When a tornado tore through Dorothy's fictional town in "The Wizard of Oz" and transported her over the rainbow, it meant that she didn't have to deal with the mess that the twister left behind. Unfortunately for you, it's highly unlikely that you'll find yourself dancing down the yellow brick road with munchkins. So once you feel it's safe enough to venture outside, chances are great that you're going to have a lot of work on your hands. Here are three tips -- influenced by the friends Dorothy met in Oz -- to help you deal with the aftermath of a mild to a moderate twister that has wreaked havoc on your yard but left your home mostly intact.
Don't be Like the Scarecrow -- Use Your Brains
While your first inclination might be to run out of your house like the easily flustered Scarecrow after the twister has passed, it's important that you first:
- Put on sturdy shoes. This is not the time to throw on flip flops or open-toe sandals. There's a possibility that dangerous debris will be littered around your home.
- Proceed cautiously. There could be downed wires or items dangling from trees. When checking sheds or other outbuildings, enter them cautiously, as the structures may be damaged.
Once you're sure that it's safe enough to walk around, carefully inspect your yard for:
- Downed or damaged trees. When the twister tore through Kansas in the "Wizard of Oz," there appeared to be very few trees. But if your yard contains trees, it's likely that many of them will have fallen or been damaged by the twister's powerful winds. Check out your landscaping carefully and make an inventory of trees that will need to be taken down or large broken branches that will need to be trimmed or removed. Stake any young trees that are leaning. Larger or older trees may require the help of an arborist. Even if a tree has fallen on its own, you should note that, as well, so that you can hire a professional service to have the remaining stump and roots removed. Stumps are not just unattractive, but they can be a tripping hazard, as well. And in some tree species, new growth can sprout up around the stump. This growth will typically be more like branches, weedy and unattractive. Stumps can also attract nuisance pests, such as termites and carpenter ants, which could eventually spread to your home.
- Defoliated plants. The wind, driving rain and hail may have stripped the leaves off of your plants. These may come back, so it's important to be patient. Some plants will be so stressed that they may not grow new leaves for a full season. On the other hand, if the plant is obviously dead or severely damaged, uproot it so that you can replace it with something else.
Don't be Like the Lion -- Have Some Courage
It's very common for storm chasers to flood into areas affected by a tornado. They may offer to take down damaged trees or to repair your siding or roof for a very low price. Some will employ high-pressure sales tactics to get you to hire them. But be courageous and just say no to any contractor who shows up at your doorsteps uninvited. Often, they don't have the training or insurance necessary to, say, safely use a sharp-edged stump grinder. These fly-by-night contractors also have a reputation for taking a homeowner's money and then skipping town before performing the work they were hired to do. Hire a tree service like Hudson Tree Service instead.
Finally. Have a Heart like the Tinman after Visiting the Wizard
If you have relatively minor damage and finish work on your own property fairly quickly, take the time to help others in your neighborhood who might be in need. The aftermath of a tornado is when it's especially important to be a good neighbor.