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Master Gardeners: Today’s weather is unpredictable: Keep your outdoor power equipment ready

From the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute and Sheri Bethard

Orange County Master Gardeners

With Hurricane season upon us and the first storm making landfall in Florida, we need to prepare ourselves in the event of any of these storms heading our way. Yes, a lot of you have been thru Rita, Ike, Harvey, Imelda, and Laura and as most of you saw, each one is different in its own way. You can’t predict these storms and what they will do when they hit land. Rita pushed thru and was gone within 12 hours and Ike pushed Lake Sabine into Bridge City and Harvey sat over us for three days. Laura had very strong winds destroying Lake Charles.  Weather today is challenging, and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) reminds home and business owners it’s important to make sure you have the right outdoor power equipment on hand and to be prepared by keeping equipment in good working order year-round.

A chainsaw or pole pruner can trim limbs ahead of a storm or handle fallen limbs helping to clear debris. My husband had forethought to bring his chainsaw with us when we evacuated for Rita. It was a good thing as when he and our son returned out street was full of trees. They worked to clear the street with his chainsaw. A generator will power appliances, keep lights on and cell phones charged when the electricity goes out. A water pump can help with flooding in your home or basement. Remember after the ice storm January 1994 and Rita, and the other storms, many of us were without power weeks at a time. Now is the time to purchase your generator when they are readily available and not after the storm when demand goes up and they are hard to find.

Today’s outdoor power equipment is increasingly easier to use, more efficient and cleaner — and powered in a variety of ways, including battery/electric, hybrids, propane, and solar as well as gasoline and diesel. Even robotic, interconnected and remote-controlled technology has entered the power equipment market.

“We’ve experienced a lot of problematic weather lately but, thankfully, there is a product and power source for every need and to address every scenario. Being prepared for the unpredictable is easier than ever before,” said Kris Kiser, President & CEO of OPEI, an international trade association representing manufacturers and suppliers of outdoor power equipment, small engines, battery power systems, portable generators, utility and personal transport vehicles, and golf cars.

OPEI offers the following tips to help home and business owners

Get ready in advance. Before a disaster or storm strikes is the best time to buy outdoor power equipment. You never know when the electricity might go out or when a storm might arise.

Know your needs. Determine what might need to be cleaned up or tidied before severe weather arrives. Decide what equipment is needed to keep people and property safe before and after a disaster or power outage.

Do research. Outdoor power equipment has changed a lot from what you might remember from years past. The industry is rapidly innovating with equipment becoming faster, lighter, more efficient, more ergonomic, and cleaner. Get their recommendations from dealers and store personnel who are well versed in equipment.

Buy what fits your needs. Each equipment type and power source have different maintenance and care requirements. Equipment is sized for different levels of need, so it’s important to buy what works for your unique situation.

Think ahead and purchase accessories. Buy outdoor-rated extension cords for generators and consider getting an approved cover for your generator for rainy weather. Buy and install a carbon monoxide detector if purchasing a generator. Plan now where the generator will be set up (never in a home or garage, and always away from your home and any air intake) and determine how to secure it if necessary. Identify safety equipment needed like chaps, eye protection or hearing protection. Gasoline-powered outdoor power equipment uses E10 or less fuel and most manufacturers recommend adding a fuel stabilizer.

Purchase appropriate fuel and charge batteries just ahead of a storm. Only use an approved fuel container for gasoline and have an extra set of batteries on hand.

Review manufacturer’s directions and maintain your equipment. Always follow all safety and usage recommendations made by the manufacturer. Save a digital copy of the owner’s manual on your computer if possible, so it can easily be consulted in the future. Set calendar reminders for regular maintenance.

For more information on using power equipment, check out OPEI’s website at https://www.opei.org.

For your horticulture questions, please call the Master Gardener Hot Line at 409 882-7010, Tuesday and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. or email ocmg1990@gmail.com.

The next Master Gardener certification class for Orange County and surrounding areas will be starting in late August or early September. If you are interested, please check our website https://txmg.org/orange for more information. Classes will be held on Thursday evenings at the OC EXPO Center from 6 p.m. – 8/8:30 p.m. Some Saturday classes will be required also. Fee is $150 which includes your handbook/training material, speakers fees and supplies.