Preparing for Hurricane Irene–Garden and Home

Now that a tropical storm warning has been issued for the DC area (along with hurricane watches and warnings all along the East Coast) as Hurricane Irene approaches, it is time to make preparations. We don’t know exactly what conditions we’ll experience, of course, until it happens, yet many forecasters are comparing the expected storm to the effects of Hurricane Isabel. As many of you know, my garden suffered tremendous damage during Hurricane Isabel. I lost three 100+ year-old trees and it took a couple of years to get the garden back in shape. Remember, Isabel was only a strong tropical storm/minimal hurricane and she did a lot of damage. If you choose to make preparations, here are some thoughts:

Put away in your garage, shed or inside, as these can be blown around and cause more damage, or they can be damaged by wind and/or debris—basically anything that can move or is not planted:


–Empty pots/containers


–Outdoor furniture

–Awnings—secure or take down




–Wind chimes

–Potted houseplants and outdoor plants, including hanging baskets

–Secure gates so they do not swing/blow off.

–Utilize outdoor working shutters over your windows if high winds are predicted. And pull indoor shades/shutters/curtains to protect windows, and put down the storm windows if you have them.

Other precautions:

–Clean gutters, clear drains so water can flow.

–Unplug irrigation, outdoor lighting systems, and pond pumps to prevent damage from power surges if the storm is imminent. Unplug major appliances and computers for the same reason.

–If your garage, shed, basement are prone to flooding, get things up off the floor.

In my neighborhood of North Arlington, we lost power for 10 days after Isabel, and had no landline or cell phone service for the same period. For this reason:

–Have a transistor radio on hand—get your batteries now. This was great for me as I heard the latest information and it really helped kill the boredom!

–Likewise, plenty of candles and matches, and some good books!

–Have flashlights and plenty of batteries on hand.

–Have a car cell phone charger just in case the cell service comes back on, but the house power doesn’t.

–Have a manual can opener.

Fill your car with gas, get some cash, and get your medicines refilled. You can’t do these if streets are blocked or power is out. Run the dishwasher and wash clothes while you can.

Have a first aid kit handy.

***Very important: Fill at least one bathtub with water. I learned this from my youngest sister, who lives in hurricane-prone Eastern North Carolina. Why? In case the water-treatment plants close or lose power to their pumps. This happened to one of my best friends in Fairfax County during Isabel. You can always boil water if you have a gas stove or outdoor grill. And you will have water available for washing and, especially, to manually flush your toilets.

Another learned lesson: If a neighbor’s tree(s) fall into your yard, their homeowner’s insurance likely will not pay for the damage past their property line into your yard. Your insurance could pay for it, so know what damage your insurance covers. I was told after Isabel to pay for the tree damage on my property and save my homeowner’s coverage for any future, major damage to my home since many insurance companies will discontinue coverage after a couple of big claims. Just thought I’d pass this on.

Our gardens will recuperate if damaged—and remember: Look on this as an opportunity if damage does occur. My garden suddenly had some sun after the trees fell, and I had lots of empty holes to fill with new plants (empty holes in the garden are a gardener’s dream!!). Years after Hurricane Isabel, my garden is so much better from the changes. But all that said, I sure don’t want to go through it again!

Be safe. If you can’t get in touch with me, I will get back to you when I can. I was basically incommunicado for 10 days after Isabel.

Posted under Weather vagaries

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on August 26, 2011

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