Without proper preparation, a violent summer storm can turn a relaxing RV vacation into a deadly adventure. While summer is a great time to hit the road with the family, many popular destinations can also be in the cross-hairs of hurricanes, tornadoes and other violent weather. Prepare before you head out and have an emergency plan to weather any storm safely.
Motor coaches, fifth wheels and travel trailers of all stripes, are all durable, comfortable, value-packed homes on the road, but even the toughest, heaviest RV is no match for dangerous weather. Protect yourself and your motor home when storm warnings sound by picking up, packing away, and heading out.
RV Storm Prep: Before You Go
From extreme temperatures to hurricanes to flash floods to tornadoes, summer brings a fantastic array of weather challenges. Before you go head out, study the weather at your destination. While a trip to a popular destination like Disney World in Florida may seem to offer a promise of drama-free sunny days, the area between Tampa and Titusville in Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S. Disney World, Universal Studios and other popular attractions, are in the heart of the “Lightning Corridor,” with violent afternoon thunderstorms as common as sunburned tourists in the summer.
Add weather apps to your phone to stay on the alert throughout the day. Summer weather is fickle; changing from sunny to stormy within minutes. The Federal Emergency Management Administration, FEMA, has a phone app that updates storm information and provides essential weather information. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) generates daily severe storm alerts for the U.S. Weather.com and other sites offer live radar and monitor lightning strikes.
Take time to study the area you’re visiting. Disney World is a recognizable destination name, but weather alerts will be issued county-by-county, so it’s important to know the Florida resort is in Orange and Osceola counties. Know the county, region names, and major roadways of the area you’ll be visiting ahead of time.
Power outages are one of the most frequent effects of summer storms. Add a battery-powered or cranking weather radio to your packing list to stay on top of weather reports, and add a few extra packs of batteries.
Be ready to make quick repairs. Pack the trinity of emergency supplies: heavy-duty garbage bags, a utility knife and duct tape. In any weather, don’t leave home without flashlights and a first aid kit.
RV Storm Prep: Be Ready for Anything
Even if the day is sunny and mild when you head out, at many popular vacation destinations afternoon storms are a daily occurrence. While some storms do nothing more than knock back the heat of the day, others can deliver a knock-out punch to an RV vacation.
Before heading out for the day, fold up lawn chairs and store in your unit’s pass-through storage or under the unit. Summer storms can bring driving rain and winds of up to 40 mph that turn loose objects into projectiles. Clear off tables and tools and pick up around the site.
Retract the unit’s awning. Whether it’s a southwestern dust devil or a southern “gully washer” high winds can grab the awning and rip it off, or twist and swing it into the side walls or roof, doubling the damage done.
If you took advantage of a tree-lined shady spot, cast a keen eye at the branches hanging over your unit. Branches ripped off old or untrimmed trees by swirling winds can inflict serious damage to your RV. Either move your RV to a more open area, or ask park maintenance about trimming the trees in your site.
RV Storm Prep: The Coming Storm
The most important safety feature of your RV is its wheels. When your RV is in the “Cone” — the National Hurricane Center’s tracking forecast model that shows areas likely to be affected by a storm – pack up and head for the next destination. While a major storm forecast may shift dramatically in the days leading up to landfall, the forecast can be very accurate within the last 24 hours. Even if a hurricane is drifting away, hurricane storm bands can extend outward for hundreds of miles and spawn tornadoes and damaging storms.
In the days leading up to the storm, fuel your unit or towing vehicle. Before heading out, make sure to have adequate supplies of ice, bottled water and propane. These supplies will run out first in storm-targeted areas. Remember, other RVers will be heading for higher ground as well; reserve your next space as far in advance as possible and be ready to live off the grid for a few days if necessary.
Pack up your site and head out early – evacuation routes – especially those leading from barrier islands, marshlands and coastal regions will be backed up and add hours to your escape. In storm-prone regions, roads will be designated as “evacuation routes.” Take note of these roads as you arrive. Waiting too long to leave risks running into mandatory curfews and road closures, designed to keep the public safe and the roads clear for emergency vehicles.
A storm doesn’t have to be a hurricane to bring damaging winds, hail, tornadoes and flooding. The summer is peak thunderstorm season and summer storms can pack gale force winds – winds strong enough to do serious damage to the stoutest RV.
When a strong storm appears inevitable, gather your family and finalize your RV preparations to keep people safe and property secure. If high winds are forecast, reduce the surface area the wind can slam into by parking the rear of your RV into the wind. Retracting slide-outs also reduces surface area and can minimize damage.
Clear the area around the site then head for the nearest secure shelter at the RV park and wait it out. Never stay in an RV or travel trailer during a violent storm.
RV Storm Prep: Awareness
Staying alert and aware are the most important tools to pack when it comes to staying safe during summer storm season. Let technology work for you, following mobile storm apps and weather forecasting sites.
Resist the urge to “wait it out;” no RV is designed to provide shelter in violent weather, and head to shelter or sites away from a storm landfall.