need to remove them. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, consult with a qualified arborist.

Have a safety plan and an emergency kit

Windstorms of all types can be chaotic and dangerous; you don’t want to be panicking and wondering what you need to do while hurricane-force winds are swirling around your house. Create a home safety plan that you can follow during all sorts of potential disasters.

Your safety plan should cover things like potential evacuation routes, how and where the family should meet up if they’re separated, how to contact one another during an emergency, and so on. You should also plan for living without power for several days, as windstorms usually cause widespread power outages.

Your home should also have an emergency kit with basic supplies like a first aid kid, flashlights, batteries, a radio, and other useful equipment.

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When a storm approaches

Hopefully, you’ll have at least a day or two of warning before a windstorm or hurricane approaches your home. Once you know a storm is coming, get ready as soon as possible.

  • Walk around your home and identify issues. Hopefully you’ve kept up with your maintenance. But, in the face of an oncoming storm, do a walkaround to look for dead or loose tree branches, loose shingles, and other potential issues. Park vehicles in the garage if you’ve got one, or away from trees or powerlines if you have to park outside.
  • Put away anything moveable. Wind has incredible power, and you don’t want it turning your possessions into projectiles. You’ll need to either secure outdoor objects, or bring them inside. That includes patio furniture, grills, propane tanks, trash bins, potted plants, hockey nets, or anything else that’s not fixed to the ground. If you can move it yourself, so can the storm.
  • Close and lock doors and windows. Shut every door and window as securely as possible, including engaging deadbolts on the doors. Garage doors are particularly susceptible to wind—if you’re worried about yours, don’t hesitate to brace it from the inside. If the storm looks truly catastrophic, you may even want to board up your windows if you don’t have storm shutters.
  • Check your supplies and equipment. You should have a few days of drinking water and food ready, including food that you’ll be able to eat if the power’s out. If you have a generator, make sure it’s in working order and fuelled up. Same thing with your vehicles—make sure you’ve got full tanks of gas, especially if an evacuation seems possible. Make sure your emergency kit is stocked up and that you’ve got all the medications you may need.

What to do during the storm

When a windstorm, hurricane, or tornado arrives, take shelter and stay there until it passes. Either stay in your basement, or in an interior room away from windows and doors. The only exception to this would be if authorities issue an evacuation order—in that case, follow official directions as quickly and safely as possible.

Resist the urge to storm watch—windstorms can be dramatic and exciting, but they’re also highly unpredictable and dangerous. If you live near the coast, be prepared for storm surges, and stay away from the water.

Keep abreast of the situation by monitoring information from Environment Canada, or from a local radio station. If you lose power or the internet goes out, hopefully you’ve included a battery- or hand-powered radio in your emergency kit.

After the storm has passed

Once the wind calms down, you can assess the damage. Keep in mind that hurricanes and some other storms have “eyes,” meaning the centre of the swirling winds. While the eye passes over, it may seem the storm has passed—but don’t fall for it. Official weather information is your best source for identifying the end of the storm.

Once it has passed, you can assess the damage to your home. While you’re outside, watch for downed powerlines. If you see any, stay well away and inform your local hydro utility.

Take a walk around and look for damage to your siding or roof. If there’s any severe damage, like a broken window or a hole punched through the roof or walls, do your best to mitigate it. Cover things with wood or tarps to keep the elements out as best you can—restoration crews may be extremely busy following a major storm.

If there’s any damage to your home, it may be time to inform your home insurance provider.

Windstorms and home insurance

Wind damage is generally covered by home insurance policies, but specific coverage does vary.

Some companies offer different degrees of coverage depending on the package you’ve chosen. If you have a named perils policy, you need to look at the list of covered perils in your wording booklet to see if wind damage is covered. If you have a comprehensive policy, you’re covered for all risks subject to a few exclusions. All you have to do is look at the list of exclusions to see if wind is excluded (chances are it’s covered).

However, wind damage to things outside your home, such as trees, bushes, antennas, and satellite dishes are excluded from most policies.

In any case, you can contact your home insurance provider to discuss your coverage. If the damage is going to be covered, they’ll help you get a crew out to start fixing things up. If the damage is particularly severe, your policy’s additional living expenses coverage may help you with extra costs of moving out while repairs take place. Keep in mind, too, is that you’ll still be responsible for paying your deductible if the damage is covered.

Want to learn more? Visit our Home and Personal Safety resource centre to find more information about protecting your family and your home. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.

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