April 19, 2017

What to Do Immediately After a Severe Rainstorm

The rain has stopped and the storm clouds have rolled away. Now it’s time to takes steps to maintain your safety, check for damage, and get your property fixed so you can get back to life under sunny skies.

Learn more at The Hartford’s Catastrophe Information Center.

A severe rain- or thunderstorm can cause anything from no damage to severe property damage. Fortunately, your homeowners insurance helps cover you for the damage caused by wind, lightning, and hail. However, your home insurance doesn’t cover you for weather-related flooding—but your flood insurance does. If you didn’t have flood insurance, you can contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for help.

A rainstorm is a storm with heavy rain, generally falling at a rate of .3 inches or more per hour. A thunderstorm, in addition to heavy rain, includes thunder and lightning and may bring hail and strong winds.

Every year, about 100,000 thunderstorms hit the United States, and 10 percent of those are severe, according to The National Severe Storms Laboratory. In order to be classified as severe, a thunderstorm must be accompanied by hail one inch or larger, winds 57.5 miles per hour or faster, or a tornado, all of which pose a danger to you, your home, and your car. The part of the country most at risk extends from Southern Minnesota to Texas, but a severe thunderstorm can hit anywhere.

After such a storm, you might be tempted to rush outside to take stock of broken tree limbs, displaced shingles, and shattered glass. However, it’s important to take your time and be careful when assessing damage to your property in the aftermath of a storm.

Remain in a Safe Space After the Storm

Stay in your home, or in your car if you were driving when the storm struck, until you’re absolutely sure it’s safe to go outside. A simple lightning safety rule: If you can hear thunder, do not go outside. Lightning can strike 10 to 15 miles away from the center of a storm, even in an area where no rain is falling. In fact, many people get struck by lightning after the storm has passed because they mistakenly believe they are out of danger. To be safe, stay inside for 30 minutes after the final thunderclap.

And as long as you can hear thunder, avoid using corded phones, stay away from electrical wiring and don’t take a bath or shower or wash dishes. Pipes can carry electricity and it is possible to get struck by lightning inside your home.

Check for Immediate Dangers

Once it’s safe to head outside, survey your property for any problems that might pose an immediate safety risk to you, your family, and your neighbors. Common post-storm dangers include downed power lines and hanging or broken tree branches.

If you notice that power lines have been knocked down, stay far away and immediately call your local electricity provider to report the situation. Assuming that you have access to the internet, you should be able to find their emergency number on their website. Don’t walk next to live wires because a downed power line can “energize” the ground up to 35 feet away, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

If you notice tree branches are broken or hanging, stay away from them, and keep kids and pets away, too. Call a professional to remove any damaged limbs.

Assess the Damage From the Storm

If there are no immediate dangers in your vicinity, look for storm damage to your car, truck, van or SUV. A lightning strike to a car parked outside could cause burning or pitting on the exterior and burns on the interior. Lightning has also been reported to cause tire damage and problems with wiring and electronic systems.

Hail, which falls during the middle part of a thunderstorm, can cause vehicle damage, including chipped paint and dents on the exterior, as well as broken, cracked or pitted glass. It’s not always easy to spot hail damage, so look carefully.

Also check for storm damage to your home. Here’s what to look for:

Roof damage: Severe winds can damage your roof, leaving your home vulnerable to water damage. Survey your roof for missing shingles, holes, or crushed roof vents, which can prevent proper air circulation. Check the ground for any shingles that could have fallen as well. Call in a roofing professional if you notice any damage or if there are parts of the roof you can’t safely inspect on your own.

Siding damage: Inspect your siding for hail and wind damage. Hail can cause dents in siding and severe winds can rip pieces of it off a home. Look for damage to gutters and trim as well.

Window and skylight damage: Examine windows and skylights to see if they’ve been chipped, cracked or pitted by hail. Skylights can be especially vulnerable to hail damage, so look inside your home around skylights for any sign of cracks or water leaks.

Other property damage: Check air conditioning units and other outdoor appliances. Also look over other structures, such as a storage shed or a gazebo, for any damage caused by hail, lightning, or wind.

If you can, make temporary fixes to prevent further damage to your property, especially wherever you find water leakage. For example, have a waterproof tarp installed over any holes in your roof to prevent water leaks that can damage your home’s interior and your possessions.

Take photos and detailed notes as you make your inspection so you’re prepared to talk to your insurer about what happened and how your property was damaged. If you have insurance from The Hartford, call 1-800-243-5860 or go to our online insurance claims center. We’ll contact you within one business day of reporting your claim to discuss next steps and get you back to living your life in better weather.

READ MORE: 9 Apps to Help You Stay Safe in an Emergency

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