Hurricane Season is upon us! The season just started on June 1st and will continue through November 30th this year.
While the excitement of summer has everybody pulling off the boat cover and getting the beach chairs together, I’d like to point out something most people might not be thinking of: preparing their land for the impacts of a hurricane.
Consider your property. If there is a 40-foot tall dead pine located beside your home, it’s a good idea to safely remove it before it crashes straight into your living room. Dumping another load of gravel on your driveway where the rain keeps washing it out is worth it and digging out the sod that’s almost blocked your driveway pipe is another good call.
I remember when my gutters struggled during big thunderstorms and caused a huge mess in the yard each time but fixing them wasn’t a priority. Once a massive ceiling leak busted through the ceiling during the last hurricane here in Hampstead, all of the compacted detritus that was clogging up the gutters and sprayed everywhere was the icing on the cake. That was an expensive lesson so please believe me when I say it’s worth hiring a professional to clean them out or spending a few hours on a ladder with a pressure washer.
Maintenance comes with home ownership but what about your hunting tract or the woods on the back of your lot that provide the privacy you love? Typically, the motivation to finally clean up comes from planning a backyard kickback or when it’s time to plant food plots for the upcoming hunting season.
The last thing you want is for your driveway concrete to start cracking after the ditch gets blown out and the front yard looks like the Grand Canyon. Or you arrive at your hunting tract and find that the food plots have a massive wash outs snaking through them, requiring 10 loads of fill dirt to be hauled in on your day off. And if you don’t have a machine or area to get more fill dirt quickly, you don’t want to know how expensive dirt is right now - never mind paying the operator.
Land management may not be on the radar until things like that happen. But if you start implementing some of the tips I’m about to share, you’ll feel confident about the protection of your property when a hurricane is steaming towards your neck of the woods.
Identifying how your property drains is time well spent and money saved.
Nobody wants to go in and clear out a clogged pipe culvert. It’s hard work to dig out sand and muck that’s piled up over all kinds of debris then you have to get rid of all the junk when you finish. Or better yet, that old pipe underneath the dirt road that’s your only entrance into the property is rusted and ready to implode. Spending a couple hundred bucks or more on the materials to replace it AND the labor too? Ahhh that’s why it’s been like that for 5 years…
Locating these choke points and ensuring they’re clean and stable before a big storm is going to save you a lot of heartache. The money you may have to spend now will feel like pocket change compared to the bill a contractor will hand you after fixing a lovely muddy mess.
Take some time to walk your property and familiarize yourself with the topography. How does the water currently move on the property? Does the rainfall sheet flow naturally thanks to the existing vegetation? Or is it channelizing in tight areas or contours and building enough velocity to erode the banks and take trees with it? Understanding the impact of rain and water moving on your property is paramount to ensuring your drainage is controlled effectively.
I’d like to offer a word of caution before you begin improving your drainage: know where the water goes when it leaves your property. You can get in a lot of trouble if you end up making improvements that drain your property nicely but it all dumps onto a neighbor’s property below you at high speeds and causes significant damage.
Reducing the velocity of the water aka slowing it down is something to be mindful of as you design your drain system. In our land developments, my dad Coleman has taught me the importance of adding rip-rap and maintaining appropriate slopes of swales during the construction process. Raking it by hand or using a loading bucket to establish a 3:1 slope will promote sheet flowing of the water and keep your grass seed or sod from washing away.
Do it right the first time and it should hold up through a few hurricanes or even longer.
Remember these things:
How does my property drain?
How fast does it drain?
Where does it drain to?
What will control the speed?
Trees and other vegetation
This one isn’t nearly as technical as dealing with rain. Just like talking about the dead pine tree earlier, ask yourself if there are any obvious threats from the trees at risk of falling or areas where the grass or natural ground cover is washing away.
A chainsaw will be your friend before and after a hurricane. However, cutting problem trees out on hunting land is a different story from the one towering over your home. Call a professional now and have the tree safely removed at a fraction of the cost now compared to when everybody calls before Category 4 is about to hit. Once the storm moves on, you might be a hero to your neighbors having a chainsaw ready to help clear driveways, roads, and backyards of debris.
When you walk the property to assess the drainage situation, make notes of any problem areas where the banks are washing out or the grass is dying. All you need is a shovel, a rake, and a bag of contractor’s mix grass seed from the hardware store. Start by digging out wherever the sediment has washed to with your shovel and heave it back up on the slope. Pro tip: a nice pair of gloves prevent blisters.
Once you finish shoveling the dirt, grab your rake and shape up the slope a bit but don’t finish grooming it all. You’ll want to throw out the seed in an even layer and use enough to account for the turkeys and other critters that’ll munch on the seed. Working from the bottom of the slope to the top, use the rake to blend in the seed and even out any clumps of dirt. If you really want to be certain that the grass will establish itself, you can buy a few bales of straw to lightly sprinkle over everything when you’re finished and even stomp in the seed with your boots as you work. The straw helps retain moisture for the seed to germinate and proves more ground cover to keep the fresh dirt from washing before roots are established.
Understanding which way your home or land faces in respect to where hurricanes make landfall can be very helpful in making storm preparations. Ask yourself these questions:
What trees or vegetation threaten windows, will block roads, or make a mess when they fall?
Which direction are hurricane force winds likely to come from and what will they hit first?
Will the tide wreak havoc and reach new areas with help from +75 mph winds?
Should I board up certain windows or add sandbags to doorways for storm surge?
Too Long Didn’t Read
When a hurricane is coming, how will my land be affected?
Check on how everything drains during heavy/continuous rainfall
Are all your pipes, culverts, french drains, gutters, etc draining properly?
Are your ditches cleaned out and functional?
How fast is the water draining? How does the site topography impact this?
Is the water picking up too much velocity or not draining fast enough?
Where is the water headed to? Hopefully not all into the neighbor’s backyard…
Use rip-rap, grade banks out to a 3:1 slope, and establish ground cover vegetation
During high winds, what trees may fall on your home, vehicles, sheds, block roads, etc?
Could the tides push way up to new places with help from the wind?
What direction will the wind likely blow from? Are your windows or tree stands protected?
Thanks for reading and please give us a call if you have any other questions on how to best protect your land from flooding and hurricanes.