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.
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:
- Are You Ready? The Hurricane Season is Just Starting
- Hurricane Season: Staying Safe in your RV
- Tips for Driving an RV in Windy Conditions
- Lightning and Thunderstorms: Safety Tips for RVers
- Severe Weather: Tornado Safety Tips for RVers
Stay safe out there!
In reality, you don’t ever change the hurricane. You just learn how to stay out of its path.