Rumor has it, the next El Niño is going to be a doozy. According to Texas Storm Chasers, surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are above average this year, and the Climate Prediction Center expects the coming El Niño to last well into next spring. Statesman said it "has the potential to become one of the most powerful on record." In fact, they’re calling it the Godzilla.
So we’re looking at a wet winter, to put it lightly. Depending on where you live, that may mean anything from a little more rain to a lot more flooding. Definitely a good year to be diligent with your fall maintenance checklist!
- Clean your gutters. If you’ve got deciduous trees nearby, install gutter screens to keep the debris out. With flash floods in your future, functioning gutters are a must.
- Perform a drainage checkup. Test your downspouts and downspout diverters to confirm that the runoff is directed away from your house.
- Test your sump pump. If you have a crawl space or cellar, now’s the time to make sure it works.
- Have your roof inspected and repaired. Get rid of moss, look for loose or missing shingles, and caulk all the gaps.
- Bring in your outdoor furniture.
- Prepare for a freeze. Disconnect your hoses, turn off and protect outdoor faucets, and blow out your sprinkler system to prevent burst pipes.
- Maintain your furnace. Change the filter and schedule an inspection.
- Winterize your home. Perform a home energy audit (here’s how) so you know where the air leaks are. Walk around your exterior looking for gaps and caulk them all, paying special attention to doors, windows, corners, and any other break in the siding (e.g., outlets, faucets, drain pipes, HVAC units, and so on).
- Insulate your windows. Install weather stripping (great tips here). And if energy-efficient storm windows aren’t in the budget for this year, get an inexpensive storm window kit to keep you warm instead.
- Test your carbon monoxide and fire detectors and replace batteries. It’s a good idea to do this every time you set your clocks back.
- Flush your hot water heater. Removing sediment can extend its life and prevent system failure – and it’s not hard to do. No one likes a cold shower in February!
- Cut foliage back. This will protect your siding and windows regardless, but especially if you’re expecting high winds. Pruning is also good for your plants – if you do it right. Guidelines here.
- Overseed your lawn and fertilize it with phosphorus. A wet winter can be great news for your lawn.
- Winterize your gas mower. There are two ways to do this. The first option is simply to drain the gas tank. Alternatively, you could add a fuel conditioner, top it up to prevent moisture accumulation, and run the engine for a few minutes to circulate it. Whatever you choose, finish by disconnecting the spark plug and adding oil to the cylinder.
- Schedule an annual homeowners insurance review. Make sure your insurance policy limits have kept up with the changing value of your home and its contents. Be ready for the risk of flood. And, if you have a children away at college, make sure your protection extends to them. Also be prepared for potential liabilities. Ask your agent if an umbrella policy would be a good idea.
These steps will get your home in good shape for the cool months no matter where you live. But if El Niño comes knocking, be ready. Here are some disaster preparedness tips from the Texas Department of State Health Services.