Elsa, who was a hurricane briefly and technically a tropical storm when it passed our area, is our first real test locally for the 2021 hurricane season.
Fortunately for North Central Florida, Elsa did not make the predicted northeast turn until it was parallel to our area. That actually saved us from any sustained tropical-storm force winds.
However, three weeks of steady rain prior to Elsa and the full-day deluge as it passed resulted in pockets of serious flooding and water damage.
Much of this flooding occurred in the northwest unincorporated area of Alachua County in locations that traditionally flood with too much rain. A few days after the storm, there were still neighborhoods that were cut off due to flooding and some major roads remained blocked due to standing water, forcing people to find alternate routes to get where they needed to go.
In some individual cases, this flooding from overflowing creeks, lakes and retention ponds resulted in water and mud getting into homes. This will obviously require significant clean up, and in the cases of retention-pond overflow, a review of the engineering and some structural changes.
While the people who were impacted by this flooding might disagree, overall, the community fared well from Elsa. So, that gives us an opportunity to use what we learned from this storm as we prepare for the most active part of the hurricane season.
Traditionally, it is August and September when we see the most tropical activity. And while we are certainly not as busy to this point as we were last year, having the fifth named storm in early July has 2021 looking like an active season.
As a homeowner or renter, there are several things you should be doing now to prepare for the active part of the hurricane season.
The first is to look around your property to see if you suffered any damage. The most common sign you might see after a storm like this is roof leaking. Examine your ceiling for any water stains. If you see anything, you would want to try to get a professional roofer to look at your roof as soon as possible.
“Unfortunately, that may be easier said than done,” said Chris Livingston of Perry Roofing. “Like most roofers right now, we are busy and backlogged, so the best advice is to make that call as quickly as possible.”
Second, if you moved outside objects indoors in anticipation of winds from Elsa, consider whether you want to put those objects back out right now or leave them secured where they are. Also, take a look at porches and carports to make sure they are secure.
When you look around the outside of your property, consider your trees. Is this the time to get a professional to examine these? It’s not just high winds that can topple a tree. If the ground is really saturated, winds that are less gusty can take a tree down.
How will your family fare if you lose power for a few days? If you do consider a portable generator, make sure you enlist the help of a qualified and licensed electrician.
As far as inside your home, you want to make sure your windows and doors are sealed.
Finally, think about your insurance. Check your homeowner’s insurance policy. The biggest problem we had with Elsa was flooding. Most insurance policies include water damage but not from flooding, said Casey Hahn, an agent with Farm Bureau Insurance.
“Water damage should not be confused with flood insurance coverage,” he said. “Some insurance companies may include flood insurance as a rider. Additionally, hurricane coverage doesn’t cover rising water. If your damage is from rising water, it is only covered if you have a flood insurance rider.”
Here’s one other important reminder for homeowners. As always, if you are going to fix some things around your home, consider what you can do and what things you might need a professional for. There are many experts in our area ready to help you. Please consult our resources page for recommendations.
And most important, stay safe during what looks to be an active hurricane season.