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Tornadoes can cause severe damage, and although there is a common misconception that tornadoes only happen in “Tornado Alley”, tornadoes have been reported in all 50 states. About 1,200 tornadoes touch down in the U.S. every year, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory. Strong Tornado

While it’s impossible to completely prevent tornado damage, especially in the event of a major twister, there are some things you can do to reduce the damage to your home. For what you can’t protect against, make sure you’re armed with excellent homeowners insurance.

Prepare your home with tornado mitigation steps and make sure you’ve updated your insurance.

Key Takeaways

  • You can’t completely prevent tornado damage, but you can lessen it by making upgrades to your home.
  • A new, upgraded roof can better withstand high winds and ensure that your home’s best protection against the storm stays in place.
  • Review your coverage with your home insurance company and make sure to ask about any discounts for tornado mitigation upgrades.

How to reduce the impact of tornadoes

When a tornado is headed your way, there’s little you can do but take cover. However, if you’ve prepared your home with upgrades, inspections and other strategies that will help your home withstand the storm.

Tornado mitigation strategies

We looked to the Insurance Information Institute and the Institute for Business & Home Safety, a Tampa-based insurance industry group, for expert advice on how to incorporate wind mitigation techniques and how to reduce tornado damage. Here are several steps you can take.

  1. Make sure your home is up to current building codes. Structures built to meet widely accepted building codes have a much better chance of surviving high winds and flying debris. An inexpensive inspection by a qualified expert will tell you if your home is up to code. The inspector should examine the windows and doors, roofing, gables and connections (roof-to-wall and wall-to-foundation). Weaknesses in these areas make your home vulnerable to significant damage.
  2. Upgrade your windows. Modern impact-resistant window systems, when properly installed, have a much better chance of surviving a major windstorm. Alternatively, impact-resistant shutters that close over window openings prevent flying debris from breaking windowpanes.
  3. Strengthen entry doors. If the door is in good condition, inspect the hinges (three are recommended). Hinges, latches and dead-bolt locks should be strong enough to resist high wind pressures. Double doors need special attention. Install heavy-duty barrel bolt sliding latches at the top and bottom. Door frames must be securely anchored to house frames.
  4. Install impact-resistant patio doors. Sliding glass doors are more vulnerable to wind damage than most other doors. If you are replacing your patio doors or planning new construction, consider installing impact-resistant door systems made of laminated glass, plastic glazing or a combination of plastic and glass.
  5. Install strong garage doors. Because of their large size, garage doors are highly susceptible to wind damage. A garage-door installer can determine if both the door and the track system will resist high winds.
  6. Stiffen double-wide doors. Double-wide doors are most vulnerable. Permanent wood stiffeners can be installed or temporary center supports that are easy to attach and remove can be designed by the door manufacturer or a local installer. Local building-code officials can provide more information.
  7. Repair or upgrade your roof. When replacing a roof, look for storm resistant shingles and have the roofing installed by a professional to make sure it’s secure.
  8. Cut back tree branches overhanging the roof. High winds can send tree branches falling, and branches hanging over the roof are more likely to land on it.

What should your roofing contractor do to prevent tornado damage?

Tornados, strong wind gusts, and hail from storms can have devastating effects on your home. High wind speeds can damage and remove shingles, potentially exposing your roof’s sheathing and underlayment. This can leave your home vulnerable to the elements.  

If you have recently experienced severe wind weather, it is important to examine your roof to detect damage. First, make certain the storm has passed and it is safe to be outside. Then check for signs of hail, wind, and water damage. If your roof has been impacted, find a professional contractor to help prevent further complications and repair your home. 

“Severe weather can pose a risk to all shingle and roof types,” said Gregg Hicks, vice president of Modernize Home Services. “If your roof needs to be repaired or replaced following wind damage, it is important to find a trusted contractor. If you live in an area prone to severe weather, discuss which roofing materials are best for your region and climate to help your home withstand future storms.”

Here are some things your roofing contractor can to do reduce the impact of tornadoes on your roof:

  1. Remove old coverings down to the bare wood sheathing
  2. Remove sheathing to confirm that rafters and trusses are securely connected to the walls
  3. Replace damaged sheathing
  4. Refasten existing sheathing according to the proper fastening schedule outlined in your local building code
  5. Install a roof covering that is designed to resist high winds.
  6. Brace your gables. The end wall of a gable roof must be properly braced to resist high winds. An inspector can help determine if your gable end walls should be strengthened.
  7. Strengthen connections. The strength at points where the roof and the foundation meet the walls of your house is extremely important if the house is to resist wind pressures and the loads they place on the structure. To help reinforce these potential weak points, you should consider metal fasteners (most easily added when a roof is being replaced). Also, when winds place stress on walls, it’s important that walls be properly anchored to the foundation. An expert can determine if these joints need retrofitting, which can be done by a qualified contractor. For houses with more than one story, the connections between each level must be properly tied together.

Frequently asked questions on tornado mitigation strategies

How can you stay safe during a tornado?

According to The Weather Channel, the first thing to do is agree upon a safe place for a storm shelter in the home. Avoid windows and if possible, get underground in a basement or storm shelter. Wear shoes and if possible, a helmet. Keep your pets with you and on a leash or in a carrier. Get in the know on severe weather terms like tornado watch vs. tornado warning.

Can you get home insurance discounts for tornado mitigation?

Some home insurance companies offer a discount for installing stronger roofing materials and other wind mitigation upgrades. Talk to your insurer.

Does homeowners insurance cover tornado damage?

Generally, yes. Tornadoes are considered windstorms and most standard homeowners policies have coverage for windstorms. If you live in a tornado-prone area, you will likely pay a higher home insurance premium. You should also always review your policy to check for any exclusions.

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Ashlee Tilford


Ashlee, a former managing editor, insurance, at QuinStreet, is a journalist and business professional. She earned an MBA in 2014 with a concentration in finance. She has more than 15 years of hands-on experience in the finance industry.