If you’ve lived in Florida for any length of time, you’re probably well-versed on hurricane preparation. You’ve stocked up on batteries, cut down tree branches (or dead/dying trees) so they don’t crash through the roof and taken care of all the other major precautions. But have you protected your plumbing if the big one hits this hurricane season?
Most people don’t consider plumbing as being at risk from a hurricane. After all, it’s underground, right? The common assumption is that pipes and drainage systems should be safe and sound. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. Taking the following steps before, during and after a hurricane can help reduce the risk of water damage to your property.
Inspect your property for tree roots – Even when it isn’t hurricane season, tree roots can break through sewer pipes. Inspect your property for any roots that might cause problems with your plumbing. If ignored, there’s a chance roots can obstruct your pipes and limit the quality of your water flow. This could occur independently of a storm, but a hurricane could cause more extensive damage. A plumbing professional is capable of detecting problem roots that should be removed before hurricane season begins in earnest – which in Florida is mid- to late summer.
Clear slow or backed-up drains – Make sure you do not have sewer drain backups or slow drains prior to the storm. The heavy, prolonged rain that a hurricane produces will cause an even greater backup in your home.
You can test to see if your drains are working by pouring water through them and seeing how long it will take to drain. If your drains take longer than a few seconds to drain, use a commercial drain cleaning product. In the case of a more stubborn problem, call a professional. Routine maintenance to keep your sewer main line clean by an experienced plumber is key to preventing problems any time of year.
Check your home and yard’s drainage systems – Heavy rains can affect your gutter drain system. Inspect your roof gutters and downspouts to make sure they are securely fastened. Make sure your drains are completely clear of all debris. Drains that are clogged or cluttered with debris will not be able to handle the overload of rain and other debris that comes along with a hurricane. You do not want to deal with a home that’s flooded because you didn’t clear out the drains in and around your home. Also check your roadside curbs and swales and clear those of debris to prevent backup.
Take care of your septic tank – Our February 2019 blog post – “How Weather Affects Septic Tanks in Florida” – covers the risk that the sustained heavy rains a hurricane brings can flood your drain field and cause backups. If your septic tank is almost due to be pumped out, schedule it before hurricane season. Also take extra care about the demands your household places upon it.
Prepare your swimming pool – Hurricanes can drop a lot of water onto your pool deck and subsequently into your yard. The Sun Sentinel provides the steps to take to prepare your pool area for a hurricane.
The first step is to make sure as much water as possible drains from the deck as quickly as possible. Test how well your deck drains by using a garden hose to spray water on the deck and watching how quickly the water disappears.
During any test, make sure that the water runs unobstructed out the ends of the drain to low spots in the yard, flowing quickly away from the house and pool deck. Remove any grass, mulch or dirt that may block the end of the drain.
If you don’t have a deck drain, make sure high grass, dirt, mulch or stones do not block the edge of the deck. These obstacles can prevent water from quickly moving off the edge and into the yard. An easy solution for edges that don’t drain quickly is to dig a small trench directing the water to a low spot away from the house and pool deck.
If you know a hurricane will strike your area
Consider shutting off the water – It may be preferable to shut off your water just before the storm to prevent contaminated water from entering your water supply.
We recommend you have plenty of bottled water on hand – both for drinking and for use in flushing toilets. Using bottled water takes stress off your plumbing during the storm and may be your only option for a time.
Shut off the water heater – You will not need hot water during a hurricane. Switch off your water heater. Having it operate during a hurricane puts unnecessary pressure on your household plumbing system. The water stored in your water heater is safe to drink, should you need an extra source of usable water.
If you need to evacuate
If you’re ordered to evacuate, shut off the main water supply before leaving. Doing so will help prevent flood water from contaminating your water supply. You can turn on a faucet, which allows air to enter your plumbing system. This protects your plumbing system from changes in ground saturation and pressure.
After the storm
From the plumbing perspective, you also need to know what you should do after the hurricane. When it is safe to do so, inspect your property and clear debris around the gutters, drains, or other drains so that your system can pump properly. Keep a close watch for leaks, cracks or discolored water.
The state-certified Master Plumbers at Adams and Son Plumbing can perform preventive maintenance to keep your fixtures and lines in top condition – and provide the experienced, industry-leading repair service that we’ve built our reputation upon over the past 60 years. Contact us and learn more about our services today.