Tornado Safety for RVers: What to Do During a Tornado

You can’t always drive away from bad weather. That’s why you need to know tornado safety for RVers. Here’s what to do if you’re in your RV when a tornado hits.

I want to give the biggest tip right off the bat because if you don’t read anything else, you’ll at least have read this. Take every single tornado warning seriously. 

People easily become desensitized when repeated warnings don’t lead to traumatic results. But you have to remember, it only takes one tornado to wipe you out. So, you have to take every single warning seriously.

Not taking it seriously throws away the amazing gift we have of advanced warning. Up until very recently, any warning that preceded obvious visual evidence was rare.

A pending storm in Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life-saving tips

Now that you’ve hopefully committed to properly reacting to tornado warnings, here is what you need to know. The following are life-saving tips that can keep you and your family safe in the event of not only a tornado but also severe windstorms.

Tip #1: Take tornado warnings seriously

Okay, okay, I know I covered this ad nauseam in the intro. But I just had to note it again real quick for the scrollers. If you scrolled past the intro, go back and read it!

Tip #2: Stay calm

Following my excessive warnings to take warnings seriously, it’s important to then advise you to stay calm. To paraphrase Hunger Games, the “odds are ever in your favor” to not get hit by a tornado. In fact, on average, more people are killed by lightning than by tornadoes every year.

Your odds of not being killed by a tornado, however, improve even more if you remain calm. And, the best way to stay calm is to be prepared. So, the following tips prepare you for you to stay calm more easily…

A storm in Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip #3: Know where to go before you need to go

If you are camping in tornado country (and especially in tornado season), talk to your campground director when you arrive. Ask them if there are any nearby shelters or what they recommend in case of a tornado.

If you’re not staying at a campground, check local resources to locate storm shelters. A simple Google search should do the trick but you can also stop in at tourist, fire, and police departments. At the very least, you can ask some locals at a diner during lunch.

The locals will likely reassure you that you don’t have to worry about tornadoes, but, remember, it only takes one tornado to take you out! 

Growing up in the area, the locals are most at risk of being desensitized to the real danger. So, let their reassurances calm you but not lead you to take storm warnings for granted.

There are also warning signs of a tornado coming you should be aware of.

Tip #4: Have old school technology on hand

Yes, your phone sends notifications of weather warnings. Yes, your GPS can show you all of the routes out of town. But neither are reliable in remote locations let alone in a severe storm. That’s why old-school tech is part of tornado safety for RVers.

You should have a weather radio with NOAA scan technology. The National Weather Service continuously broadcasts updated weather warnings and forecasts.

A physical map can also help you navigate away from a storm. But, you should only try to drive away from a building storm, not an actual tornado! 

Once you receive a tornado warning, it’s time for the next tip…

A storm in Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip #5: Abandon your RV

Your RV offers very little protection from tornadoes. As gas usage has taught us, they’re just big windsails. Not to mention the relatively thin walls and basic glass windows. 

If a tornado is headed your way, abandon your RV to seek shelter. What kind of shelter is best? That brings us to Tip #6…

Tip #6: Seek these types of shelters

Whether or not you’re from Tornado Alley, you likely know that underground shelters are best. If there is one nearby, go for it. But in many cases, an underground shelter will not be available or close enough, especially in campgrounds.

Your next best bet is to hunker down inside or behind a concrete structure. Campground bathrooms are often made of concrete so that can be a good option. Dumpsters are often surrounded by concrete walls so pushing the dumpster out and hunkering inside is another option. 

Most deaths and injuries from tornadoes are caused by flying debris. So, your goal is to put a thick barrier between you and debris whether it’s the ground, concrete walls, or a large boulder.

An interior room without windows like in the clubhouse is a viable option as well.

If there are no shelters nearby (which is often the case if you’re driving) then the next best thing falls under Tip #7.

A storm in Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip #7: Seek the lowest point in the ground

If you are driving along and suddenly realize a tornado is bearing down on you, pull over, get out of your RV, and seek the lowest point in the ground. The same is true if you’re camping or parked somewhere where no strong shelters are available.

As I previously mentioned, flying debris presents the biggest danger. So, lying down in a ditch or even crawling into a large storm pipe can give you added protection. The idea is for any debris to fly over you, not into you. 

If it’s possible to quickly and easily grab some couch cushions or a mattress from your RV to cover yourself with, all the better. But only do that if it doesn’t cost you much time. Your priority is to get in the ditch!

Tip #8: Beware of downed power lines

Aside from flying debris, another big danger most people don’t consider is downed power lines. If you were in or near a tornado’s path, be alert for power lines that went down in the storm. This is key in practicing tornado safety for RVers!

Give downed power lines a very wide berth! They can skip around. More so, they can still transmit electricity through wet ground. Since rain often accompanies tornadoes, getting anywhere close to a downed power line can get you electrocuted.

After the storm? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More tips for tornado safety for RVers

Though I’ve covered the “biggies” in this article, I always say the more tips the better! If you have any additional tips for tornado safety for RVers, please share them on social media. 

Since I’m talking safety, here are a few related articles:

And now to take our minds off the scary threats of nature, let’s take a trip through all of the beauty America has to offer…

I have a travel library filled with RV adventure guides. They’re tried-and-true itineraries based on our real travels. Here is a sampling:

Worth Pondering…

Outside the rain began to pour in sheets, and the wind howled. Giant pieces of hail began to pelt the building—banging off the skylights so hard that Simpson worried the glass might shatter. Then, as it had earlier in the day, the wind briefly let up. It was then Simpson heard a sound she had dreaded—a sound she couldn’t believe she was actually hearing. It was 2:40 p.m. and the tornado sirens in Moore started to wail.

―Holly Bailey, The Mercy of the Sky: The Story of a Tornado