At least 12 people are confirmed dead in the Midwest after more than 20 tornadoes ripped through seven different states over the last day and a half.
ABC News reported that the “Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., an arm of the National Weather Service, said that at least 16 tornadoes were reported from Nebraska and Kansas through to southern Missouri, up to Illinois and over to Kentucky. Over 300 reports of severe weather in the last 36 hours included golf ball size hail and damaging thunderstorm winds gusting over 80 mph.”
Experts fear the devastating weather isn’t over just yet. The National Weather Service is predicting severe thunderstorms “over parts of the Ozarks and the lower Ohio and Tennessee Valleys,” large hail over the areas affected by Wednesday’s tornadoes, and “a notable severe weather outbreak is forecast for tomorrow (Friday, March 2) across the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, where severe storms will be capable of producing damaging winds of 75 mph and long-lived significant tornadoes.”
How can you protect your family?
Tornadoes are notorious in the Midwest, especially in that swath designated "Tornado Alley," which extends from Minnesota to Texas. Tornadoes are more violent and less predictable than hurricanes, making them extremely dangerous and devastating. Short of moving your family across the country, how can you protect your loved ones from a tornado’s destruction?
Prevention is the first step
You can't keep a tornado from hitting your home, but you can try to minimize the damage it causes. Patio furniture, garbage cans, storage sheds, barbecues and other unsecured items can become deadly projectiles in a tornado and can cause extensive property damage.
Here are seven precautions that can help lessen a tornado’s damage:
- Anchor storage sheds and other outbuildings securely with a permanent foundation or with straps and ground anchors like those used for manufactured homes without foundations
- Secure outdoor furniture and barbecue grills by bolting them to decks or patios or by attaching them to ground anchors with cables or chains
- Use cables or chains attached to ground anchors or to wood posts firmly embedded in the ground to secure trash cans
- Reinforce vulnerable garage doors by adding braces across their backs and by strengthening the glider wheel tracks, or replace them with garage doors built to withstand very high winds
- Remove trees that could fall on your home if blown over
- Plant and maintain your trees correctly. Healthy trees usually survive tornadoes. Trees with wounds, decay, structural defects, stem girdling roots, severed roots and soil compaction are the ones that blow over and damage homes
- Get your home inspected. While building codes in tornado-prone areas make newly constructed homes safer, other homes may not be as tornado-ready. Your home can be retrofitted to withstand higher winds if necessary with things like retractable storm siding, additional hinges and bolts on doors, and impact-resistant patio doors
Most homeowners’ insurance policies cover losses caused by tornadoes, generally under the broader term "windstorm." Windstorm includes tornadoes, straight-line winds and hurricanes. However, there may be instances where coverage and deductibles may apply specifically to hurricanes and not to all windstorm damage. When shopping for insurance, Midwesterners should read their policy carefully and understand the extent of windstorm coverage.
Unfortunately, too many homeowners don’t realize their homes are underinsured until it’s too late. When determining how much insurance is adequate to cover your home, insurance experts say you should consider how much it will cost to replace your home, rather than how much your home is currently worth.
Given how much home values have fallen across the country, the costs to rebuild your home can far exceed what your home might sell for on the current market.
Gina Pogol contributed to this article.
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Tim Manni is the Managing Editor of HSH.com and the author of the site's daily blog, which concentrates on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets.