By Allie Goolrick
heavy rainfall caused by a severe storm
People all across the U.S. have noticed a difference in this year's weather: it's warmer and wetter than usual. You can blame El Nino, which causes periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean and changes in weather patterns for that warm, rainy holiday season.

If you've found yourself running from the elements, pulling over in driving rain or sump pumping your basement more than usual this year, you're not alone. This change in weather is likely to remain through 2016. The tips below will help you protect your car, home and family from harm when the heavy rainfall and thunderstorms never seem to end.

Get Ready
  • Know the lingo. A thunderstorm is considered "severe" if it produces hail at least 1 inch in diameter or wind gusts of at least 58 miles per hour. A “severe thunderstorm watch” means thunderstorms are possible in the area, while a “severe thunderstorm warning” means a big storm is close and you are in immediate danger. That's when it’s time to head to the basement or a secure room in your home.
  • Don't wait—prepare now. An hour before a thunderstorm is not the time to buy a generator and extra batteries or replace windshield wipers.

Tips for Your Home
  • Save your electronics. Protect gadgets from being "fried" by lightning by unplugging them when you're expecting a storm.
  • Protect against lightning. Install a lightning rod in case lightning strikes your house. The rod will help deflect the current away from your home.
  • Seal the cracks. Basement flooding is usually caused by leaks in your home. Seal up any cracks or openings in your walls, floors, windows and foundation.
  • Clear out debris. Clear your gutters, downspouts, eaves – even neighborhood sewers – of leaves and other debris that block proper drainage to prevent water backup.
  • Check your trees. High winds and lightning strikes can make trees come crashing down. Hire a tree expert to make sure yours are healthy enough to withstand a storm.
  • Store things right. Installing shelves to keep items off the floor in your basement can prevent damage from flooding. Keep valuables and important documents in a watertight container.
  • Ditch the carpet. Carpeting in the basement can retain water during a flood and cause mildew or mold, which can stink up your home and cause breathing problems.
  • Make sure you're covered. Check with your homeowners insurance provider to make sure you're covered if the worst happens.

Tips for the Road
  • Slow down. It takes longer to brake on wet pavement and spray from other vehicles can make it harder to see. Leave extra space between you and the car in front of you and avoid driving in the blind spots of other drivers.
  • Watch out for flooding. Never attempt to drive through it a flooded street. The depth of puddles can be deceptive and can cause damage to your car. Moving water is especially dangerous and can sweep your car away before you know it. Remember: Turn around, don't drown.
  • Use your headlights. No matter how bright it is outside, turning your lights on helps other drivers see you.
  • Replace old wipers. Wipers need to be replaced at least once a year to maintain the best visibility.
  • Check your tires. Bald tires can reduce traction on wet roadways.
  • Avoid slamming on the brakes. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator to avoid hydroplaning, which can happen when the tires lose contact with the road as they skim across the surface of the water. If you do go into a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want to go.
  • Pull over. If you really can't see, pull over (preferably under an overpass or away from trees) and wait it out. Turn on your emergency flashers to alert other drivers. If you really can't see, pull over (preferably under an overpass or away from trees) and wait it out. Turn on your emergency flashers to alert other drivers.

Storms and heavy rain can be a hassle, but it looks like most of us will have to live with them this year. Avoid trouble by knowing what to do when severe weather strikes. Properly preparing your home and car for inclement weather now will prevent even more hassle in the future and help keep your family safe.


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