Weather forecasters are saying that the big one is on the way. A strong El Niño is expected to be hitting its peak in late fall or early winter. This weather pattern has the potential to generate huge storms, and there are many things you should be doing in order to prepare your home for the coming inclement weather.

An El Niño occurs when several different weather conditions are met. A more detailed description can be found here, but basically an El Niño is the result of weaker winds pushing ocean water from east to west. This causes the water in the Pacific to become warmer, which in turn makes the winds even weaker; this cycle can become very problematic.

An El Niño can last for several months. It is characterized by wet winters over the Southeastern U.S. and droughts in Indonesia and Australia. El Niño’s usually occur every 3-7 years, and they make it much more likely that dangerous weather conditions, like huge thunderstorms, will occur.

The last El Niño took place in 1997-1998, and it ravaged much of the western United States. It caused an estimated $550 million in damage and killed 17 people in California; 35 counties were declared federal disaster areas as well.

Readying your home

Photo © Dudarev Mikhail - Fotolia

It's important to prepare your home so that you can minimize the impact that the weather may have. By being proactive, and taking the following measures, you can get out in front of the storms and take away their edge.

Inspect and repair your roof. Doing this before snow starts flying will make the work much easier. Check for any areas that are sagging and can’t hold up to large amounts of snow. If you find any leaks, be sure to take care of them right away.

Clean out your gutters. Lots of debris can build up in your gutters over time, which can cause clogs and blockages. If not checked, the excess water could back up and cause damage to your roof, walls, ceiling, and insulation. Be sure to check them during the winter months as well. Ice dams can often form in your gutters, which can cause permanent damage to your home. If you do have any signs of damage, then call a professional immediately.

Be prepared for burst pipes. Cold temperatures can often cause pipes to burst, and it is always a real mess to clean up. If you know the temperature is going to be under 20 degrees, let any high-risk faucet drip so that the water is not sitting in the pipes. A high-risk faucet would be any that is being fed by a pipe that was previously broken or near an outside wall. Know where your water shut-off valve is so you can shut down water flow if a pipe does burst.

Check to make sure your furnace is in good working order. Being stuck in sub-zero temperatures with a broken furnace is extremely dangerous, so performing regular maintenance is always a good idea. Have a professional come to your house to inspect pipes for any gas leaks. If your furnace needs a new filter, than have it installed before winter sets in. Finally, be sure to never keep anything flammable around your furnace. You would just be asking for trouble.

If you take these precautionary steps, you should be in good shape when the El Niño finally hits. Do not put any of these tasks off; the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that there is a greater-than-90-percent chance that this El Niño will last through the coming winter. 

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