4 Types of Seattle Storm Damage and How to Prevent Them

Seattle is known for its cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers.  Seattle’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the Puget Sound generally help to protect the area from extreme weather like hurricanes and sub zero temperatures.  When Seattle does experience extreme weather, it usually takes the form of high winds, heavy rains, and occasional cold snaps with heavy snow.  These infrequent, but not unusual weather phenomena can cause damage to buildings such as flooding and tree strikes.

Windstorm Hazards

The Seattle area experiences very strong windstorms with hurricane force winds.  Two of the greatest dangers from windstorms are tree hazards and wind driven rain.

1. Tree Hazards

To protect your home or business from damage from falling trees, it is important to know the age, health, and species of each tree on your property that could potentially fall on a structure or power line.  A professional arborist will be able to determine the tree’s age, health, and species and make recommendations for safe pruning or removal if necessary.   The city of Seattle recommends choosing an ISA Certified Arborist, or a hiring a firm that is a member of the TCIA (Tree Care Industry Association).  Your arborist should also have a certificate of insurance and be insured for property damage, worker’s compensation, and personal liability.  An untrained pruning can damage the structural integrity of trees and make them more likely to fall, potentially injuring someone, damaging property, or knocking out power lines. 

Another problem with falling trees is that during windstorms, falling trees typically knockout power. Power outages with very cold temperatures are the most significant problems caused by high winds.

2. Wind Driven Rain

Wind speeds of 32mph or more can cause structural damage. While Seattle's modern building codes require that new structures be able to withstand 85 mph for three seconds, Seattle also has many older buildings that do not meet the new building codes.  Wind driven rain can also be particularly problematic.  Typically, rain without high winds will fall on the roof and be safely directed away from the house by rain gutters and roof slope. Wind driven rain is when high winds drive rain at the exterior walls of the home and rainwater enters the building through windows seals and door cracks.  Wind driven rain damage is typically not covered by flood insurance, but may be covered by homeowner’s insurance.  If you have an older home, check to see if your home will be covered by wind driven rain damage.  To prevent damage, upgrade to modern widows and doors and have them professionally installed to ensure a water tight seal.

Cold Temperature and Snowfall Hazards

With Seattle’s typically mild temperatures, the city doesn’t keep an army of snowplows on call.  Sudden cold storms that come in from the Yukon can leave Seattle residents homebound for days.  What's more, they can cause freezing pipes and in severe circumstances, collapsed roofs.

1. Freezing Pipes

One of the greatest dangers during sudden cold snaps is the danger of freezing pipes.  This danger is significantly increased if your home looses power and you cannot heat your home.  Once pipes freeze, there is a significant chance that the frozen pipe and break and flood your home with freezing cold water.  To prevent frozen pipes: insulate pipes and faucets located outdoors, in crawl spaces, or other cold areas.  Never shut you home’s heat off completely during cold snaps, especially if you are away on vacation.  If it gets really cold, open cupboard doors under sinks so that the plumbing will be exposed to warm air.  If your pipes do freeze, call a licensed plumber.  Never use an open flame to heat pipes as you could break the pipe, start a fire, or suffer carbon monoxide poisoning.

2. Roofs Collapsing

Heavy snowfall can lead to roof collapses, particularly on flat roofs. One cubic foot of snow can become a 64-pound block of ice. Snow should be removed from roofs as quickly as possible to avoid dangerous buildup.

Overall, the best way to prevent storm damages is to understand Seattle’s most common storm hazards and to be proactive about home maintenance.  

Superior Cleaning & Coit Cleaning and Restoration in Woodinville, WA holds a Construction Contractor, General license (SUPERI 973KR).

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