At least one hurricane makes landfall in the U.S. nearly every year bringing wind speeds of more than 160 mph along with trillions of gallons of rain. Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, the Carolinas, and other Atlantic and Gulf Coast states are generally the most impacted. If your travel plans include traveling to—or through—locales that are vulnerable to extreme weather you need to take extra steps to ensure you’re protected.
The Atlantic hurricane season is on a lot of people’s minds as we enter the final weeks of August. Experts at the National Hurricane Center initially predicted near-normal Atlantic hurricane activity at the beginning of the season but revised their forecast on August 10. They are now calling for a 60 percent chance of an above-average season, up from 30 percent.
Earlier in the season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast 12 to 17 named storms. Now, the agency projects 14 to 21 storms including tropical storms and hurricanes. About half of those are expected to be full-blown hurricanes. Not all storms are expected to make landfall.
While the El Niño we’re experiencing would often suppress hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin, it’s expected the warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures will allow more storms to develop.
On average, the greatest tropical activity in the Atlantic occurs between mid-August and mid-October with the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season in less than three weeks on September 10.
Hurricanes, the gift of notice
Unlike other natural disasters across the world—earthquakes, tornados, flash floods, and wildfires—hurricanes come with the built-in gift of advance notice.
It’s quite rare for one to sneak up on you without a couple of days (or more) notice. And just because it’s hurricane season and you’re in the zone (which stretches all along the Gulf of Mexico coast and up the eastern seaboard) doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be impacted by a major storm.
(If you’re choosing to be in a hurricane area, you do have a hurricane plan, right?)
RVs have wheels—use them!
I’ve heard the argument that an RV is designed to encounter sustained 60-80 mile-per-hour winds. After all, that’s what they undergo when we drive them down the interstate. So, some RVers just plan to stay put through the smaller storms.
But a broadside 130 mph gust can flip an RV right over.
RVs also aren’t built for flying debris that high winds can toss around. Tree branches, heck—whole trees, lawn furniture, pieces of fences, and more can all become deadly projectiles in those sorts of winds—and severely damage traditional homes, never mind our flimsy RVs.
And remember, hurricanes aren’t just wind events. They can spawn severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, storm surges, and massive flooding rains.
The preferred hurricane plan for an RV is to do what they do best—turn on the ignition and drive away! Our homes have wheels. USE THEM. RVs are perfect bug-out vehicles being self-contained wherever we land.
Know the area you are in and what the actual risks are. Coastal areas are prone to more severe impacts and will often have mandatory evacuations ordered once warnings go up.
Some RV Parks or campgrounds may close down and kick you out as part of their storm preps.
You really might not have a choice to stay.
If you’re more inland, you may be okay or just need to move a hundred or so more miles out of the way to be safer. Talk with locals who have gone through a storm or three. And track the constantly changing storm forecasts closely.
Tips for being prepared for hurricanes in an RV
Keep your tanks at their optimal levels, always.
When an evacuation is ordered, local fuel stations will become overwhelmed with everyone filling up. Trying to maneuver your large RV in that chaos will be a disaster in itself.
Fuel can become scarce as the storm approaches and remain that way for days or weeks after the storm. Always keep your fuel tanks full, so you’re ready to turn the key and drive away or able to use your generator after the storm when power may be out for weeks.
Keep your fresh water tank topped off as well, especially in the day or two before a storm approaches. Some RV parks may turn off water in preparation and after the storm water may be unavailable due to contamination or water main breaks. Use your RV water tank to your advantage.
Empty those black and grey tanks in advance of the storm! You just don’t know when you’ll be able to dump again as drainage systems could become backed up with flooding from the storm.
If you evacuate, anticipate that main roads will be slow going—especially if you wait until the last days before the storm’s approach. Staying aware and getting out early can result in a smoother exodus but could also result in evacuating for no reason if the storm’s track changes. Always try to stay ahead of the mass exodus if you can and consider taking back roads instead of main roads to avoid as much traffic as possible.
As you’re evacuating, continue to track the storm—its path could change to intersect with your destination!
So where should you head? As far away from where the hurricane is predicted to travel as possible. While local parks might be shutting down, other facilities might open up and welcome evacuating RVers—sometimes even for free. Stay in the know via various RVing groups who will often share various suggestions of places you can head.
After the storm, if you decide to head back to where you evacuated from investigate first to see if it’s even safe. Anticipate power and water not being available, massive damage, stores not being open or stocked for a while, and your RV park not even being suitable for return.
If it is safe to return, your self-contained RV may be the perfect base camp to endure the challenges. Perhaps you can even bring in supplies from outside to help others and pitch in and help with the clean-up while locals are dealing with significant damage.
I have more on hurricanes and other natural disasters:
Driving or towing an RV is an exciting experience but it’s a totally different ballpark compared to driving a car. You’re dealing with a lot more weight and bulk which will give you less control and precision on the road.
Driving an RV, whether it’s a motorhome or a towable isn’t the same as driving a car. No matter what RV you operate there’s a learning curve to RV driving. RVs are usually longer and heavier, they take longer to stop, and there are more (and different types of) mirrors along with a host of other RV driving techniques to consider.
In today’s post, I’m offering 20 RV driving tips from the perspective of an RVer who has been driving 37- to 41-foot motorhomes (and towing a car) for nearly three decades. That would be me!
Whether you have a motorhome or a towable RV, driving can be a daunting experience for new RV owners especially if you choose a larger model. However, with practice and patience, you’ll be a pro at navigating parking lots, fuel stops, and narrow campsites in no time.
Here are 20 RV driving safety tips for beginners to help you stay safe on your RV journey.
1. Practice driving your RV
A big, empty parking lot is a great place to get acclimated. A set of small traffic cones can be a big help for safely practicing turns, backing, and maneuvering. The single biggest difference to get used to when driving an RV, versus a car, is length—the overall length of the vehicle(s), the length of the wheelbase, and the length of the rear overhang.
Yes, RVs weigh more than cars and they’re taller. Those factors do come into play but nothing is more critical than learning to manage the length of your RV. More about those topics below but practicing maneuvering in a safe environment is hugely helpful for new RV drivers.
2. Be a patient driver
Other drivers of large vehicles (think truck and bus drivers) are working often on a demanding schedule. As RVers, we’re able to (hopefully) operate at a more leisurely pace.
Whenever possible, allow sufficient time to arrive at your destination early enough that you won’t feel rushed. This will help you to maintain a better mindset throughout your travels—one of not feeling rushed or in a hurry… being patient. This not only provides a safer driving environment but a more relaxing one as well. Stay safe by avoiding the rush.
3. Pay attention to your speed
In the same vein as the previous tip, higher speeds can increase stress and reduce safety. Things happen faster at higher speeds reducing the amount of time you have to think and react.
There’s no specific speed that’s right for every RVer. But since the demise of the 55 mph national maximum speed limit in the late 80s, some speed limits are now far higher. Many U.S. states especially in the West have maximum speed limits of 75-80 mph. But that doesn’t mean you have to drive that fast!
RVing shouldn’t be a race. In my opinion, there’s no RV on the road that isn’t safer being operated at a speed slower than those very high limits.
There is no one speed that works for every RV, every RVer, and in every situation? But you’ll know when you’re traveling too fast when your heart jumps into your throat or your right foot buries the brake pedal. But by then it might be too late. Take your time, both speed-wise and in figuring out what speeds are safest for you, your RV, and current driving conditions.
If you’re not sure about correct speeds when you first start driving an RV, figure it out from the bottom up. By that I mean it’s better to realize that you’re driving a little slower than you can safely manage rather than the other way around! Take your time and enjoy the journey.
4. Keep to the right whenever possible and appropriate
In general, the best place for a large vehicle on a multi-lane highway is the right lane. A primary tenet of Defensive Driving is to leave your self an escape route in the event another vehicle should come into conflict with yours.
The right lane is adjacent to the shoulder providing some built-in advantages:
It’s usually empty allowing a safe space to take evasive action if needed
Since the shoulder isn’t a travel lane the threat of another vehicle moving into your lane from the right is reduced
Because drivers in North America sit on the left side of their vehicles, the right side is the weak side due to your reduced ability to see what’s directly alongside or approaching your rig at an angle
Keeping the right side of your vehicle as clear of collision threats as possible provides better safety. Being alongside the (often empty) shoulder also provides a place to go should a mechanical problem require you to move off the road.
Of course, there are exit and/or entrance ramps to consider. If you’re approaching one but you’re not exiting be alert for vehicles entering the highway. If traffic allows, move over one lane to the left to avoid conflict.
If you’re traveling on a highway with three or more lanes of traffic in each direction, consider staying one lane over (the middle lane of a three-lane highway, the second lane on a 4- or 5-lane highway) in areas with a high concentration of exit and entrance ramps. That’s especially helpful during high-traffic periods preventing you from having to repeatedly change lanes to avoid traffic merging onto the highway.
5. Know your rig’s braking power and plan accordingly
Large, heavy vehicles take longer to stop than passenger cars. That requires thinking ahead—and planning ahead. Keep your eyes scanning far down the road; be alert for brake lights in the distance or other indicators of slowing traffic or potential conflict. Use your height advantage to see as far ahead as possible. Slow down earlier and avoid braking hard.
Besides the longer stopping distances required to stop an RV you should also keep in mind a disadvantage that your large vehicle creates simply by being on the road—other drivers can’t see around you. That virtually guarantees that someone behind you isn’t able to spot potential conflicts up ahead.
But we’ve all seen how simple facts like lack of visibility seem to have little to no effect on other drivers. They often tailgate vehicles that block their view, like RVs. If you’re being tailgated especially by someone who can’t see around you (your vehicle is big!) the last thing you want to do is stop suddenly. Increasing your following distance is the best course of action to prevent you from having to stop suddenly and potentially getting rear-ended.
An additional braking consideration with RVs is the fact that you’re carrying around cabinets full of dishes, glassware, food, toiletries, and many other items not normally stored in a passenger car. Stopping suddenly can lead to things falling out of cabinets the next time they’re opened as contents may have shifted.
6. Keep your distance
Maintaining a safe following distance is one of the most basic safety practices to which any driver can adhere. Rather than attempt to guesstimate the number of feet between you and the vehicle ahead, use time instead.
Passenger cars generally follow the 2-second rule: Watch the vehicle in front of you pass an object (such as the shadow of an overpass or a utility pole alongside the roadway) and count one thousand one, one thousand two and you shouldn’t reach that same spot before two full seconds have passed.
Since RVs and other large vehicles take longer to stop, use a 4-second following distance. When the roads are wet, use a 6-second following distance. With snowy- or ice-covered roads, use 8 seconds. Keep in mind that these are minimum following distances. There is nothing wrong with leaving even more space between you and the vehicle ahead of you.
If you’re thinking “If I leave that much room in front of me, other vehicles will simply move over into that space,” you’re correct. They will. Other drivers will indeed change lanes in front of you (often right in front of you). But the only way to prevent that is to fill the space between you and the car ahead yourself. But that is tailgating—something that’s so critically important to avoid.
The best practice is to maintain a speed on multi-lane highways that’s slightly slower than passing traffic… about 2-3 mph is usually good. That way, vehicles that change lanes in front of you will continue to move ahead, re-opening that all-important safety cushion directly in front of your RV without you having to do anything about it.
7. Follow the 330 or 3/3/3 travel rule
The 330 rule refers to a policy of driving no more than 300 miles a day and arriving at your destination no later than 3:30 pm. That allows plenty of time to set up camp in daylight, get to know the amenities of the campground and the surrounding area, and further relax after your day of driving.
When we first started, I would hit the road and keep hitting the road until we crammed as much into one day as possible. In my mind, the more we drove, the more we would see, and the more fun we’d have. I recall a 2,000-mile trip we made in three and one-half days. And yes, it was tiring and exhausting! And, I vowed never again!
You may have heard of another RV rule of thumb called the 3-3-3 Rule. This rule is similar to the 330 Rule.
The 3-3-3 Rule is as follows:
Don’t drive more than 300 miles in a day
Stop by 3 pm (or stop every 3 hours, depending on who you ask)
Stay at a campground for a minimum of 3 days
I won’t go as far as saying every RVer needs to abide by the 330 rule. However, I will say that I do highly recommend it. I know that from my own experiences (and mistakes) and from countless RVers who say the same, the 330 rule makes traveling more enjoyable—and safer.
It’s very important to take note of the weight limits associated with your particular RV and to stay within those limits. When you overload an RV you’re putting yourself and everyone traveling with and around you at risk.
Both weight and weight distribution are important. RVs have several specific weight limits. There’s the maximum allowable weight of the loaded RV itself (GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating).
There’s the maximum allowable weight for the entire rig which includes anything being towed (GCWR, or Gross Combined Weight Rating). Then there’s the maximum weight capacity on each axle (GAWR, or Gross Axle Weight Rating). Be sure to learn and follow your rig’s weight limits and avoid overloading it.
9. Don’t drive in high winds
Many RVers learn this one the hard way by traveling down the highway in high winds at too high a speed for the conditions. Remember that RVs are tall and frequently flat-sided. The aerodynamics of many rigs lends themselves to being blown about to some degree by high winds.
And while you may feel secure traveling down the highway on a relatively windy day, you may find yourself hitting a crosswind and hanging on with white knuckles for all you’re worth.
Avoid this at all costs. Travel in safe conditions. If you find yourself with a very windy day ahead either stay put or take a slow drive over to the beach or a field to have a picnic and fly a kite!
If you must travel during windy conditions, the most important adjustment to make is to slow down! The faster you’re moving when your rig gets hit with a gust from the side, the more likely you are to lose control of your vehicle. And the more severe the consequences will be.
Distracted driving is the cause of far too many accidents… many thousands annually.
Driving distracted can include anything from checking your phone to eating, to driving with a pet in your lap. Distracted driving refers to anything that takes your attention away from the road and the task at hand—safe driving.
Any non-driving activity that you engage in while operating your vehicle reduces your safety and that of your passengers and fellow travelers on the road around you.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting is the most dramatic driving distraction: “Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”
Don’t drive distracted! Your life and the lives of those around you are depending on your vigilance. That’s especially true for large vehicles that take longer to stop and maneuver than a passenger car. And doubly true for the largest vehicles capable of inflicting truly substantial damage if not kept under control at all times.
11. Never drive impaired
Impaired driving refers to driving while under the influence of anything that has the potential to degrade your reaction time as a driver, reduce your attention, or impact your driving ability in any way. This would include substances like alcohol or marijuana as well as narcotics and even prescription or over-the-counter medications that have the potential to impair a driver.
When you get into your RV to drive or into your vehicle to tow an RV, you need to be at your absolute best. And it’s always best not to self-determine whether you’re fit to drive. If you’ve had a drink or two, no matter how you feel, don’t drive. If you’ve been exposed to a recreational drug or a medication with the potential for altering your mind or reaction time, don’t drive. Read the labels on all medications. Benedryl is a good example of an over-the-counter medication that can have a significant impact on reaction time.
Part of the responsibility of driving a large vehicle is being aware of your own abilities. If you’re not sure you’re up to the task of continuing, stop as soon as safely possible.
Just don’t drive if there’s a potential for you to be impaired at all. It’s really that simple.
12. Use proper steering technique
Turn the steering wheel slowly or partially when rounding a curve in the road (as opposed to making a sharp turn). This maintains the right hand on the right side of the wheel and the left hand on the left side of the wheel at all times.
Keep your hands on the outside of the steering wheel rim. This avoids getting your hands crossed up or reaching into the wheel where one of the spokes is in the way of your grasping it.
13. Learn proper mirror adjustment and use
It’s essential when RV driving to be able to see well all around you and to avoid blind spots. Depending on the size of your rig you’re driving or towing, this can be somewhat complicated but once you become comfortable with proper mirror adjustment and use, you’ll be amazed at how much it assists your safe driving.
14. Monitor the weather and travel accordingly
This one is also known as Embrace Plan B.
Monitor the weather in your current area and along the path you intend to travel. If weather conditions are likely to impede an easy-going driving experience, make a plan B and settle into it. But be ready to adapt if conditions change.
RV driving means understanding that your plans can change at any given time. Not being rigidly controlled by a plan is part of RVing and its great! I know that most RVers aren’t full-timers and may have limited time to enjoy their RV vacation. But within those constraints, do your best to avoid traveling when conditions increase the risk to you and your RV.
15. Never drive when tired
Driving an RV while you’re tired is another version of driving impaired. When we’re fatigued, everything is affected including our sight and reaction time.
Besides substances, one of the most common and potentially most serious forms of impairment is fatigue. Calling back to the 330 rule above, make sure you don’t drive longer than your ability to stay alert. That includes getting a good night’s sleep the night before.
Studies have demonstrated that extreme fatigue can be as or even more dangerous as driving under the influence of some substances. And it can be more insidious as it takes no other action beyond staying on the road too long to create a risk.
This also includes driving while you’re feeling ill. If you have a fever or cold or another ailment that may affect your driving ability, leave the task for another day or to someone else.
Once again, if you’re tired, I strongly encourage you to embrace plan B and stop for the night and get some good rest, good food, and hydration—then drive again when you’re in top shape for the task.
16. Have a good roadside assistance plan
Having a reliable roadside assistance plan is essential when traveling in an RV.
Choose a plan that suits you best but be sure to have a good, solid, reliable plan for roadside assistance. Having the peace of mind that if something DOES go wrong while on the road you have resources available to get you out of a bind can help keep you calm should something happen.
Read my earlier post for 25 must-have items to carry in your roadside emergency kit. Chances are good that you’ll use many of those items—if not in the event of your own roadside emergency, then perhaps to help a fellow traveler.
17. Use trip planner apps and/or GPS to plan RV-safe routes
Remember that when you’re driving an RV, the height, weight, and contents of your rig are factors that you don’t generally need to consider when driving a car. This is why having excellent trip planner apps or an RV-safe GPS is so important.
There are areas (tunnels, in particular, and some ferries) that you can’t enter if you’re carrying propane on board your RV. Or you may be required to confirm that it’s been turned off at the tank. This is information you’ll want to know in advance of approaching the entrance to a tunnel. You want to be offered alternative routes based on what you’re driving and the best way to achieve this important end is to plan RV-safe travel routes.
Some GPS units and RV trip planner apps allow you to input the specifics of your RV and then you’ll be guided according to those specifics.
18. Keep current with RV maintenance
A well-maintained RV or tow vehicle is a safe vehicle. Be sure to keep up with the preventive maintenance and conduct regular inspections of your RV systems especially those that can cause an accident while traveling.
Make a pre-trip checklist and do an inspection of these items every time you get behind the wheel:
Belts and hoses (check for cracking)
Headlights, turn signal, tail lights
Hitch or towing equipment
Tires for the correct air pressure and sufficient tread depth
Educate yourself ahead of time. Every type of extreme weather event presents a unique challenge.
We know that weather can either make or break a camping trip. Sunshine and blue skies are what make RV trips a fun experience but we can’t always be that fortunate. Every once in a while a storm or unexpected temperatures sneak up on us and we must be fully prepared for when nature is having an off day. Extreme weather is more dangerous when in an RV than in a house. Here are some severe weather tips for RVers for when the going gets tough.
The most important thing to do is stay updated on the most current weather as much as possible to avoid surprises and prepare for any bad weather that may be on its way. Checking the weather before leaving on a road trip will provide some insight into what you may experience over the next several days.
As with any emergency, you want to be prepared ahead of time. Create an emergency plan for every situation and make sure your family knows the procedures. Write out the procedures and post them for future reference.
Seek shelter before the weather becomes extreme. No possession is worth more than you and your family. The worst thing to do is to wait around to determine the actions of others, wait for rescue, or wait until the last minute to know the severity of the weather event.
Prepare an emergency supply kit and place it in a convenient location that is easy to access. Consider including the following items: whistles, extra blankets, rain ponchos, non-perishable packaged/canned food, can opener, flashlights, a flare gun, a first aid kit, necessary prescription drugs, a compass, pet supplies/food, and bottled water.
Know the county you are located in and the surrounding counties. When you hear a weather alert message on your smartphone, radio, or television you’ll be able to determine where the storm is located and how quickly it will approach your current location.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Weather Service (NWS) provide information on current conditions, incoming storms, and emergency radio station lists. Have an NOAA battery-operated alert radio with an automatic alert mode, smartphone charger, and several flashlights in your RV? Top-rated mobile weather apps include WeatherBug, AccuWeather, and The Weather Channel.
Lightning and thunderstorms
According to NOAA, at any given moment in the day there are roughly 2,000 thunderstorms in progress across the globe. The United States experiences 100,000 thunderstorms every year with spring and summer afternoons seeing the highest frequency of events. Each storm can bring a suite of problems from hail to high winds but it’s lightning that is your number one concern.
Key points to keep in mind include:
Lightening kills more people annually than tornadoes or hurricanes
Taking shelter inside any building or vehicle is safer than being outside
Rain does not signify the beginning of a dangerous storm; thunder does
Anytime you hear thunder you’re at risk of a lightning strike; close your awning, store anything that can blow away, and get indoors as quickly as possible
Lightning strikes can damage the electrical power in your unit so it’s a good idea to use an Electric Management System (Progressive Industries or Surge Guard)
The severity and speed of flash floods make them one of the most harrowing weather events adventurers might encounter. They occur when excessive water fills normally a dry canyon or wash and when creeks and rivers rise rapidly from rainfall within their watershed.
According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, a creek that’s only six inches deep in the mountains can swell to a ten-foot-deep raging river in less than an hour if a thunderstorm lingers over an area for an extended period.
Key points to keep in mind include:
Do not attempt to cross any water higher than your ankles
As little as 6 inches of water flowing quickly can knock an adult down
Less than 2 feet of water can sweep a car away or stall it out with you stuck inside
You rarely have time to move your RV; get to higher ground and stay safe
Dust storms (also called Haboobs) are unexpected, and unpredictable, and can sweep across the desert landscape at any time. Dust storms can reduce visibility to near zero in seconds resulting in deadly, multi-vehicle accidents on roadways. Dust storms can be miles long and thousands of feet high.
Dust storms can occur anywhere in the United States but are most common in the Southwest. In Arizona, dust storms most frequently occur during monsoon season (June-September) but they can pop up at any time of the year. Drivers of high-profile recreation vehicles should be especially aware of changing weather conditions and travel at reduced speeds.
Key points to keep in mind include:
DO NOT drive into or through a dust storm. PULL ASIDE. STAY ALIVE.
Do not stop in a travel lane or the emergency lane. Look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.
Turn off all vehicle lights including your emergency flashers. You do not want other vehicles approaching from behind to use your lights as a guide possibly crashing into your parked vehicle.
Set your emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.
Stay in the vehicle with your seatbelts buckled and wait for the storm to pass.
Tornado Alley which stretches from mid-Texas north to North Dakota is plagued by a high frequency of tornadoes. But the disastrous storms aren’t just relegated to the plains. Tornadoes can happen anywhere. While tornadoes can form quickly—on average, NOAA releases a tornado warning in the potential impact area 15 minutes before the tornado hits—most are born from thunderstorms.
Key points to keep in mind include:
When you register at an RV campground, ask about the tornado and storm warning systems for the area
Never try to outrun a tornado in any type of vehicle
RVs do not provide good protection during a tornado
Extreme heat poses a threat to young children, older adults, and anyone who doesn’t take the right safety precautions before and during a heat wave. Heat-related incidents can be prevented with a few measures to ensure that both you and your family can safely get through the heat wave.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke need to be taken seriously. If you feel like you’re becoming dizzy, weak, or nauseous after spending time in the sun, take care of yourself as soon as possible. These conditions can quickly get worse if you ignore them.
Key points to keep in mind include:
Limit your exposure to the sun
Stay hydrated by drinking at least 16 ounces of water every hour in the heat to replenish your body and prevent dehydration
Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing; a wide-brimmed hat, correct shoes, sunscreen, and wet bandanas to keep you cool while in the sun
Be aware of the heat and humidity index (a relative humidity of 60 percent or higher makes it hard for sweat to evaporate off your body)
The devastating power of hurricanes can change your life, or even end it, in seconds. An RV is not a safe place to ride out a hurricane. Hurricanes pack enough punch to destroy everything in their wake and in those times it is best to be prepared for an immediate evacuation. Your RV can become your best friend and your ticket to safety if you take certain safety measures for yourself and your vehicle.
Key points to keep in mind include:
As soon as you know a hurricane is likely to come your way, load up your RV and head out before the Interstate becomes a virtual parking lot
Get as far from the coast and bodies of water as you can
Wildfires are highly unpredictable and can be deadly. With the severe heat, drought conditions, and wildfires burning across much of the western US states and Canada, those who are out adventuring need to be aware of wildfire conditions and what can be done to keep you and your family safe.
Over time, wildfires have become more prevalent. The changing climate makes droughts more frequent, generates more wind (which whips and spreads the flames) and leaves areas more susceptible to wildfires or the more dangerous and larger-scale mega-fires.
The peak month of wildfire season is August when areas become increasingly dry, hot, and more susceptible to wildfire. The states with the highest number of wildfires are California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Oregon.
Key points to keep in mind include:
Know the current wildfire conditions and fire restrictions for the area you are traveling
Choose a campsite that has more than one escape route
If you do see an unattended fire or out of control fire, contact the authorities by calling 911 or the Forest Service immediately
The best advice is to stay off the road, sit tight, and wait the weather out. Risking your life or the life of your family is not worth it for a road trip. Keep snow tires/chains, extra blankets, and extra food and water. Check to ensure you have a full tank of fuel (which also helps to add additional weight), and check for correct tire pressure (low tire pressure increases the chance of hydroplaning).
Key points to keep in mind include:
Secure everything outside that has even the slightest potential to blow away
Keep a pair of thick gloves and a toque with you
Wearing multiple layers of light clothing will keep you warmer than one heavy layer
How safe is an RV in a lightning storm? That’s a loaded question and one I’m here to answer. There are many myths about RVs and lightning. What’s important is that we’re all armed and ready to do what’s legitimately called for in a lightning storm when we’re in an RV.
Preparedness is everything where safety is concerned, so let’s get right to it starting with the most basic.
What is lightning?
According to the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, lighting is defined as “a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds, the air, or the ground”.
In short, lightning is an extremely powerful electrical discharge that occurs during a thunderstorm. When lightning strikes the air becomes extremely hot—and when I say “extremely hot” I mean around 50,000 degrees F—far hotter than even the surface of the sun!
The thunder you hear is the heated air the lightning is passing through expanding quickly. Effectively, it’s like the boom generated by a supersonic plane.
Lightning can occur between clouds (cloud to cloud), from cloud to air, or from cloud to ground. Cloud to the ground is the type of lighting we’re most concerned about as it’s the most dangerous to us while we’re in our RVs.
Now let’s get into how safe an RV is in a lightning storm.
How safe is an RV in a lightning storm?
There’s no getting around it—lightning storms can be extremely dangerous. If you’re in an RV, the key to your safety depends on the materials your rig is made of and the actions you take.
First, if your RV’s frame or roof—or the entire skin/outer structure—is made of metal/aluminum/steel you should be safe from lightning when you’re inside. Your electronics may take a hit unless you’ve disconnected them but the people inside the rig should be safe. And the good news is that many if not most modern RVs do have a metal frame.
If your rig has a roof made of aluminum or steel you’ll likely be safe inside your RV in a lightning storm. And if your RV roof is made of fiberglass but the frame of the rig is made of steel you’ll still be well protected.
If your RV is made entirely of other materials like wood or all-fiberglass then you’ll be safer inside your tow vehicle/toad. Contrary to popular belief, metal doesn’t attract lightning but it is very much capable of reducing its destructive impact by channeling it away and toward the ground.
And when metal forms a “cage” of sorts, it offers even more protection. More on that in just a moment. First, another note about metal.
Is it true that lightning only strikes metal?
Nope, that’s a myth. Lightning isn’t drawn to metal and it certainly doesn’t only strike metal. In fact, experts with the National Weather Service agree that metal has no bearing on the attraction of lightning.
In fact, the height of an object, the shape of an object (pointy), and isolation are the three primary factors that determine where lightning is most likely to strike. We’ve heard of lightning striking trees, for example. That’s because they tend to be all three things: tall, pointy, and isolated from other tall objects.
What is a Faraday Cage?
So, the metal “cage” structure of cars provides particular protection against lightning due to a concept known as the “Faraday Cage”. This would also be true of any RV with a metal frame/“cage” but not all RVs are built in this way. So, if your rig doesn’t have steel/aluminum framework you should seek shelter elsewhere immediately.
Essentially, the Faraday Cage refers to the fact that a car is a large metal cage that conducts the lightning AROUND the outside metal instead of THROUGH the inside of the car. This isn’t new information. This goes all the way back to Benjamin Franklin in the mid-1700s. The principle was refined by a scientist named Michael Faraday in 1836 thus the name “Faraday Cage”.
The first takeaway here is clear: the protection offered by the Faraday Cage effect is the reason you’re safe inside a car during a lightning storm. Again, the same would apply to an RV with a metal frame or roof but if you’re camping in an RV made of other materials such as only wood and fiberglass, seek shelter elsewhere in a lightning storm.
However, the second important thing to remember is that the presence of the Faraday Cage doesn’t mean that the vehicle can’t be struck by lightning or impacted by lightning. It means that you’re safe INSIDE the vehicle (so long as you’re not in contact and/or close proximity to any metal connected to that outer “cage”).
If you’re outside of a vehicle that has been struck, DO NOT touch the vehicle. The people inside are safe. But if you touch the vehicle, you may not be. If the strike has just occurred and the metal is still electrified you could be shocked if you walk up to the vehicle or touch it.
What should I do if I’m inside my RV in a lightning storm?
How safe your RV is in a lightning storm will largely depend on what you do. There are several protective actions you can take if you’re inside your RV during a storm.
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself is something you can do right now and that is to learn something about the construction of your RV so that you’ll know when the time comes whether you’re safe to remain inside your rig or whether you need to take shelter in your toad/tow car.
Here are several other actions you can take to increase your safety in a lightning storm:
Move away from trees
Always move away from trees. This is very important. Not only can trees or branches fall onto your RV in windy storm conditions but trees are tall and pointy and sometimes isolated. You may recall that these are the three most likely factors to attract a lightning strike.
You don’t want to be near trees in your RV during a lightning storm. Even if you’re taking shelter in a car, move that car away from trees. While you may be perfectly safe from the lightning itself inside a car or RV, you’re not safe from falling trees. And being crushed is likely no more fun than being electrocuted!
Move away from water
Water isn’t safe in a lightning storm. Lightning strikes the water with some regularity. And water conducts electricity. This is why it’s particularly important to know the weather forecast before you head out on the water in a boat, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or another vessel. It is unsafe to be on the water in a lightning storm.
If your RV is parked on the beach, lakeside, or riverside, move your RV up to a parking area or other safe location. Just remember to look around for flag poles, light poles, trees, and other tall, pointy structures, and stay away from them as well.
Unplug your RV from electrical outlet
In preparation for a lightning storm, one of the first things you’ll want to do is disconnect your RV from any electrical outlet. DISCONNECT the RV from the electrical outlet before the storm comes close.
The reason for this is to protect your RV’s electrical system and the electrical/electronic components connected to it from potentially damaging surges caused by lightning striking nearby. So, if possible, unplug appliances and disconnect or shut down electronics.
Again, if you’re inside an RV with a metal roof or metal frame, or if you take shelter in your tow vehicle or elsewhere, you’ll be safe. But to avoid damaging your RV’s electronics, you’ll want to be as disconnected as possible.
Bring in awnings and bring down antennas
Antennae are the tall, pointy, isolated lightning attractors I warned you about earlier. Bring them in ahead of the storm and store them safely. Awnings should never be left out in inclement weather, anyway… since wind or heavy rain can easily damage them.
Stay in the center of the RV away from windows and doors
During the storm remain in the center of your RV as far away from windows and doors as practical. Doors and windows are the least safe zones of your RV and staying away from them mean you’re safer.
This is due to two things: (1) window and door frames are almost always metal and as such are a point for you to come into contact with electricity from a lightning strike and (2) high winds from the storm could hurl objects into/through the windows potentially injuring you.
Keep your family, pets included, in the center of the rig until the storm passes.
Stay abreast of weather information using a smart phone or Emergency Weather Radio
The ability to stay informed of the storm’s arrival and passage is critical. Your smartphone may be capable of delivering that information to you via apps like Storm Shield or NOAA Weather Radar Live (look for the “Clime: NAA Weather Radar Live” app in your device’s app store) can keep you abreast of important information. However, if a cell tower is rendered incapable of offering you a connection or if you’re simply not in an area where you have good cell service your smartphone won’t be useful.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to travel with (or even to have at home) an emergency weather radio. Some are able to operate on batteries and/or by crank and will give you access to AM radio stations and emergency broadcasts.
Drive to a stronger shelter
And finally, if you’re not safe where you are, you need to drive to a stronger shelter. If you can get to a department store or any type of public building to take shelter, you’ll be increasing your safety and that of your family members.
Surely this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway—never, ever leave pets in your RV if you take shelter in another building. Even if pets aren’t typically allowed in a grocery store where you’re taking temporary shelter, for example, bring your pets with you but be sure to keep them leashed or caged (depending on the pet), and keep complete control of your pets at all times inside the building.
In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.
As summer heats up a small but growing number of cities are getting serious about heat mitigation
Scientific studies have documented a dramatic rise in both heat-related and cold-related deaths and there’s general agreement that cities need to adopt comprehensive strategies to maintain public health. One of the studies found the number of deaths caused by high temperatures increased by 74 percent globally between 1980 and 2016. Deaths related to extreme cold increased 31 percent since 1990, another report, the first of its kind, found.
Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and yet more than 600 people in the US alone are killed by extreme heat every year. Last year’s extreme heat wave in the Pacific Northwest resulted in an estimated 1,400-plus deaths. In neighboring British Columbia, 619 deaths reported June 25-July 1, 2021 were deemed heat related.
But most cities are only at the planning stages or conducting small-scale pilots—if they’re addressing the issue at all. There’s broad acknowledgment that rising temperatures are making urban centers less livable but many cities lack the budget or political support to meaningfully tackle the problem.
A survey by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Global Cool Cities Alliance (GCCA) reviewed the urban heat mitigation activities of 26 cities in the U.S. and Canada—representing all of the major climate zones, geographies, and city sizes across North America. They found that heat waves along with other natural disasters and extreme weather have motivated nearly two-thirds of the cities surveyed to initiate urban heat island mitigation strategies.
The report included case studies on how several cities have responded to urban heat demonstrating the variety of strategies employed. In response to a study that found that Houston’s roofs and pavements can reach 160 degrees F, the city now requires most flat roofs in the city to be reflective. After an extreme heat wave in 2008, Cincinnati lost much of its urban canopy and instituted an aggressive forestry plan. Washington D.C. has instituted a wide suite of programs such as Green Alleys which helps residents manage excess stormwater by replacing pavement with grass and trees and requiring reflective roofs on all new buildings.
Three major U.S. metro areas—Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Miami/Dade County—have established “Chief Heat Officers.”
Cities have been gearing up for this summer’s heat trying in particular to use cooling methods other than air conditioning. They’re installing cooling and misting centers and hydration stations and planting trees for extra shade.
They’re experimenting with high-tech solutions like sealants and reflective coatings for sidewalks, streets, and rooftops.
A growing number of startups are crowding into the market for products to counter “urban heat islands” with experimental (and proven) technologies aimed at absorbing or reflecting surface heat on roads, sidewalks, buildings, and other structures.
The big picture: Cities have been warming at twice the global average because of the “urban heat island” effect whereby buildings and pavement trap heat that might have otherwise been diffused by foliage.
Low-income people tend to suffer the most since they’re more likely to lack A/C, work outdoors, and live near industrial facilities.
Phoenix—one of the hottest U.S. cities—has been proactive in tackling the problem. The temperature climbs above the 100-degree mark daily from the end of May through the middle of September. These blistering hot days are followed up by warm nights with the low temperature sometimes failing to drop below 90.
Its “Cool Pavement Program” which involved painting a gray coating on streets reduced roadway temperatures by 10.5 to 12 degrees, reports Scientific American. Cool pavement is a water-based asphalt treatment that is applied on top of the existing asphalt pavement. It’s made with asphalt, water, an emulsifying agent (soap), mineral fillers, polymers, and recycled materials. It contains no harmful chemicals and is compatible with traditional asphalt.
The city aims to build 100 “cool corridors” by 2030 “in shade-starved zones with high pedestrian traffic,” the Arizona Republic reports.
Cool corridors are approximately one-mile-long walkways, pathways, or trails, adjacent and parallel to city streets that are designed to serve residents who walk, bike, and use transit. Collector or local streets and various pathways also could serve as cool corridors that provide important linkages with cool corridor arterials
Without more trees and other urban cooling features, the Phoenix area stands to lose hundreds more lives and billions of dollars in lost economic production each year by mid-century if the region doesn’t adopt widespread tree planting and cool roof installation, a Nature Conservancy study concluded last year.
“Heat is a really significant issue,” said Anna Bettis who directs TNC’s Healthy Cities Program in Arizona. “It’s the leading weather-related cause of death and the highest rates are in Arizona.”
But, Bettis said, “We do know that bringing nature into the city can help.” That means lots of desert-adapted trees.
In 2020, according to Maricopa County, 323 people died of heat-related causes. The county has confirmed 252 heat deaths this year and is investigating another 86.
Among smaller cities, Chelsea, Massachusetts, a low-income neighbor of Boston has a noteworthy pilot involving a single city block. The Cool Block project is loading the area with pretty much every heat-fighting tool in use around the country,” according to WBUR. There are 47 new elm, crabapple, cherry, and hawthorn trees. Sidewalks are being ripped up to add planters, porous pavers, or white concrete. Dark asphalt will be replaced with gray.
As cities race to amp up their heat mitigation efforts, some are replacing bare-bones cooling centers with full-service “climate resilience hubs”—offering everything from comfy air conditioning and phone charging to social services and emergency training.
While “resilience hubs” are meant for everyone and all kinds of climate disasters, they’re particularly aimed at low-income residents who tend to suffer disproportionately as temperatures rise.
Miami-Dade County is at the forefront with its mobile “resilience pod” made from a 40-foot shipping container. It debuted two years ago and offers people a chilled, solar-powered place to gather with Wi-Fi, phone charging, and other solutions including fruit trees for people to plant.
Tempe, Arizona, has budgeted $2.3 million for EnVision Tempe, a one-stop resource center that’ll have a big walk-in freezer and free ice—plus staffers who can help visitors find a job, GED classes, housing assistance, parenting programs, etc.
“‘Heat, ma’am!’ I said; ‘it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.”
Planning a trip? You will always have two basic questions on your mind—where and when to go—and both of these are wrapped in the most important quirk of all: weather.
Traveling in an RV brings you closer to the outdoors, which, in turn, brings you closer to seasonal weather, both pleasant and unpleasant. Even though RVs come equipped with heating and cooling technology these systems are not typically as efficient as the systems you’d find in traditional homes.
For this reason, RV camping in both extreme heat and extreme cold can be rather uncomfortable. This is especially relevant if you are dry camping without access to electrical hookups. However, if you time your RV travels correctly, you can avoid most of the uncomfortable weather. This will also allow you to experience beautiful places in their optimum seasons. Follow along for all the tips and tricks on how to travel with the best weather.
Travel north in the summer
Extreme temperatures on either end of the spectrum can be very uncomfortable. However, excessive heat can feel especially brutal in an RV. Even with air conditioners running when the temperature outside is more than 100 degrees the temperature inside will often have a hard time falling below 80 degrees. In addition, outdoor adventures are much less fun and tolerable in overly hot weather, and enjoying the outdoors is one of the ultimate perks of RV camping. For all of these reasons, traveling in the northern regions or higher elevations is ideal in the hot summer months.
Many places in the US are challenging to visit via RV in the winter due to the snow and extreme cold. Yet, these same places typically boast reasonably warm temperatures in the summer. New England, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and the Northern states (Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, North and South Dakota) are perfect locations for your warm yet not too hot summer travels. In these states, you will find mild temperatures and beautiful mountain ranges and lakes that are excellent for sunny, summer adventures.
Travel south in the winter
The same states that have lovely summer weather typically endure brutally cold temperatures in the winter. Keeping an RV warm in temperatures below freezing is not easy. Instead of suffering through the cold, visit the southern states and the lower elevations in the winter. In doing so, you will experience warm, sunny weather in the winter perfect for hiking and enjoying the outdoors.
Many of the places that are excessively hot in the summer are warm and comfortable in the winter.
Favorite locations include Arizona, Florida, Southern California, Texas, and many of the Southeastern states—Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia. Other favored locations include southern Nevada and New Mexico. While the summer temperatures in these regions may peak at 100+ degrees or even 115+ in the Southwest they typically stay at temperatures of 50-75 degrees in the winter months. This weather is perfect for RVing and enjoying time outside so be sure to plan your winter RV adventures for one of these beautiful locations.
Visit places with four seasons in the spring and fall
Many of the states that experience four distinct seasons are both hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Because of this, you may be wondering when to visit these locations. Ideally, saving these regions for the warming spring and cooling fall months is best. This will allow you to experience the best weather to be found and avoid the overly hot and overly cold months of the year.
Ideal locations to visit in the spring and autumn months are northern Arizona, northern New Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and many of the states of the Midwest—Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. There is so much beauty to be seen in these places and encountering them in their optimum seasons is the best way to experience it.
Even if you time your travels perfectly there will still be times when you experience uncomfortable temperatures. Heat waves, cold spells, and intense storms can show up even in places where the weather is generally mild. If this happens there are numerous things you can do to help regulate your RV interior temperature and still make the most of your vacation.
Warm weather tips
When the outside temperature outside is 85 degrees or more, there are a few simple tricks that can cool your RV even without running your air conditioner. First, open up your fans and power them on the highest setting. Next, open your windows to increase air flow while drawing your shades or curtains to block out the direct sun. Consider utilizing Reflectix on your windows to reflect the heat away from your RV. This should bring your interior temperature down by at least ten degrees.
If all else fails and it’s too hot outside to regulate your interior temperature, fire up your air conditioners.
Cold weather tips
When the temperature outside is 55 degrees or less, it can be quite chilly in your RV. Yet, without cranking your furnace, there are a few things you can try to stay warm. First, ensure that all windows and fans are closed tightly. Next, consider utilizing your Reflectix on the opposite side to reflect the heat into your RV. Open your shades to let the sun pour in.
In addition, you should consider purchasing an electric space heater. These small heaters can keep your RV interior warm even in the frigid cold. If all else fails, you can run your on-board furnace.
RV adventures are fun in any season but for many folks they are even more fun when accompanied by warm, mild temperatures. Timing your travels to properly enjoy the best weather throughout the year can be a bit difficult but totally possible with a bit of planning. Just remember to head north in the summer and south in the winter and you should find yourself chasing seventy degrees all throughout the year.
What’s an avid camper to do? Fortunately, there are ways to ensure you and your family stay safe while also fully enjoying the camping season. Here are my top tips for camping during storm season.
1. Create a storm-smart route
Your tiny home has wheels, after all. Why not use them?
By avoiding areas such as Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas during tornado season and places where hurricanes tend to crop up during hurricane season you can reduce your risk by quite a lot. Instead, choose to travel to those areas during other times of the year and focus on different destinations during times when storms are likely to come around.
2. Pay attention to weather reports
No matter when or where you decide to travel, you need to pay attention to the weather forecast. Knowing if and when a storm might crop up is important because it allows you to watch for it and get out of harm’s way if needed be. I recommend keeping a weather radio on hand for this purpose.
It’s also a good idea to install an app such as Weather Bug on your smart phone. This app will send you an alert should severe weather be headed your way.
3. Stock up on the right supplies
Besides your weather apps and a hand-crank weather radio, there are a few other things you’ll want to keep on hand just in case you end up camping in a storm. These include:
Flashlight and spare batteries: This will help you see should the power go out
First aid kit: You never know what kind of injury you might need to tend to
Water: Being thirsty in a storm shelter is no fun; avoid it by packing bottles of water and be sure to stay hydrated
Snacks: In case you get hungry while waiting out a storm, you’ll be glad to have a few non-perishable snacks on hand
I recommend putting all these things into a tote bag. This should be kept in an easily accessible location near the exterior door. It will ensure you’re well prepared. Then you can get to safety quickly.
Make sure your family is fully dressed with closed-toed shoes. Grab your smart phone and any important documents in the rig. Then head to shelter. If you can, grab helmets and/or pillows to cover your head. They also protect you from flying objects.
4. Know where to go
Of course, if you’re going to head out when the weather gets bad, you don’t want to be confused about where to go. Always establish where you will go in case of a storm when you arrive at a new campground.
Numerous RV parks in tornado alley have storm shelters. As an alternative, head to a bathhouse or another sturdy structure with as few windows as possible.
When you get to the place where you will wait out the storm, find a place that is far from windows and potential projectiles. Wear your helmets. Keep your important items under you. Use the weather radio to track the storm. Have your pillows close at hand in case you need them.
5. Check your site
If you have enough notice of an impending storm, there are also several things you can do. If you plan to stay in your rig while camping in a storm, following these fairly simple steps can make a big difference. Take time to follow them. They include:
Take pets inside:Dogs and cats deserve a safe, dry place to weather the storm as much as you do—take them to the shelter with you
Remove projectiles: If you have chairs or other potential projectiles on your site, stow them; you don’t want one to go through a window
Close storage bay doors: Ensure your storage bay doors are closed and secured
Retract the awnings: RV awnings can’t stand up to much wind and rain. Keep yours intact by retracting before any kind of storm. As a word of caution, always retract the awning when leaving your rig or retiring for the night.
Close the windows: Obviously, you’ll also want to make sure all windows are closed and securely latched
Park away from trees: If possible, move your RV out from under trees that could break and fall on your roof causing extensive damage
Retract the slides: Slides can catch the wind causing an entire trailer or motorhome to flip
Fill the water tank: If it’s going to be very windy or if a tornado is headed your way consider filling your tanks to add more weight to your rig
6. Use common storm sense
Of course, you’ll also want to use your common sense when it comes to storms. Don’t hang out outdoors in a lightning storm. Avoid pools or other bodies of water. Especially if there is lightning in the area. If there is hail, get away from skylights and windshields.
When severe weather strikes, there’s no time to think. That’s why you need to prepare for the worst NOW, before you’re faced with an emergency.
One of the best ways to spend a family vacation is by camping in an RV. After all, combining a vacation home and a vehicle makes for a rather convenient road trip mobile, complete with a full kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom. But what does one do in case of inclement weather experienced while traveling?
After all, there seem to be extreme weather possibilities in most of the US states including forest fires in the west, tornadoes across the Midwestern states, extreme snow in the northern states, extreme heat and flash floods in the southwest, hurricanes in the south, and severe thunderstorms almost everywhere during the warmer months. Traveling to an area where you are unfamiliar with the weather may seem risky. However, if you keep these simple considerations in mind, you can successfully plan a fun and safe getaway for the entire family to enjoy.
1. Be aware of forecasts prior to and during your trip
This seems fairly self-explanatory but simple considerations can be completely forgotten when excitedly planning for a road trip. Checking the weather before leaving for a trip can help you to have an idea of what you may experience over the next few days. If it all looks sunny and clear, then you are in luck. If you see any potential warnings or thunderstorms coming up, make a mental note to keep an eye on the weather throughout your trip.
Hurricanes are typically predicted days in advance and should be easy to avoid. If you know a hurricane is headed to an area where you plan to vacation, alter your plans and return when the weather is less risky.
In addition, be sure to check the weather on a daily basis in case the forecast changes. NOAA’s NWS, WeatherBug, Weather.com, and other online weather sites can give you a three- to ten-day forecast. In an area where you are not entirely familiar with the weather, it is better to over-prepare than to be surprised by a major weather event.
2. Avoid areas with inclement weather in peak season
To avoid dangerous weather altogether, it is best to avoid areas with extreme weather during their bad weather seasons. For instance, spring is tornado season across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Avoiding traveling to these states in the spring seems like the safest option. Hurricanes are most extreme in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and south Texas, so avoiding these states during the late summer and fall may be your safest option. During forest fire season out west, keep an eye on the current fires and their paths/containment when planning trips.
3. Have a plan in case of severe weather
Avoiding certain areas altogether may not be entirely possible. If this is the case, have an emergency plan in place before heading out in your RV. Extreme weather is usually more of a possibility than a definite, so your chances of missing a storm are high. Having a plan will serve to set you up for success in case the worst should happen.
This plan can be as simple as moving into a shelter if a storm strikes. You may also want to plan to evacuate the entire area if conditions are severe enough. Whatever your plan is, make sure all family members know of it. It is best to ensure that everyone is on board before inclement weather even occurs.
4. Evacuate or hunker down during a “watch”
During tornado season, knowing the difference between a warning and a watch is important. A watch is when a tornado is possible but none have been sighted yet. These are often issued during the correct conditions for a storm in counties or areas where storms are frequent. A warning means that a tornado has been sighted and could potentially pass through your area.
When a tornado watch has been issued, you can then choose to either evacuate or stay and wait out the storm. Playing the situation by ear may be your best bet if you don’t want to cancel your trip early. However, the safest option may be to move outside of the danger zone if a tornado watch has been issued. Whatever you choose, keep a close eye on the weather in case it worsens.
5. Move to a safer area during a “warning”
If you decide to stay after a watch has occurred and a warning is issued, you must then choose to evacuate or move somewhere safer. Evacuation to an area outside of the tornado range may be the safest option. However, when a warning is issued there may not be enough time to evacuate.
If this is the case, move somewhere safe indoors. Perhaps there are shelters nearby where you and your family could wait. If you are watching the weather and have planned accordingly, this situation is less likely. Still, it is best to have a few different plans and options if you are planning to vacation somewhere where storms are frequent.
Being in an RV during dangerous or even deadly weather does not sound fun. Only you know what is best for you and your family and planning can reduce the chances of surprise storms arising. All things considered, having a home on wheels is somewhat convenient in these situations because when a storm is brewing, you can simply gather your things and drive away. Missing out on your vacation would be a bummer, but it may sometimes be the safest decision. Watching the weather and having an emergency plan are very important. Plan accordingly to keep your family vacations safe, fun, and disaster-free.
Don’t drive into a DUST STORM! Pull aside and stay safe. Stay Alive!
Dust storms (also called Haboobs) are unexpected, unpredictable, and can sweep across the desert landscape at any time. Dust storms can be miles long and thousands of feet high. You can endure these brief but powerful windstorms if you know how to react.
Dust storms can occur anywhere in the United States but are most common in the Southwest.
In Arizona, dust storms most frequently occur during monsoon season (June-September) but they can pop up at any time of the year. If you’re in a vehicle and a dust storm is approaching, the most important thing to do is to not drive into the dust storm. That’s because visibility can drop to zero, leaving you and others driving blind and making for a dangerous situation.
If you encounter a dust storm and don’t have time to exit the highway, Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has developed these “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” tips to help you know what to do.
Dust storms can be scary but they usually pass fairly quickly and you can be on your way again.
PULL OFF! LIGHTS OFF! FOOT OFF!
Take action indoors:
Close your doors and windows.
Consider turning off air conditioning until the dust storm passes.
Check your camping site for chairs, tables, toys, BBQs, and other objects that can become projectiles in high winds. Bring them inside, tie them down, or secure them in some other way.
Make sure your outside storage doors are closed and locked.
Retract any awnings and ensure they’re securely fastened.
Bring pets indoors.
Take action outdoors:
Get as low to the ground as possible far away from roads and freeways
Dust Storms often accompany severe winds and thunderstorms which could lead to flash flooding
Avoid trees and low lying areas
Protect your face and any exposed skin
Cover your nose and mouth.
Stay safe, healthy, and alert:
If you are pulled over in a vehicle, check traffic, and carefully return to the roadway
Drive with caution
Anticipate traffic light outages and obstacles on the road
Report broken utility lines and damaged roadways/railways to appropriate authorities as soon as possible
Follow instructions from the National Weather Service about additional hazardous conditions that may be expected
On the fourteenth day of April in 1935 There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky… From Oklahoma City to the Arizona Line Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down, We thought it was our judgment, we thought it was our doom…
—Woody Guthrie, from his song, The Great Dust Storm
If you can hear thunder, lightning is not far away
We don’t usually plan our RV trips around thunderstorms or other severe weather. If we knew we’d be spending our vacations taking cover, most likely we’d reschedule our trips. But storms occur throughout the year in just about every place in the world, so they are a fact we simply have to accept. And accepting the reality of storms should prompt us to prepare for how storms can affect us when we’re traveling in our RVs.
The most basic preparation is an emergency preparedness kit that includes a first aid kit. Make sure you check it regularly to ensure that any used supplies have been replaced and that nothing has passed its expiration date.
The term heat lightning is commonly used to describe lightning from a distant thunderstorm just too far away to see the actual cloud-to-ground flash or to hear the accompanying thunder. While many people incorrectly think that heat lightning is a specific type of lightning, it is simply the light produced by a distant thunderstorm.
An old term to describe summertime storms! After all, all lightning is “hot”—the typical bolt of lightning has a temperature of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Ouch!
The definition of a severe thunderstorm is one producing hail one inch in diameter (size of a quarter) or winds of 58 mph or more.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), “Each year across America there are on average 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,000 tornadoes, and six named hurricanes.” The NWS pointed out that weather disasters lead to about 500 deaths annually.
Every thunderstorm produces lightning.
Thunderstorms can produce high winds that can damage property.
Lightning kills more people annually than tornadoes or hurricanes.
A thunderstorm WATCH means that conditions are right for a thunderstorm to develop in the watch area. Be ready to take cover or evacuate.
A thunderstorm WARNING means that a severe thunderstorm has been reported or detected on radar threatening danger to property or life. Take cover or evacuate if there is time and a safe escape route.
If you hear it—clear it
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), if you can hear thunder, the storm is close enough that lightning could strike your location at any moment! NWS strongly urges that “If you hear it—clear it!”
All RVers need to remember the Flash to Bang or 30/30 Lightning Rule. If a thunderstorm develops, count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the bang of the thunder to estimate the distance between you and the lightning strike. Because sound travels at about one mile in five seconds, you can determine how far away the lightning is by using this ‘flash-to-bang’ method.
It’s recommended you seek shelter if the time between the lightning flash and the sound of thunder is 30 seconds or less, or six miles away. Once you’re an inside shelter, you should not resume activities until 30 minutes after the last audible thunder.
Stay informed with local weather forecasts
Unless you’ve RVing in the wilderness, there will be a way to monitor the weather and learn about impending thunderstorms. Cell phones, Internet weather reports, NOAA radios, TV news, weather stations, and local warning systems are some of the ways to be aware of weather threats.
If you’re staying at an RV Park the manager may alert park guests when severe weather is approaching. But it’s advisable to enquire about storm or tornado shelters and local warning systems when registering at the campground.
NOAA’s NWS, WeatherBug, Weather.com, and other online weather sites can give you a three- to ten-day forecast.
Check your RV and site for safety
Most RVers like shady sites on hot summer days. But shade usually comes from trees. Check the trees and shrubs at your site for sturdy branches or ones that might break under high wind conditions. Large branches can cause severe damage to your RV and toad/tow vehicle if not injuries to people. If you notice weak branches ask your park owner to trim them.
>>Check your site for chairs, tables, toys, BBQs, and other objects that can become projectiles in high winds. Bring them inside, tie them down, or secure them in some other way.
>>Bring your animals inside during threatening weather.
>>Get your emergency preparedness kit out.
>>Make sure your outside storage doors are closed and locked.
>>Retract any awnings and ensure they’re securely fastened.
>>Close and latch your windows.
>>If you are going to evacuate, leave early, and make sure you are not heading into the storm.
Take cover before the storm arrives
The safest place to locate during a thunderstorm—if you choose not to evacuate—is in the basement of a sturdy building. This area will give you the greatest protection from lightning, winds, tornados, and flying objects. The next safest area is an inside room with no windows and plenty of walls between you and the storm.
Like mobile homes, RVs can be blown over in high winds. They’re not the safest place to be. But if you have no alternative, stay in a hallway away from windows and cabinets that can fly open turning their contents into projectiles.
If you see lightning or hear thunder, stay inside.
Stay inside for about 30 minutes after you hear the last thunderclap.
Unplug electronics like TVs, DVDs, computers, coffee pots, and so forth. Use cell phones and battery-powered devices. A battery-powered NOAA radio would be very useful at a time like this.
Both during and after a severe thunderstorm flooding may be a problem. If you are in a low area, move to higher ground. Some RV parks have a flood gauge showing five or six feet above their entry driveway.
If you are traveling and come across a flooded roadway, don’t try to drive through it. You could get washed away if the water is moving rapidly. Or, if there are downed power lines in that water, you could be electrocuted.
Lightning strikes can split trees, breaking large branches off, and start wildfires.
If someone has been struck by lightning, call 911 and start CPR immediately. The American Heart Association has a “learn CPR in one minute eight seconds” course that teaches CPR well enough that anyone can deliver effective CPR in such an emergency.
If I accept the sunshine and warmth, then I must also accept the thunder and lightning.