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Wild weather warning - your safety guide

Wild weather warning - your safety guide
12-06-24 / Tau kaVodloza

Wild weather warning - your safety guide

The South African Weather Service has issued severe warnings for multiple provinces, including the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal off the back of wild, winter weather. The recent hail and windstorms that broke out throughout parts of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are an important call-to-action for homeowners and drivers to take precautions against possible storm damage, which can leave them seriously out of pocket should they not have sufficient insurance cover in place.

Siyakha Masiye, spokesperson at MiWay Insurance, says that as the impact of climate change becomes more pronounced over the next few years, unusual storms including strong winds, heavy rains and freezing cold temperatures will likely increase. He says that as we head into the colder months and with South Africa's stormy season in full swing, there are a few effective safeguards that can go a long way in helping to mitigate the associated risks.

Understanding what may come

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change[1] predicts that as a direct result of climate change, the African continent will see an increased frequency and intensity in heavy rainfall events. Global warming is set to increase sea surface temperatures, which in turn generates more intense rainfall and higher wind speeds.

With the warming of the oceans also comes an increased risk of the prevalence of cyclones. This is according to the ISS Africa[2] who says that the continent has experienced four times as many storms and more than double the number of cyclones since the 1970s. Cyclones are more likely to impact more densely populated urban areas such as Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

The damage left in the wake of such storms can equate to substantial financial losses to households and businesses. Most recently, floods in the Eastern Cape[3] have seen 6000 people affected including 2500 people that have been displaced and 7 people losing their lives and a number still reported as missing.  

Masiye encourages homeowners to think of weatherproofing alterations and renovations to their homes as an investment rather than an expense. "While having the right type of insurance provides for an essential safety net to protect a property's value, there are several proactive steps that homeowners can take to be as prepared as possible for the unexpected."

Rainproof and storm-ready

In South Africa, where colder months bring heavy rainfall, ensuring that a home is rainproof is of the utmost importance. As Masiye suggests, the best place to start is at the top. "Homeowners tend to neglect areas that are out of sight or trickier to access. Good examples include roofs and gutters."

It is recommended at least on a bi-annual basis for all roofs and gutters to be cleared of debris and blockages. Installing a storm water drain can also prevent excess water from pooling at a specific part of the property and causing water damage or the onset of mildew and mould.

Furthermore, homes that are fitted with wooden windows and door frames are more susceptible to corrosion caused by rain. Over time, exposure to water can cause wooden frames to warp or crack as the timber expands and contracts. If possible, the best alternative is to replace wooden frames with aluminium or more durable materials to prevent rot from setting in and leaks from occurring. If you do stick with wood, ensure you treat it every few years to protect it from severe weather.

Be on guard against gales

Another major concern is the impact of strong and persistent wind. Masiye recommends that homeowners maintain trees in their gardens, planted at a safe distance from the property to avoid extensive damage from uprooting or broken branches.

Annually, homeowners should have their roofing structures checked for loose tiles, exposed fasteners such as screws and bolts, leaning chimneys, missing shingles and damaged roofing panels. Doing this routinely will ensure a home's best defense against the wind. Ensure solar panels are also secured, if you have these on your property.

Safety on the roads at this time is also essential. "On icy roads, drivers should reduce speed and increase following distances for longer braking times. Regularly check your tyres, keep up with vehicle maintenance, and avoid sudden acceleration or braking on slippery surfaces," says Masiye. "You'd be wise to keep a medical kit and warm clothing in your car in case you get stranded."

A storm insurance review

Masiye encourages to re-evaluate your insurance policy for car, home and contents regularly, to ensure adequate cover. "For your home always re-evaluate your insurance cover when you make renovations and home extensions. Your home appreciates in value, and you need to always cover your home at 20% of its real value to factor in escalating building costs." he concludes.

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