A housing development. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

When the winds pick up, whether it’s a hurricane or a garden-variety summer storm, your home and trees will be vulnerable.

Wind can start to damage small limbs and branches at 39 mph, according to the Beaufort Wind Scale, and at 64 mph, widespread structural damage is possible. The winds in the Moore, Okla., tornado this week were about 200 mph, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admistration.

When there are warnings about tornadoes or high winds, says Mel Pine, an Allstate agency owner in Purcellville, homeowners should take them seriously and find shelter.

Identify a room in your home where you will be safe during high winds. It should be an interior room on the lowest level of your house, away from any windows.

“The more walls between you and the outside, the better you will be,” says Adam Polak, a spokesman for Allstate.

Inspect your roof, windows and doors now, Pine says. Repair or replace any loose, damaged or missing shingles, and check the attic for swollen wood or moisture that could indicate a leak in the roof. Make sure the caulking on your windows and door jambs is in good condition, he said.

Pine also suggests upgrading to heavy-duty bolts on your doors to make them less likely to blow off in high winds. He said doors that open out are stronger than doors that open to the inside.

Have a mental checklist of any loose patio furniture, garden umbrellas or outdoor equipment that could blow around in high winds, and secure it before a storm.

Wind is Mother Nature’s way of pruning, says Mark Buscaino, the executive director of Casey Trees, a non-profit dedicated to protecting and restoring trees in the District. Check your trees now for potential hazards. Any branches more than six inches in diameter that hang over your home (or your neighbor’s home) should be taken down if they look dead or damaged, Buscaino says.

If you are not sure about a tree or limb, he says, call a certified arborist to get an inspection. Casey Trees also offers free classes on protecting the urban forest and evaluating tree risk. Visit its Web site at caseytrees.org/events for a class schedule.



Gale Force

Twigs and small branches blown off trees



Strong gale

Minor structural damage may occur, with shingles blown off roof




Trees can be uprooted and structural damage is likely



Violent storm

Widespread damage to structures

Beaufort Wind Scale, University of North Carolina