Spring is here. The weather is warm and mild right now, but tornado and hurricane season is just around the corner. Perfect time for an ounce of prevention, to help stave off that pound of cure. Above normal tornado and hurricane activity and strength is predicted for this season, which begins late this month. Let's take a look at some things can be done around the house to help minimize damage from strong winds, and to prepare you for summer. Start with a walk around the outside of your house, and any outbuildings you might have. Bring a notepad and a pencil with you. Start with the chimney, are there loose bricks that could come loose and cause further damage? Do you have roof top antennae? Make certain they are well attached, and the mounting hardware secure. Look careful at the roof. Are the shingles in good shape? Or are there loose shingles, or are the corners starting to curl? Repairs made now could save major grief later. If your house is equipped with a gutter system, check to see that they are not loose or sagging. If you are comfortable using a ladder, cleaning gutters is an unpleasant chore, but fairly easy to do. Use a garden trowel to scoop out leaves, soil and other debris that may have accumulated. When you've got all the substantial stuff out, use a garden hose to test and make sure the water runs freely out the downspouts. And make sure the water is directed to an area where it won't cause rotted sills or a flooded basement. If you don't think you can do this safely, by all means call a pro, but your gutters are an important part of the rainwater management system and should not be overlooked. Now take a look at the siding. Vinyl or aluminum siding can pop loose or be otherwise damaged, wood siding could curl, crack or rot. In any of these cases, the siding is no longer protecting your home from the elements. Wood siding may be painted or natural, in the case of painted siding the paint and caulking protects the wood from the ravaging effects of the sun and weather. If the paint is peeling or blistering or the caulking is falling out, it is important to take care of this right away, before the siding is ruined. If your windows are vinyl, an inspection for damage may be all that is needed. Wood windows, as well as doors and trim around the house may need to be painted and caulked. Rotted pieces should be replaced as soon as possible. A little time spent touching up these items could prevent a big bill later. Also look for loose shutters or other items that could cause further damage in a high wind situation. Railings, decks, stairs, porches and similar items get the same inspection. Check for loose or rotted boards. If you have accesses underneath, check the framework and supporting elements for rot, damage, etc. Be on the lookout for insect or rodent damage as well. As you walk around the house, visualize the flow of water and the effects of the wind. While you are out and looking around, think about other items that may need to be taken care of in the event of a storm, such as the kid's toys, patio furniture, or lawn and garden tools. Having a plan to deal with these items now will save time and stress when the skies darken and the wind starts to howl. Trees, shrubs vines and other growth should be kept well back from your house. Branches can be blown against the house during high winds, damaging siding or breaking windows. Shrubs and vines that are too close can trap moisture, causing rot and encourage insect infestation. In some cases I have even seen plants growing under siding, and sending roots through cracks in the foundation.