If you have lived any full year in Florida, you have the knowledge of a few things about severe weather. From temperatures that could fry an egg on asphalt to thunderstorms that sound like a pair of cymbals tumbling down an escalator, the Sunshine State is often home to some scary weather-based scenarios. Of course, like anything else, we learn to live with the tornado warnings and hurricane watches. However, even many longtime Florida residents do not know the best ways to protect their home before severe weather strikes. Far fewer know their responsibilities under premises liability if the storm causes damage to their property.
What is worse is that many of these storms are completely unpredictable. Though you may be able to somewhat accurately forecast the path of a hurricane, quickly developing tornadoes, dangerous wind gusts and lightning strikes leave us nearly powerless and with very little time to prepare in the face of mother nature’s fury.
With that in mind, let us review a few severe weather risks that Florida poses in the summer months, as well as how you can protect yourself and your family from them.
- Tornadoes: Posing a serious risk to people and property alike, tornadoes can create winds reaching 200 mph. This is strong enough to destroy homes, throw cars through the air like toys and easily injure or kill those who do not seek shelter. During thunderstorms, keep track of news broadcasts, and if a tornado warning is issued, seek shelter immediately.
Unfortunately, Florida’s soil makes it quite rare that homeowners are fortunate enough to have basements or underground shelters to seek protection from a tornado. Instead, most Floridians must find the centermost room on the bottom floor, away from windows (bathrooms or closets are commonly used for shelter). If on the road, do not attempt to outrun the tornado. They have been known to reach speeds of 70 mph and move erratically. Instead, seek shelter where you can find it, but avoid going under an overpass, as these can act as wind tunnels that actually increase wind speeds. Instead, if stranded, lay flat on the ground with your head covered.
- Floods: Florida’s thunderstorms can come hard and fast, dumping feet of torrential rain in a matter of hours. If drainage is inadequate or rain is severe enough, water can damage homes, vehicles, and other low-lying property.
If your home is at risk of flood damage, protect it by laying down sandbags to block the water from entry. Additionally, you can protect your property by investing in federal flood insurance. Though it may be tempting, never attempt to drive in flooded areas. Doing so in a vehicle not meant to handle such conditions could easily strand you. Also avoid entering the flood waters, as they may contain harmful debris, dangerous chemicals or risk of electrocution from downed power lines.
- Lightning: Florida is the lightning capitol of the U.S. When you hear thunder, it is time to pack up the beach gear, get out of the pool and retreat from the putting green immediately. Though inconvenient for summer fun, even storms that seem at a safe distance can cause life-threatening lightning strikes that seemingly come out of thin air, so pack it in and find shelter before the storm hits.
If you cannot find refuge inside a building, get inside a car and keep hands away from the exterior of the vehicle, as well as the radio and other electronics. A vehicle on rubber tires can act as a protective insulator if struck by lightning. Also, be warned that water is a conduit for electricity, so even puddles of standing water can send a dangerous surge of electricity through you if a strike even occurs nearby.
- Hurricanes: Often large, powerful and downright frightening, hurricanes can wreak destruction that takes years to fully recover from. From winds that can reach upwards of 150 mph at the most severe to the torrential rain and flooding, you do not want to underestimate the awesome power of such storms. Though many locals can become jaded by the near misses and weaker storms that have made their way to Florida in recent years, you would be wise to prepare for the worst once it becomes apparent that a hurricane is headed our way.
Learning evacuation routes ahead of time, boarding up homes and businesses days before the storm is set to make landfall, buying water, nonperishable goods, and safety equipment before the last minute can all go a long way in preventing panic and injury once the storm hits. If time allows, consider trimming loose branches from trees and removing anything that may act as a projectile on your lawn or backyard. Always heed evacuation notices and never try to “ride it out” unless absolutely necessary.
After Severe Weather Strikes
Even after making it through the above cases of severe weather unscathed, there are risks that may still pose a threat to you, your family and your neighbors. As a homeowner, you owe invited guests protection from dangerous conditions. Though on a normal day, that may mean fixing that busted step on your porch or rolling up the water hose that was dangerously strewn across your driveway, but after severe weather, dangers may be all around.
Look for the likes of:
- Downed trees or branches
- Roof damage, including missing tiles
- Debris strewn across your yard and walkways
- Broken glass from vehicles or your home
- Live wires or electrical hazards
- Standing pools of water
- Wild animals that may have been displaced
If you are aware of potential dangers on your property caused by severe weather, it is your responsibility to identify and remove these risks. However, if you cannot repair the damage or remove the risks yourself, alert guests to the danger and immediately call a professional to report the issue. If your guest ignores your warnings and is injured as a result, you may be removed from any claims of negligence.
The main thing to remember before, during, and after a storm? Be safe and use common sense. If you see severe weather headed your way, take shelter, ride out the storm from a safe location and use caution during the clean up afterward. Remove the dangers on your property that you can and call in the professionals for assistance in the rest.
If you are injured due to a homeowner’s neglect to protect you from harm while on their property, do not hesitate to contact our premises liability attorneys today. Stay safe, stay smart and pack an umbrella this summer.