If you’re a Florida native or semi-native, please bear with us. The Sunshine State welcomes numerous new residents every year, most from states that don’t experience hurricanes. So if your eyes glaze over from yet another article about hurricane season – which runs from June 1 through November 30 – there are many people who may be learning this information for the first time. But even if hurricanes are old hat for you, being overconfident can be risky. You just might benefit from a refresher course on how to prepare your yard to prevent severe storm damage!
Fortunately, Central Florida has been spared a direct hit these past several years. However, long-timers know that tropical storms (which may or may not develop into a hurricane, for newcomers out there) and almost-daily summer afternoon thunderstorms also can wreak havoc on landscaping, patios, and other outdoor areas. Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center — a division of the National Weather Service — predict a 65% chance of an above-normal hurricane season this year. Preparing for the worst will help your property be better able to weather anything Mother Nature throws at it this summer and early fall!
What to Do Now to Keep Your Property Safe
If this is your first hurricane season in Florida, don’t panic! The peak months for hurricanes are August and September, giving you enough time to do whatever work needs to be done – either by you or a lawn care professional – like our experienced team at Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing!
While you may have already stocked up on bottled water, flashlights, batteries, and non-perishable “hurricane food” that can be eaten without being heated, you should be doing a careful walk-through of your property to identify potential problems and take the necessary steps to head them off now rather than procrastinate until late July.
Pay Attention to Your Trees
It’s easy to take your trees for granted and enjoy the beauty and shade they provide. However, weak, rotting, or dead branches can snap off in high winds, becoming projectiles that crash through windows or roofs, or onto vehicles – as well as bring down overhead utility lines (the main reason for prolonged post-hurricane power outages). Unhealthy or dying trees can likewise be uprooted and cause major property damage. Those who were here in 2004 for Hurricane Charley – which made landfall on August 9 as a category 4 storm (130-156 mph sustained winds) – remember the damage caused by an estimated total of 28,000 trees uprooted throughout Orlando and Winter Park. Since then, Central Florida communities encourage homeowners to prune old or overhanging branches and remove declining trees to prevent a similar situation.
According to the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Extension, a tree that is vulnerable during a hurricane is one with a high center of gravity, a dense canopy, a decayed trunk, two or more trunks, or shallow roots. Shallow roots result from shallow soil or a high water table. Our blog post – “Hurricane Season is Here! Is Your Yard Ready?” – includes the following proactive steps to take:
- Prune weak, rotting, or dead tree branches and remove low-hanging ones near the house.
- Check tree roots for signs of rotting and remove any rotten or diseased trees or shrubs.
- Keep the tree canopy maintained and thinned to increase air circulation.
- Call a professional arborist to periodically maintain trees, or remove them as necessary. University of Florida’s International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) recommends hiring a certified arborist to prune trees larger than 15 feet tall of dead branches that can fall on houses, cars, and people. Overly long branches should be shortened and branches with cracks removed or shortened.
However, Wendy Wilbur — environmental horticulture agent for UF/IFAS Extension — cautions against over-pruning in her article for Florida Farm & Family. “If you prune too many healthy leaves, the tree won’t grow properly and become unstable over time.” Our blog post – “Are Your Trees Prepared and Pruned for Hurricane Season?” – covers this topic in greater detail.
Should you have to remove a tree or two and want to replace them (UF/IFAS Extension also recommends removing tall, slender trees from your landscape to reduce the risk of toppling in hurricane-force winds), look for a species characterized by a low center of gravity, a strong, sturdy trunk, and a deep, symmetrical root system. Researchers at the University of Florida have found that sand live oaks are the most resistant to wind damage. Other good choices include the Southern magnolia, live oak, crape myrtle, bald cypress, and sabal palm. These trees are less likely to lose limbs or blow over during hurricanes.
Keep in mind that trees planted in the last five years don’t have an extensive root system to anchor them against strong winds. Reinforce the trunks with 2×4 stakes now, so you aren’t scrambling to do so when a hurricane warning is issued. This is typically recommended if a hurricane is imminent, but as previously mentioned, Central Florida’s afternoon thunderstorms can be severe, and the trunk of a very young tree could snap.
What to Do if a Hurricane Approaches
As a hurricane gets closer to land, you’ll usually have about 24 to 48 hours of warning to prepare before the storm hits. There are key outdoor areas to secure as much as possible to prevent damage. Creative Edge Landscape and Lawn Care offer the following actions to take. Our blog post – “Hurricane Season is Here! Is Your Yard Ready?” – provides additional useful information.
Drainage Areas: These areas should be checked and cleared of all debris. A blocked storm drain or drainage area can create worse flooding problems. If water backs up onto your property and creates loose soil, the root systems of nearby trees may not be able to keep the tree properly anchored. This leads to falling trees and the potential for serious damage.
Yard Cleanup: Anything that can become a projectile in your yard must be dealt with. Yard decorations, tools, furniture and anything not securely anchored into the ground needs to be removed from your yard. In addition to removing these items, now would be the right time to make sure all doors to sheds are closed and secured.
Potted Plants: All potted plants, wind chimes, and other hanging objects need to be brought indoors. Small potted plants that you have around your yard can easily become projectiles, causing damage to property.
Irrigation Systems: Turn off all your irrigation systems. In fact, turning off the main water line would be the best option to prepare for these storms. If a tree falls on your property, the roots could break the water lines and cause flooding or make an existing flood even worse. This will also prevent contaminated water from entering your plumbing system. Be sure to shut off your main water line should you need to evacuate.
Gutters: Take time to make sure your rain gutters are clear of any debris. Secure parts of your gutters that may be weak. When your rain gutters are blocked, it causes excess amounts of water to pool, which can potentially damage your roof.
Pools: If a hurricane is approaching, do not drain the pool. If you do, it can pop out of the ground due to the excessive groundwater pressure caused by heavy rains. Swimming pool maintenance professionals also advise against covering the pool. Although it may seem a logical way to prevent debris from being dumped in, it’s easier to remove branches and other items afterward than replacing an expensive pool cover that’s been damaged by the same.
Be Prepared for Hurricane Season and be Safe
Major jobs that involve cutting large branches or tree removal should be left to a professional who has the experience and equipment to do so safely. Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing is located in Lake Mary and serves Longwood, Sanford, Orlando, and the entire Central Florida area. We specialize in tree services, pressure washing, bush hogging, landscape design, and lawn care services. We are licensed and insured, so you can hire us with confidence for all of your yard maintenance needs! Contact us to help you prepare for hurricane season, and take one more worry off your plate this year!