Although tornadoes can happen anytime, the most violent of these storms are seasonal. In the southern U.S. states, March through May is peak season; in the northern states, summer brings the big winds; and some areas see a secondary season in the fall. Most homeowners’ insurance policies cover losses from resulting from tornadoes; if not specifically named, they’re part of the broader “windstorm damage” coverage in your policy. However, as with all things insurance, don’t assume anything – check your policy or talk to your agent. Be aware that tornadoes can bring hail damage, which may or may not be covered by your standard policy. They also frequently bring flooding, which is never part of a standard policy.
While tornadoes are typically associated the area of the country called Tornado Alley – north from Texas through eastern Nebraska and northeast to Indiana – tornadoes can and do happen anywhere, even in southern California! In addition to checking your existing homeowners’ insurance policy, you can take some proactive steps to prevent or lessen the damage to your home if a twister comes calling.
No home is going to survive a head-on hit from a tornado, but by making sure your home is up to current code it has a better chance of standing up if it’s out of the tornado’s direct path. Areas of concern include roof-to-wall and wall-to-foundation connections, roofs, doors and windows. Some of the upgrades you can do yourself. Anything involving the foundation or load-bearing walls will probably require a licensed contractor.
Most roofs on inland buildings don’t have the inexpensive hurricane strapping that could keep the lid from blowing off in a tornado.
Is your garage or any other home addition anchored to the foundation with bolts or just nailed to the framing? Could your garage door and track system survive a big wind storm?
Consider replacing your existing windows with the impact-resistant systems used in hurricane-prone areas. Sliding glass doors can be replaced with laminated glass or plastic-glazed glass to better withstand winds.
Exterior doors should have a minimum of three hinges and dead bolt locks at least one inch long. Doors frames should be anchored securely to door framing.
A lot of the damage from tornadoes results not from the storm itself but what it picks up and blows around. Keep landscaping trees and shrubbery well trimmed. Remove any overhanging or weak branches that could snap off or fall on your home.
When a storm is threatening, secure or remove anything in your yard that could turn into a projectile. That includes patio furniture, toys and play structures.