Hurricane Season Is Here! Is Your Yard Ready?

It’s time once again for hurricane season, which began June 1 and will run through November 30. However, whether you’re a new resident of The Sunshine State, or an experienced native or semi-native, you need to pay special attention to your hurricane preparations this year! Even if this won’t be your first hurricane rodeo, complacency could put your property at risk for damage.

La Nina Arrives – Why this Hurricane Season is Forecast to be More Active

This hurricane season marks the beginning of the La Nina cycle. There are technical explanations for this climate cycle – which usually lasts one to three years – but in plain language, a La Nina cycle is marked by more frequent and intense hurricanes. AP science writer Seth Borenstein describes La Nina as follows:

”When meteorologists look at how busy a hurricane season is, two factors matter most: ocean temperatures in the Atlantic where storms spin up and need warm water for fuel, and whether there is a La Nina or El Nino, the natural and periodic cooling or warming of Pacific Ocean waters that changes weather patterns worldwide. A La Nina tends to turbocharge Atlantic storm activity while depressing storminess in the Pacific, and an El Nino does the opposite.

“La Nina usually reduces high-altitude winds that can decapitate hurricanes, and generally during a La Nina there’s more instability or storminess in the atmosphere, which can seed hurricane development. Storms get their energy from hot water. Ocean waters have been record warm for 13 months in a row and a La Nina is forecast to arrive by mid to late summer. The current El Nino is dwindling and is expected to be gone within a month or so.”

With this hurricane season expected to be more unpredictable and active, waiting until a hurricane warning is issued to make plans and take action to prevent – or minimize – damage isn’t advisable. For Florida newcomers, a hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected; a hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible.

As we always say, hurricanes aren’t all you need to be concerned about. Tropical storms and Florida’s almost-daily summer afternoon thunderstorms can also pack a destructive wallop! A tropical storm is defined by maximum sustained surface winds ranging from 39-73 mph. A hurricane is defined by maximum sustained surface winds of 74 mph or greater. Not every tropical storm develops into a hurricane, although a tropical storm is given a name when it displays a rotating circulation pattern and wind speeds reach 39 miles per hour. When you hear about a “named storm,” this is what your TV weather person is talking about. Take any named storm seriously!

Prune and Trim Your Trees Now – Remove Dead and Declining Trees

You may not think so, but trees are especially vulnerable in a hurricane. Dead branches can snap off during a storm and crash through windows, as well as fall on houses, cars and people. Dead and unhealthy trees can be uprooted, causing the same types of property damage as fallen branches – but even more extensive. Moreover, fallen branches and trees can bring down overhead utility lines (the main reason for prolonged post-hurricane power outages).

In 2004, Hurricane Charley – which made landfall on August 9 as a category 4 storm (130-156 mph sustained winds) – uprooted an estimated total of 28,000 trees 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.

Cutting down heavy limbs or a tree are not DIY jobs, as most homeowners don’t have the tools, equipment or ability to do so safely. And don’t rely on YouTube videos to educate you. Call a full-service yard service company or arborist to trim or remove trees.

Our blog post – “Being Prepared for Hurricane Season” – offers the following preventive recommendations from the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Extension:

  • 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.

One important preparation step that’s too often overlooked is cleaning roof gutters of leaves, twigs and other debris. Tropical storms and hurricanes produce torrential rains over a prolonged period. Roof gutters and downspouts clogged with debris can’t allow the water to run off.  Wendy Wilber of Florida Farm & Family advises checking your yard’s drainage areas to make sure they’re free and clear of debris.

“Water cannot flow well through blocked drainage areas and can flood the yard if it has nowhere else to go. Standing water can cause trees to fall over and kill tree roots, even weeks after the storm.”

Assess Your Patio Furniture and Container Plants – Make a Plan to Move Them

Make plans for patio furniture, other outdoor items and container plants. You don’t want to wait until a hurricane is imminent before deciding where they should be moved to protect them – as well as to prevent them from becoming projectiles that can crash through your windows in high winds! Decide the best place(s) to store your outdoor furniture, grill, garden ornaments and statuary, hanging and potted plants, etc. If you won’t be able to bring potted plants indoors, cluster them next to an exterior wall and tie them together. If you have an outdoor grill, bring the grill indoors, but leave the propane tank outside, chained in an upright position to a solid object or structure.

Some items – such as garden statuary – may be too heavy to pick up, yet could still become a projectile in hurricane-force winds. If an object requires being put on a hand truck or dolly and needs two people to move it, consider locating it to a protected area now. Once a hurricane threatens Central Florida, you’ll be too busy making other preparations – and the help you’ll need to do the lifting may not be available.

Word to the wise: A screen pool enclosure is not a protected area. Considering that a category 1 hurricane packs sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph, a screen enclosure offers little or no protection to anything inside. The screen panels and even frames themselves can be damaged by large, heavy objects – such as patio furniture – thrown against them.

Be Prepared and Stay Safe This Hurricane Season!

While you need to make the proper better-safe-than-sorry preparations every hurricane season, the return of La Nina gives extra reason for ensuring your property is in shape to keep your house and family as safe as possible. Our blog post – “First Hurricane Season in Florida? Here’s What You Need to Know!” – provides additional preparation tips for your yard, garden, patio and pool.

As mentioned earlier, 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 specializes in tree services, lawn care services, landscape design, pressure washing and bush hogging. We are licensed and insured, so you can hire us with confidence for all of your yard maintenance needs! We’re located in Lake Mary, serving Longwood, Sanford, Orlando, and the entire Central Florida area. Contact us to help you prepare for hurricane season, and take one more worry off your plate this year!