Hurricane season started June 1. Who knows whether Mother Nature will deal us the kind of bad hand she dealt us last year?
We never know what she’ll throw at us. On Halloween Day in 2011, an early snowstorm blew in while the roses were still blooming and the trees were still sporting their brilliant fall colors. While walking around my Connecticut neighborhood, I recorded this phenomenon as “Three Seasons in One Day.”
There’s nothing we can do to the landscape to prepare for tornadoes, but there are things to be done, pre-hurricane, to prevent devastation to your house and garden (Here are some guidelines from the National Disaster Education Coalition that debunk folklore about tornadoes: for example, the old advice to drive at right angles to a tornado; to open a window “to equalize the air pressure”; and other myths. The coalition offers guidance on where in your house or high-rise apartment you should go when a tornado approaches.)
1. Cut down any trees that overhang your house, or are near enough to fall on it. Two weeks before Hurricane Sandy, we (meaning my landscaping company, GreatScapes) took down 14 hundred-foot-high Norway spruces and white pines at a client’s house. These same clients had had a giant tree fall on their house during Hurricane Irene, necessitating a year-long renovation.
Before Sandy, we also cut down 3 hundred-foot high white pines that were directly behind the family room of another client’s home. They had been meaning to cut down those trees since they moved into the house three years before. Sandy, with her high winds swirling treetops all over town, would have ripped out the shallow roots of those pines and sent them through the roof. As it was, hundreds of trees in our Connecticut town fell down during Sandy, and several of them did crush roofs and bring down the telephone wires. Most residents were without power for a week.
2. Build Walls
Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey shore, as well as coastal homes in New York and Connecticut. Westport, Connecticut, built a 40-foot long, 20-foot-high mound of sand along the length of Compo Beach, the town’s main summer destination, when it knew Sandy was on its way. While the mound did protect the buildings at the beach to some degree, some homeowners believed that the berm was built too close to their houses, and were dismayed when much of the sand washed up onto their front lawns.
The only solution, if you live directly on the water, is to build stone retaining walls and reinforce sea walls. As you remember from the story of the Three Little Pigs, it was the pig who built the house of brick whose house remained standing, while the other two houses, made of sticks and straw, were blown down.
3. More About Trees
Hurricanes can cause rivers to rise and banks to flood. During Hurricane Irene, which caused huge rainfalls, the banks of the Silvermine River, on whose bank I live, flooded, and the water reached within 6 inches of my bottom deck. Here is a photo taken from my backyard a few hours after the arrival of Hurricane Irene.
Although there is not much to be done when rivers flood, the best solution is to build walls or plant slopes so that mudslides don’t occur. And sit back and wonder at the power of Mother Nature.