How to Prepare Your Home for Spring Thunderstorms

There is something awe-inspiring about watching a spring thunderstorm roll in. Unless your house gets flooded, zapped with lightning or pummeled by the wind. Then the magic fades and reality sweeps in.

There are ways you can prepare your home for a severe thunderstorm. Chances are, you aren’t going to accomplish everything you need to do in an afternoon or two. It will take time and money, and this could be a years-long project, because there are a lot of steps that you can take to protect your home in a thunderstorm. The good news is, even if you don’t wind up being in the path of an extreme thunderstorm, your efforts will still pay off. Preparing your home for a thunderstorm simply means you’re making it a better place to live.

[How to Prepare Your Home for Climate Change]

Why You Need to Prepare

While prepping your home for a thunderstorm and bad weather in general has always been a good idea, it’s getting more important with every passing year as the odds of experiencing damage increase.

The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season was the fourth-most active Atlantic hurricane season since 1950 with 20 named storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Seven storms were hurricanes and three intensified to major hurricanes. An average season has 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

“In 2023, there were 21 severe weather events, each of which cost over a billion dollars,” says Ian Giammanco, the lead research meteorologist for the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety in Richburg, South Carolina.

“In total, there was nearly $60 billion dollars in insured losses from severe storms last year. Even adjusting for inflation, the losses 10 to 20 years ago averaged below $20 billion,” Giammanco says.

The institute conducts extensive research on how to keep homes and businesses safe in a natural disaster, and Giammanco says that extreme storms aren’t just more frequent, they are also getting more intense. And a wider swath of the country is experiencing dangerous weather.

“As our climate changes, we have observed a broad shift in tornado activity over the past two to three decades toward the East and South,” Giammanco says, adding that climate modeling suggests that we may experience a potential increase in straight-line winds from thunderstorms.

These powerful winds are less than tornado strength, but can reach more than 100 miles an hour.

That means taking a tour of your home and trying to shore up whatever looks weak is a good place to start.

Examine Your Roof

If you have an aging roof, check it regularly for missing shingles, holes or other wear and tear that can lead to roof leaks, says Jesse Kohlbecker, vice president of claims and client services at Country Financial, an insurance company headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois.

Leaky roofs can lead to dark stains on your ceiling, mold and higher heating and cooling bills. If you have a hole in your roof, even a small one, that you don’t patch, you’re heating or cooling the outside whenever you turn on the thermostat inside.

By leaving a hole or multiple holes in your roof, you could be inviting a mouse, bat or some other pest to make their way into your home. Between water and pests, a leaky roof can lead to structural damage.

With any luck, you’ll see nothing amiss, and you can rest easy. But periodic inspections should be done. “Winds of just 50 miles per hour can damage a roof,” Giammanco says.

Take care of any loose or missing shingles, bare spots or rust on flashing. These are all signs of wear that can lead to bigger problems. Debris collecting on your roof can cause damage. Leaves, twigs or small limbs can damage the roof and block the normal flow of water off the roof. Moss is another sign that too much moisture is collecting on your roof, according to Roofsimple, a roofing firm that serves Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Texas.

Kohlbecker says hail can also really pound a home. “Older roofs are more susceptible to hail damage,” he says.

Take a look inside your attic as well. Look for light coming into the attic, holes that small animals may be using, water damage or a damp, musty smell.

Potential cost of inspecting your roof: Home improvement website Angi says that the average cost to inspect a roof is $236, though you may be able to have it done for as low as $125. Even if you’re comfortable accessing the roof yourself, there’s only so much you can see, so it’s a good idea to have a professional regularly inspect your roof.

If you mustreplace your roof, you could be looking at prices ranging from $5,700 to $12,500, according to Architectural Digest.

[What You Should Know About Roof Replacement]

Clean Your Gutters

“Make sure your gutters are clear and properly draining,” says Niki O’Brien, operations manager at Custom Exteriors, an exterior remodeling company based in Berthoud, Colorado. “Severe weather can produce immense amounts of rain and hail in very short periods of time.”

Twigs and leaves can make it hard for the rainwater to flow away from your house, O’Brien says.

“If that water has nowhere to go or is not properly directed away from your home, you can get issues with flooding and water damage,” O’Brien says.

Potential cost of cleaning your gutters: The average cost of gutter cleaning, according to Angi, is $166. You may end up spending on the higher range (most cleanings range between $75 and $400), but it beats spending thousands to clean up water damage to your ceiling or basement.

[Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage?]

Visit Your Basement

If you don’t have a basement, and you’ve always wanted one, look at the bright side — at least you don’t have to worry about it flooding.

Kohlbecker recommends making sure that your sump pump is working property and has backup power.

Kohlbecker also says that you may want to talk to your insurer and make sure you’re covered for damages if your sump pump fails. You can get an add-on to your policy, known as a “sump pump endorsement,” that will specifically cover damages if your sump pump fails.

Potential cost of getting a new sump pump: Angi suggests budgeting in the neighborhood of $1,200 to $2,500.

Trim Your Trees

It’s a home improvement that may feel like a waste of money, but never tending to your trees can be risky.

“Trees can present a risk of falling and damaging the home. Trim your trees, making sure limbs are not hanging over the roof and that dead limbs have been removed,” Kohlbecker says.

As a side benefit, trimming your trees will make your yard look better, which helps your home’s value.

“Removing dead and diseased branches and limbs can improve the health of your trees long-term and, in the short term, remove debris that could otherwise be blown into your home or cars,” says John Lack, a construction specialist with Acuity Insurance in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

An arborist or another tree professional may be able to spot trees that could become problematic in a severe windstorm. You can decide whether to remove it or trim it way back.

Potential cost of trimming trees: Home improvement website suggests planning to spend between $200 and $900 per tree.

Check Out Your Garage

Even the garage can be battered in a storm.

“Your garage door is likely the biggest opening to your home,” Lack says. “If the door fails during a storm, it has the potential to allow winds to enter your garage, change the air pressure in your home and even put your roof at risk.”

A garden variety thunderstorm isn’t likely to hurt your garage, Kohlbecker says. But he says that a thunderstorm attached to a hurricane or tornado could threaten your garage door.

If you live in an area prone to hurricanes and tornadoes, or you’re worried about increasingly strong thunderstorms with straight-line winds, consider getting a garage door with a wind rating of at least 130 miles per hour, says Fred Malik, managing director of Fortified at Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), in Vero Beach, Florida.

Potential cost of replacing your garage door: Home Depot’s website suggests you’ll spend between $2,725 and $6,325, including labor and installation.

If buying a new garage door is out of the question, Lack says you can improve an existing door.

“You don’t always need to replace your door to improve its performance,” he says. “Weatherstripping around the door and at the bottom help seal the door to the floor and keep wind and rainwater out.” suggests budgeting between $45 and $180 to weatherstrip a garage door, depending whether it’s for one car or two.

Shore Up Your Windows

“In severe thunderstorms, the most vulnerable part of your home is definitely windows or skylights,” O’Brien says. She says she has encountered many clients who have had hail or debris crash through both windows and skylights.

Storm or hurricane shutters provide a barrier against flying debris, rain, hail and damaging wind. Hurricane shutters cost an average price of $3,682, according to HomeAdvisor. The average cost of a storm shutter may cost between $80 and $520 per window.

When a storm is imminent, shutter windows and secure outside doors. If there are no shutters, close window blinds, shades or curtains. During a storm, stay away from windows that may shatter from wind or debris.

Check window seals ahead of a storm and make repairs if necessary.

Potential cost of replacing your windows: According to Architectural Digest, the typical cost to replace a window is $234 to $1,224.

Prepare the Homeowner, Not Just the Home

If you lose power in a thunderstorm, your home will probably be fine, but you may not be if you’re stuck there for a few days. If you know a big thunderstorm is on its way, Lack suggests the following steps: charge your electronics, grab blankets, make sure flashlights have batteries, have candles on hand, stock your refrigerator and pantry. If your water comes from a well that could lose power in a storm, fill some containers with water for drinking, flushing and washing.

A generator may give you peace of mind. Either a whole-house generator or a portable version will restore full or partial power – and you can keep the refrigerator and freezer running to avoid food spoilage.

All thunderstorms are dangerous, and every thunderstorm produces lightning, the National Weather Service says. Ideally, all electronics should be unplugged during a thunderstorm. There is no better, cheaper surge protector better than an air gap. Stay off corded phones, computers and other equipment that puts you in direct contact with electricity.

In the midst of a storm, and even in the aftermath, stay inside your home. It may not be completely thunderstorm-proof, but it’s probably safer inside than out.

You don’t want to navigating flooded or blocked roads. “Adults can be knocked over in just six inches of water, and most cars can be carried away in just 12 inches,” Lack says. If you must go out, watch for and steer clear of downed powerlines.

O’Brien reminds homeowners that thunderstorm-proofing should be done before a deluge and not during it. Lightning, wind, flooding — it all has deadly potential.

“Things can be replaced, and homes can be rebuilt,” O’Brien says. “Your safety and the safety of your family should always be your first priority.”

More from U.S. News

How to Prepare Your Home for Climate Change

11 Popular Home Updates That Are Worth the Money

The Pros and Cons of Metal Roofing

How to Prepare Your Home for Spring Thunderstorms originally appeared on

Update 04/11/24: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up