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PREPARING for SUMMER STORMS with Wood Shutters

Scary Summer Storms.

Storms in my lexicon translate as SCARY! I’m from Jackson, Mississippi, not too far from the Gulf of Mexico. Our home got wiped out in the hurricane that almost pummelled the life out of me – the great Katrina! Have you ever seen a house disintegrate in front of your own eyes as if punched by the hand of God? Well, I was a mute witness to nature’s merciless carnage, one that has scarred me for life. And, I ran then, far as I practically could and vowed never to go back!

My family moved to Wyoming, far enough from the coast. It wasn’t far enough for me. After completing my residency in a hospital there, I applied to the Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska and here I am! Though far away from the coast, I’m still not immune to nature’s fury! Nebraska generally experiences low-intensity storms or weak storms due to its cool offshore waters, but the occasional one does occur as the warm Gulf Stream extends fairly close to the Tornado alley including Nebraska.

Omaha, Nebraska is far enough from the sea, but I suppose rain lashes even the Sahara, now and then. So the summer storm a few years ago shouldn’t have caught me by surprise, and though it lasted only 10 minutes, it brought all my dormant fears to the fore.

“The mammoth storm rolled over city skies late at night, pelting homes, cars and people with hailstones larger than golf balls and brought with it high winds that felled trees and ripped siding from buildings and residences.” – The Omaha World-Herald, Omaha, Nebraska

In addition, it was reported that 12 hours before the storm, not less than four aircraft flew into the thick swirling clouds to spray silver iodide (cloud seeding) that tempered the size of the hailstones that eventually fell. Well, in spite our best intentions, Nature had other plans…..that is the scary part!

I got thinking about what common sense measures to take against these low-grade storms (anything is mild compared to Katrina!) to keep myself and my little home protected. I came across some Hurricane Myths, according to Blueprint for Safety

Home Openings Protection:

· Covering windows with masking tape or solar film will protect windows against high winds – how could these measures protect against flying debris? Windows should be covered with tested and approved impact-resistant coverings or be constructed of impact-resistant materials.

· Opening windows will reduce the interior pressure build up – experts and wind scientists agree that the most important thing to do in a wind-storm is to keep all windows and doors closed to prevent wind from entering the building and causing a condition known as internal pressurization.

· Only doors and windows facing the ocean need protection – well in Omaha, Nebraska, we don’t have an ocean and yet, so many homes had damaged windows. The wind can come from any direction or angle and can change its course in the blink of an eye.

Many people resort to using dandy external wooden shutters as protection, but it seems to me that that could be a waste of money; we just discussed flying debris. While exterior shutters are treated to withstand prolonged exposure to moisture, they aren’t impervious to airborne ‘missiles’, unless they are constructed out of metal, and even then they could be dented out of shape, costing lots of money to replace.

A common sense approach to protecting windows and doors against summer storms would be:

1. Use impact-resistant doors and windows to protect occupants and window panes or Customized Hurricane shutters

2. Used approved impact resistant garage door, as these are particularly vulnerable during storms

3. Pre-drilled holes and pre-marked panels for emergency window covering made of ply.

Taking everything I’d learned into consideration put things in the right perspective for me. The first thing I did when I bought my little home was to replace all windows and doors to the approved impact resistant variety. Though I liked large windows, I was glad my little cottage has reasonably sized windows that are quite manageable, and I have only two external doors. I have a double door garage that I had replaced with an impact resistant door and track system. Now, all this cost me a pretty penny, but to me, it was worth the trouble and expense. What’s the price of peace of mind anyway?!

The second measure I took was to install internal shutters for all my home windows. It helped that I have only one bedroom and that my cottage is all of a single floor – in accordance with my mania to be terra firma! I was advised that the Traditions Wood Window Shutters from Graber were the best possible option to use as they’re made from the local Michigan hardwoods that withstand the local Michigan weather. Now, this is good enough for me as I know that Michigan can get inundated with storms and tornadoes. In addition to this, I find that there’s nothing as stylishly elegant as shutters, and with a minimum of fuss. They are so easily maintained – when I do my bi-weekly vacuuming, I use the upholstery brush to clean the shutters as well. I chose the standard plantation wood shutters in a knotty pine color to go with my wooden floor and window and door frames, inside mounted on all the door and window frames. They give me the protection I want when the storms are raging outside – in the event that the glass windows break, they will provide an extra layer of protection to save the interiors from a bashing. They also helped me control the amount of light coming into my home and gave me plenty of insulation from the cold, the best perhaps, among all window coverings. Expensive, but worth every penny. For my two little bathrooms, I opted for the composite variety, considering the moisture that gathers from hot showers, especially as my windows here are fixed.

Lastly, I decided to invest in exterior plywood panels for emergencies, in case the scale of storms increase in future; with global warming seesawing like mad, one can never be too prepared! I had the contractors drill in the holes and mark the panels appropriate for the windows and doors in question. The fellows even capped the holes with plugs that matched the color of my walls, so no one could make them out! And get this – it’s so convenient to fit them that I can even do it standing inside if I wished, especially for the last door that I’d come through after fitting all the panels! And this turned out to be quite economical, compared to storm shutters or external wooden shutters. And as Omaha, Nebraska is seldom subjected to storms, it’s the practical option.

I know these steps will see me through all those storms to come when they come. Cheers!

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