With hurricane Irma churning in the Atlantic and projected to strike Florida in the next few days, many are wondering how to prepare their homes.

There’s nothing you can really do that will prevent damage from storm surge, rising water or the tornados that can accompany a storm. If the nature of an incoming storm puts you at risk from a direct hit, it’s time to evacuate.

While storm surge and tornados are devastating, most storm damage is less severe. High wind, wind driven rain and debris, and trees and branches downed by the wind can cause severe damage one home at a time. A tree can crush a home or car, while leaving the home or car next to it unscathed. This was one of the lessons of Matthew last year. Forty miles inland, and even further from the storm, tropical storm winds did far more damage around Jacksonville than flooding or storm surge.

Wind peeled back shingles, toppled trees, downed power lines, and blocked roads. Things that don’t normally leak with afternoon thundershowers suddenly do leak when wind driven rains are coming in sideways at tropical storm forces.

Like an egg, the exterior of your home is a shell that protects its contents. This shell needs upkeep. Cracks in the stucco or dried and cracked caulk around windows and doors that are already present will ‘suddenly’ leak with wind driven rain. Whether a storm strikes or not, these cracks allow bugs and moisture into your home and should be taken care of as part of regular maintenance.

The primary need to board up windows and doors is because of flying debris. Assess your yard and belongings for objects that could ‘fly’ into your home with a strong wind. Have a plan to secure your picnic table and porch furniture, the kid’s toys, hanging flower pots and the like. Bring smaller items inside the home or garage and lash larger items down or sink them in your pool. Have this discussion with your neighbors also, so their porch furniture doesn’t come crashing into your home.

Depending on where you live and when you read this, it may be too late to consider boarding up your windows for this storm. Plywood is in short supply, and it’s extremely risky to be up on a ladder once the wind really starts gusting, which can happen a day or more before the storm. Make a mental note to take secure hurricane shutters or have plywood cut to size after the storm, so you’ll be ready for future events.

It also gets more and more costly to take dead or diseased trees down as the storm approaches. There are only so many crews out there, and demand in peaking. This is why dead and dying trees need to be dealt with ahead of time. If you are faced with a possibility of storm force winds with a dead or dying tree hanging over your home, this is another reason to consider evacuating to safer ground, be that a neighboring home, or a neighboring state.

Healthy trees can also come down also, and there’s simply nothing you can do but be prepared. Don’t park all your vehicles such that one falling tree could damage them all. Also consider whether one tree, be it yours or a neighbors, can block your escape if you decide to vacate at the last minute. A vehicle outside the neighborhood, at a local school or library, or your office, spreads your risk out and leaves you available escape options.

Remember to be safe. Homes are precious but can put fixed. Once you are safe and the storm is passed, call Mr. Handyman if you need help returning your home to normal.