As Hurricane Season Ramps Up It Is Never Too Early to Prepare

These tips will help you steer clear of danger in storm-prone areas

Hurricane season stretches from June 1 through November 30 each year. This encompasses both the peak summer travel season and popular fall holidays.

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.

Goose Island State Park, Texas following Hurricane Harvey (August 25, 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Rockport, Texas following Hurricane Harvey (August 25, 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Paying attention to tropical storm forecasts by visiting the National Hurricane CenterTropical Tidbits, and Windy can give you plenty of time to execute your hurricane plan. 

(If you’re choosing to be in a hurricane area, you do have a hurricane plan, right?) 

Fulton, Texas following Hurricane Harvey (August 25, 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.  

Rockport, Texas following Hurricane Harvey (August 25, 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Goose Island State Park, Texas following Hurricane Harvey (August 25, 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Goose Island State Park, Texas following Hurricane Harvey (August 25, 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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:

Stay safe out there!

Worth Pondering…

In reality, you don’t ever change the hurricane. You just learn how to stay out of its path.     

—Jodi Picoult

Tips for Driving an RV in Windy Conditions

Driving an RV in heavy winds can be quite a challenge. Here’s some advice for all RVers encountering windy road conditions.

Almost anyone who has ever had the displeasure of driving an RV in high winds will tell you that it can be a very stressful white-knuckle experience.

No one likes driving an RV in high winds but the situation is likely to present itself sooner or later. For this reason, I’m sharing some suggestions to help keep you safe on the road in windy conditions.

Hang onto your hats, let’s go.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why RVs are vulnerable to heavy winds

RVs are especially vulnerable to heavy winds because of the large surface area of the RV which leaves no place for the wind to pass through to relieve the pressure. The wind simply pushes against the sides/front/rear of the RV and can literally move the rig no matter how heavy it is.

Travel trailers are susceptible to trailer sway in heavy winds. This can lead to driver over-correction resulting in a back-and-forth rocking that can send the trailer out of control.

It can be tiring to drive or tow an RV in high winds and sometimes it’s downright dangerous. It’s at these times when you need to find a safe area to pull over and stop driving until conditions improve.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When it’s too windy to drive an RV

High winds are capable of overturning an RV. The longer and taller the RV, the more surface area the wind has to push against. But this can happen with any RV. Even smaller RVs are taller than a typical vehicle so we’ve all got more surface area.

There are numerous factors involved that may make it too windy to stay on the road so there is no specific wind speed to watch for. But I’ll cover some of the ways you can determine what’s safe, what’s not, and when it’s time to get off the road.

>> Related article: 7 Driving Tips You Should Know

Bottom line… I don’t think taking chances driving an RV in dangerously high winds is ever wise.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Factors to consider when driving your RV in windy conditions

There are four primary factors to consider when driving your RV in windy conditions:

  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction
  • Driving speed
  • How heavy the RV is loaded in relation to its GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating)

All of the factors noted above combine to create greater potential for problems. The higher the wind, the faster you drive, the closer your vehicle is to its maximum allowable weight, and the more direct the wind is to a 90-degree crosswind, the more dangerous it is to drive in windy conditions.

Higher wind speed, directly on the side of a heavily loaded RV = SLOW DOWN! If it’s still not a stable drive, find a safe place to stop and take a break!

If the wind is causing you to leave your lane while you’re driving, it’s always time to stop. None of us wants to tip over but swerving in your lane is also very dangerous—to you and to others on the road.

You’ll notice that of the four factors listed above, only one is under your direct control as you’re rolling down the road and feeling pushed around—driving speed. I’ll get to more on that below.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Can wind actually tip an RV over while driving?

YES, the wind can tip your RV over especially while you’re driving it. (There’s far less chance of the wind toppling an RV that’s parked.) The force of the wind combined with the force of wind being generated by your rig can combine to tip your RV over completely. This is why it’s important to always be aware of how your rig is behaving on the road and respond accordingly based on conditions.

How much wind can a parked RV withstand?

A parked RV can withstand far more wind than a moving RV. The likelihood of wind tipping over a parked RV is low but you may feel the rig rocking uncomfortably especially if you don’t have leveling jacks.

>> Related article: RV Weight Distribution Tips for Packing your RV

Leveling jacks can help to stabilize your RV in heavy winds. If possible, you may also want to park your RV so that the front or rear of the rig is facing into the wind. This way, the full strength of the wind isn’t hitting the largest side of the RV.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is a safe driving speed in windy conditions?

RVs vary so much in size, shape, and weight that there’s no way to suggest a single driving speed that’s safe for every RV in every wind condition. The important thing to remember is that the more vulnerable your rig is to the wind (see the four conditions above), the slower you need to drive (again, the primary factor that you’re in control of while rolling down the road).

While longer, taller RVs can act like a sail and catch a lot of wind, all RVs are susceptible to being affected by high winds. So all RVers should take safety precautions!

One factor that each of us has a considerable degree of control over is weight. Making sure to avoid overloading your rig is key for many reasons, including stability on the road.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How much wind is too much?

Again, there’s no one set wind speed that triggers a get off the road response from every RVer. There are simply too many factors at play. But there is a way to know when you should slow down or get off the road altogether.

Keeping in mind what I mentioned earlier—that driving speed is the variable that you have the most control of while underway—I recommend using that as your primary control factor.

I suggest using a bottom-up approach to anything related to driving speed. By that, I mean that you should start slowly and work your way up as conditions allow. It’s far easier to increase your speed if you’re driving a little slower than needed than it is to be forced to slow down (possibly suddenly) because things are getting hairy.

If the wind (regardless of its speed) is pushing your rig around, causing you to sway in (or out of) your lane, or causing you to feel uncomfortable, that’s your sign to slow down. And if necessary, find a place to stop and wait for better conditions.

Any time we’re not in complete control of our RV, we shouldn’t be driving.

What are wind restrictions?

You may sometimes see overhead signs warning of high winds. Some areas may even implement restrictions to limit high-profile traffic during extremely windy conditions. Typically, the vehicles that are restricted in those zones are large trucks and RVs so always check the area you’ll be traveling in for potential wind restrictions. These are put in place for your safety and for the safety of others using the roads in that area.

>> Related article: Dust Storms and Haboobs: Safety Tips for RVers

There may also be wind restrictions placed on bridges that span across the water due to the wind gusts that often occur in these open areas. Doing a little research prior to hitting the road and staying alert for changing conditions can save you a lot of stress and keep you safe.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving tips for windy conditions

Following are some tips for driving an RV in high winds. All of them will help to keep you safer on the road in windy conditions.

1. Slow down

When driving an RV in heavy winds adjust your speed. In two words, this simply means SLOW DOWN. If you feel your rig being pushed around your first reaction should be to slow down. If it’s still not feeling stable, slow down more. Or get off the road at the earliest safe spot.

2. Check the weather forecast and wait if necessary

Check the weather forecast and give yourself the benefit of a plan B that allows you to wait out the wind. The winds won’t blow forever and you just might enjoy an unexpected day of relaxation while you wait.

3. Drive with both hands on the wheel

Since you should always keep both hands on the wheel anyway, this should probably go without saying. But I’ll say it anyway: when you’re driving in windy conditions keeping both hands on the wheel is more important than ever. You just don’t know when a gust of wind is going to hit your rig in just the wrong way and you’re going to need to have full control.

Having both hands on the wheel keeps you prepared for the unexpected (at all times) and is the habit of every good defensive driver.

4. Be careful while driving on bridges and overpasses

Bridges and overpasses are common places for gusty side winds, so be alert. Also, large trucks passing your rig may create the same sort of wind disturbance, so be prepared when being passed.

But be sure to avoid overcorrecting as those gusts come and go. As with so many situations involving driving safety, reducing your speed should be a natural first response.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Take breaks often

When you’re driving in winds that aren’t excessive enough to pose a danger, you may be able to continue driving comfortably, at appropriate speeds. Even so, taking routine breaks is important. Operating an RV in windy conditions is more tiring and stressful and taking breaks keeps you in better condition to drive safely.

>> Related article: 10 RV Driving Tips

6. Check weather forecast ahead and wait, if necessary

Before starting on an RV trip, I suggest you check the weather forecast. You probably know exactly where you are going and you may even be aware of known problem areas along your path.

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign