Protecting Yourself From Summer Storms

A hot summer day that turns into a fearsome thunderstorm is a natural part of living in Alberta, and the frontier spirit to carry on despite the more-than-occasional bout of hail, torrential downpour, tornado or snow in July is just part of why we love our home province so much.

But as much as we take pride in dealing with them, and, those thunderstorms, wind and hail all do some real damage: in fact, since 2010 Alberta has had more damage related to summer storms than all other provinces in Canada combined.

AMA Insurance Alberta storm stats

While we can’t stop Mother Nature from displaying her awe-inspiring might, the best way to protect yourself and your stuff from a storm is to know one’s coming.

Turn on severe weather alerts and emergency updates

Turn on Weather Alerts
You can always listen to the radio or tune in to the local forecast on the Weather Network for the latest storm updates, but there are some other newer ways to bring that information to your fingertips. For starters, your favourite weather app probably allows you to turn on severe weather alerts in your area:

There are also resources available from the federal and provincial governments that can help you stay on top of severe weather, such as the Environment Canada website for ongoing weather alerts or the Alberta Emergency Alerts system.

You can also take a number of simple steps to make sure that your car, your home and your belongings are safe from damage when she decides to pound us with wind, hail, and overland flooding.

Before the Storm

Gut the gutters and respect your roof
Gut the gutters and respect your roof
You want to check and make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear and drain properly. It’s important to check the gutters before and after a hail storm to make sure they aren’t clogged with debris. And don’t neglect your shingles, either. You’ll want to inspect your roof regularly (be careful if you’re heading up there yourself!), but especially before spring and summer storms start up. Weak spots in the shingles can cause leaks or weaken the overall life of your roof, and your insurance policy won’t cover damage caused because you neglected regular maintenance

Give the trees some TLC
Give the trees some TLC
It’s just as important to give the trees on your property some attention before the storms come around. An arborist can help you detect any threats they may pose to your property or your neighbours’ should a storm bring down a tree or some branches. Regular maintenance such as trimming branches, mulching (which protects the roots of the tree) and searching for cavities will all help keep your tree healthy and upright.

Check the yard
Check the yard
Consider the materials you choose when landscaping. Those charming rock or gravel paths may look nice now, but they may not look as great when they’re being flung across your yard by a heavy wind. A softer material like shredded bark may give you the look you want without the risk. Don’t forget to secure patio furniture, barbeques and other outdoor items. You don’t want your trampoline doing somersaults during a summer storm. You’ll also want to bring any potted plants or flowers inside or under cover to protect them and keep your yard looking summer fresh.

Check your sump pump and backwater valve
Make sure the sump pump ain't a chump
It’s always best to double check that your sump pump is working, has no blockages and drains properly before summer storm season arrives. While you’re down there, check on your backwater valve, too.

Seal and clean
Seal and clean
When it comes to keeping water out of your basement and home, make sure that all cracks and leaks that could be in the floors, walls, windows and foundations are sealed and that water drains away from the foundation. It’s also important to check the storm drains near your home and clear of any blockages so the storm water doesn’t pool in the streets and back up onto your (or your neighbours’) property.

Understand your insurance coverage
Understand your insurance coverage
Make sure you understand what is covered for both your home and automobile insurance. Some policies may limit things like your vehicle windshield, and if you decided to save some money on your premium by declining coverage for hail, you won’t be able to file a claim for that damage. Also, the roof of your home is likely subject to depreciation, so if your shingles are a few years old, a claim may not cover the full cost of replacing it.

Consider impact-resistant materials
Consider impact-resistant materials when upgrading your home
Renovating? Consider upgrading to impact-resistant shingles and siding to reduce the damage a heavy storm may have on your home. Wood shakes, “Class 4” shingles and rubber roofing are all hail resistant, and fiber-cement siding can protect the façade of your home from damage from hail.

During the Storm

Park Inside
Park inside
There’s no other way to say this: get your wheels under some cover, especially in a hail storm! Find a garage, a carport, underground parking — whatever it is, get a roof over top of your vehicle. If you’re out and about, look for a parkade or try to take shelter in the lee of a large building.

Stay indoors
Stay indoors
Thunderstorms get their name from the big bolts of charged electrical energy that tend to burst from those dark clouds, so it’s always best to wait it out indoors to avoid lightning or debris from high winds. If it’s a real barnburner of a storm, keep blinds and drapes closed to protect against potential broken glass. Also, consider your four-legged friends and bring your pets inside or under shelter.

Avoid low-lying areas
Avoid low-lying areas that may flood
An overpass might seem like a good last resort to get shelter from a hailstorm, but many overpasses are designed to collect water underneath, which can make them a bad area to wait out a storm if you’re caught in one on the road. Luckily, we also have some helpful tips for what to do if you’re caught out driving in a hailstorm.

After the Storm

Check for damage
Check your home and vehicle for damage
Inspect your roof, windows, gutters and basement for flooding. Be sure to clear away any debris, especially in case another storm rolls through and whips it around again. Take care to avoid faulty gas lines or downed powerlines and call the authorities if you come across any. If you’ve suffered any damage to your property (roofs, siding and gutters are common), take a minute to document it with pictures or video to help your insurance adjuster if you decide to file a claim.

Give us a call
Call your insurance company if necessary
We’re here to help in situations just like this! You can give us a call for advice or to start a claim. Keep records and receipts of any clean-up costs or repairs you do to simplify the claims process.

Consider impact-resistant materials
Rebuild with Impact-Resistant Materials
Okay, so we put this on here twice, but if you’re not looking to upgrade your home before a storm, maybe you’re in the market to fix the damage done by a storm using impact-resistant shingles (“Class 4” shingles, wood shakes or rubber roofs) or siding (fiber-cement) to help protect against making a claim in the future.

Do it again
Go Back to the Top and Do It Over Again
It would be a miracle for us to get just one squall during the summer months, so after one storm, you’re going to need to go back and check your trees and your gutters and your sump pump and everything else to make sure you’re ready for the next one..

**Sources: Insurance Bureau of Canada, Environment Canada, The Weather Network, Alberta Severe Weather Management Society, Alberta Motor Association Insurance Company