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When we set our clocks forward, time isn’t the only thing that “springs ahead.” So do storm risks.

In the construction industry, the effect of these spring storms can range from minor inconveniences to devastating incidents. And while storms by their very nature can be unpredictable, you can take steps to prepare for them.

Location, Location, Location.
Springs storms and their inherent risks vary by region of the country.

Across, the United States, thunderstorms are the cause of the most severe spring weather. These storms can bring along with them hail, lighting, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flash flooding.

Across, the United States, thunderstorms are the cause of the most severe spring weather. These storms can bring along with them hail, lighting, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flash flooding.

Tornadoes are among the most dangerous and devastating of all the spring storm events, largely because they are so unpredictable. “Tornado Alley”, an area of the south-central U.S., needs careful consideration, especially given that 40% of tornadoes occur at night, when people have less time to prepare.

One thing these storms have in common is rain, but not all rain is created equal. While flooding and flash flooding can be common anywhere heavy rains fall, rain can also trigger damaging mudslides, particularly on the West Coast. In addition, snowmelt can exacerbate flooding risk in areas where snow and ice accumulate.

Make Your Plan
Spring storms are as predictable as the clock change, so make your plans early and get ahead of the storms.

  • Review your project schedule to see what might be impacted
  • Assess your projects for spring storm exposures:
    • Water damage. Spring storms are notoriously quick and can dump inches of rain in a matter of minutes, or over the course of several days. In these cases, water can enter an unfinished building quickly or pool in tarps and other places.
    • Wind damage. Straight-line winds can gust up to 100 mph and tornado winds can exceed 100 mph. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers winds exceeding 40 mph (or 30 mph if the work involves handling materials) as high winds. A mere 58 mph is classified as severe by the National Weather Service, so you can see the relative danger to people and property.
    • Lightning. Some equipment, including cranes, can become lightning rods during thunderstorms and sustain damage from the resulting spikes in electricity. Lightning strikes can also lead to power surges that can destroy electrical panels or even cause transformers to explode.
    • Hail damage. Hail is created during a storm when strong updrafts of air carry water droplets high enough to freeze. Severe thunderstorms can produce hail that is an inch or larger, which can shatter glass, damage building envelope components, ruin signage, and more.
  • Monitor and respond to weather events
    • Create a weather monitoring plan and routine. Weather forecasting is getting better and faster. As a result, spring storm conditions are being predicted earlier. With an organized plan in place, contractors can monitor weather conditions on a routine basis.
    • Connect weather predictions to possible exposures in your project schedule. Revisit the possible exposures identified in the project schedule and pre-season action plans for severe weather. Check in regularly (i.e., weekly) to connect the current status of construction sites with possible weather events, and update action plans accordingly.
    • Prepare your people. Contractors should take the time to discuss spring weather possibilities and action plans with all personnel before the season begins. It is also essential to provide regular reminders throughout the spring months.
    • Develop communication and notification plans. Build these plans before the spring season. Plans should outline how the project team will communicate weather warnings and alerts to everyone working on the site, as well as offsite stakeholders (owner, architects, engineers, subcontractors’ offices, etc.). 

While weather presents unpredictable risks to construction projects, developing plans and procedures to handle them is the best way to protect property, profits and people.

For more details, read our spring storm preparedness guide for construction projects


About the Authors

Dustin Jones is an Underwriting Manager, US Inland Marine  at AXA XL and Kevin Furlow is a Senior Construction Risk Engineer with the North America Construction team at AXA XL.

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