Hail Can Be a Killer Especially For Your RV

There are four things that absolutely kill all recreational vehicles: water damage, neglect, accidents, and severe hail

If you are a careful owner that follows preventive maintenance guidelines and takes measures to reduce humidity in your rig you are well on the way to maintaining your RV in good condition.

That will eliminate water damage and neglect as possible destroyers. But there’s not much you can do about the forces of nature when they strike.

Camping at Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most forms of weather are not a problem while in your RV. People inside who aren’t touching anything conductive are safe. Lightning can damage wiring and electronics and even burn a small hole in the skin, but that is repairable. (So if you are in your RV and lightning is crashing down around you, stay put. You’re already in a good shelter.)

Heavy winds are likewise not usually a problem when situated in an RV park. If you are exceptionally concerned retract the slides.

But hail can be a killer. Hail can dimple the surface, rip holes in the skin, and destroy slide toppers.

Camping in Rapid City Campground and RV Park, Rapid City, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Imagine a baseball dropped from an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. Now imagine that baseball reaching speeds of 120 mph as it falls to the ground—and imagine you’re under it!

Fortunately, most hail is small—usually less than 2 inches in diameter. The largest hailstone (nearly the size of a volleyball!) fell on July 23, 2010, in Vivian, South Dakota, and had a diameter of 8.0 inches, a circumference of 18.62 inches, and weighed just under 2 pounds.

Camping in Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hail is a frequent occurrence through the nation’s heartland during spring and summer, especially the Plains states and Prairie provinces but it happen anywhere there’s a thunderstorm. The presence of large hail indicates very strong updrafts and downdrafts within the thunderstorm.

While most weather watchers had their eyes trained on the Gulf Coast, a severe thunderstorm swept through the Black Hills region in South Dakota, devastating much of the area’s campgrounds and leaving millions of dollars in damaged RVs and structures.

Camping in Arrow Campground, Wall, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hart Ranch Resort south of Rapid City was one of the parks hit hardest by the Monday, August 27, 2021 storm. Hail the size of baseballs destroyed vehicle windows and bodies as well as almost every RV skylight and vent. RV roofs also sustained significant damage. The storm hit suddenly just after 7 p.m. Many RVs at the park sustained interior damage when water poured through broken vents.

The storm also ravaged the Mount Rushmore KOA Resort, just six miles from the Mount Rushmore National Monument. Managers there reported most RVs and other vehicles sustained severe damage as did many of the roofed structures on the campground. About 90 percent of the roofs on their structures need to be replaced and about 80 percent of the vehicles on the park had broken windows. Most of the RVs parked sustained damage. Most of the roof vents on units were taken out.

RVs parked at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s no 100 percent guaranteed way of avoiding hail damage other than keeping your RV parked undercover. Since that doesn’t work on the road or in an RV park, a few other strategies will help to reduce your risk.

Check the weather report along your route during the summer when thunderstorms are more likely. A good weather app on your phone or tablet that shows color radar will help you spot thunderstorm activity as it happens.

Tornado warnings are a major red flag since tornadoes are spawned from the same severe thunderstorms that produce hail. Consider altering your route to avoid the highest risk areas or delay departure to the following day.

Camping at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get off the road before the thunderstorm hits. There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many lightning deaths and injuries. 

When lightning and hail start happening it’s usually too late to look for shelter. Driving into hail at highway speeds will result in the hail smashing on the RV even harder, which increases the chance of permanent surface damage.

On-Ur-Way RV Park, Onawa, Iowa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hail can exceed the size of softballs and fall at speeds of over 100 mph, seriously injuring or killing anyone in its path. Even small hail driven by the wind can cause severe injuries.

DO NOT park under large trees or power lines, since these are easily felled by straight-line winds, which would be even worse. DO NOT stop in the middle of a lane under an overpass.

Camping at Dakota Campground, Mitchell, South © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most of the time hail damage is strictly cosmetic. This brings up the issue of whether to fix it or live with it. Talk to your trusted RV dealer and/or manufacturer before making your decision. There are no shortcuts to a good repair, so be wary of anyone who offers to fix it cheaply.

You may eventually encounter some hail, but it likely won’t be large enough to result in permanent damage. Don’t let a minor risk overshadow your travels—you’ll be fine and your RV probably will be too.

Worth Pondering…

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors

Cool Camping: Practical Steps for Staying Cool in your RV

Summer is upon us. In fact, as Walter Winchell wrote “It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.”

The Pacific Northwest is in one of the most intense heat waves ever recorded with the worst still to come. Portland, Oregon, hit 112 degrees Sunday (June 27) shattering the previous record by 5 degrees. Seattle set a record high, hitting 104 degrees the same day, breaking the previous record by 1 degree. Seattle also experienced it’s first back-to-back 100 degree days in history and then hit the hat trick Monday. The Western North American heat wave also extends into Northern California, Nevada, and Idaho.

Sacramento River at Redding, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans are not alone in feeling overheated. The same high-pressure system baking in the northwestern United States has also produced record-breaking heat in Western Canada.

On June 28, the temperature in Lytton, British Columbia, a town of fewer than 300 in the Fraser Canyon, hit 118.2 degrees smashing Canada’s old national heat record of 113 degrees. That’s 1 degree hotter than it’s ever been in Las Vegas, 1,300 miles to the south, and hotter than the all-time record highs for 31 states including several in the South. And by Tuesday, the temperature in Lytton soared to 121 degrees. Lytton is at 50 degrees N latitude.

As sad aftermath to these heat records, the fires then swept in. By 6 pm. Wednesday Lytton’s residents had been ordered to evacuate as explosive wildfires neared. As of this morning (Friday), the village lies in ashes. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the residents of this devastated community.

The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additionally, on June 27, local records were set in areas such as Ashcroft (110.8 degrees) and Kamloops (111 degrees); in all, 59 weather stations in British Columbia set records for hottest temperatures recorded for that date. These were largely beaten in the following days (Kamloops, for instance, registered 114.4 degrees on June 28 and 117.1 degrees on June 29).

On June 28, records were set in Abbotsford at 109.2, Victoria at 103.6, and Port Alberni at 108.9. As of June 29, 103 all-time heat records were set across Western Canada, including east of the Rocky Mountains. In Alberta, Banff (97.9 degrees), Edmonton (100 degrees), Jasper (102.4 degrees), and Grande Prairie (104.4 degrees) have all seen the strongest heat ever measured in these communities. Nahanni Butte, Northwest Territories also set a regional record at 100.6 degrees.

Quail Creek State Park in Utah Dixie © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amid these extreme weather conditions, this is prime travel time, the season for putting endless miles of road in the rearview mirror of your travel trailer, motorhome, or fifth wheel. Most RV excursions take place during the hottest months of the year and even RVs with excellent climate-control systems can get hot and stuffy. Here are some tips on staying cool when you hit the road—no matter the weather outside.

RVers want to stay cool. Whether you spend most of your time in the rig or simply want a cool, comfortable home to return to at the end of the day. The first and most obvious remedy is a good air conditioning unit. That unit, however, is only as good as the power on which it runs. 

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just as the right hookups are important to a functioning AC, so, too, is regular and diligent maintenance. Having a functioning AC unit in your RV during the summer months is crucial and that’s why it’s imperative to keep your AC unit in ship shape by performing regular cleaning and maintenance, to get ahead of any major issues before they start. Regularly changing any filter screens and giving the entire unit a once-over can go a long way.

But even with the AC on, taking certain considerations to stay cool can benefit the comfort level inside your rig. When it comes to staying cool in your RV, there are a handful of surprisingly simple tips that go a long way.

Trees offer shade from the intense summer sun at Jeckyl Island Campground in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Selecting your RV site with care helps to prevent it from getting hot in the first place. This sounds obvious, but it still needs to be stated: park in the shade if you can. The shade provided by large trees, hills, or even buildings can make a huge difference in the internal temperature of your RV. Sites facing the southwest should be avoided and make every effort to ensure that the refrigerator is in the shade. Avoiding direct sunlight and keeping your shades and blinds closed can make a huge difference. On a shady and cooler day, open the windows to let fresh air in and to make sure there’s enough ventilation in the RV. You may also consider upgrading to dual-pane windows which will also be beneficial for winter camping.

World’s Largest Roadrunner at Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New technologies are changing the way RVs are powered and cooled and while some of the technologies are still emerging, many RVers have added solar to their RVs roof and invested in the latest battery technology. Being truly self-contained is on the way as RVs get adequate electricity to run air conditioners, microwaves, and other devices in the RV. With the new battery technology coming, help is on the way.

If you’ve done your best to prevent your RV from heating up in the first place and turned on your AC to cool it down, then there are other simple things you can do to help KEEP your RV cool.

Amelia Island, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cover your roof vents with a reflective surface. Foam-based vent fillers that are tucked inside ceiling vents are available at most RV dealers. They help to reflect the sun’s rays off your RV. Their insulating abilities help your RV stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Don’t forget your shower skylight.

Extend your awning to help shade your RV (if it’s on the sunny side). This will not only shade the windows on that side of your RV but the walls too.

Put a bowl of ice in front of a table fan. The air passing over the ice water gets chilled and provides some relief. And if you don’t have any ice then a damp cloth placed over the fan will have a similar cooling effect.

Expect hot summers and warm winters in Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep the exterior door closed and try to minimize frequent openings. Opening the door repeatedly allows the hot outdoor air to enter your RV.

Avoid using the stove or oven. On hot days, plan to use your outdoor kitchen or campfire to cook meals or eat meals that don’t require cooking such as sandwiches and salads.

If your RV has incandescent light bulbs or halogen lights, turn them off as they emit heat. Consider installing LED lights which give you light (obviously) but they don’t release heat.

Summers are hot along the Lower Colorado River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep the windows closed during the daytime to prevent hot air from infiltrating your RV but open up the windows at night if you are camping in a place with cool evenings.

One of the most important ways to prevent heat-related illnesses is to drink plenty of water (most experts suggest eight glasses per day. Plain water is the best way to hydrate, no second-guessing necessary. But that can be hard to do when water tastes so…watery. Fortunately, it’s possible to get hydration from a variety of drinks but be careful that you’re not having too much of the ones that dehydrate.

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consuming any kind of liquor removes water from your tissues, meaning you have to drink even more water to offset the effects. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the alcohol content, the more dehydrating your drink is.

Curious to see which beverages are the best for keeping enough fluid in you? The following six are hands-down your best hydrating choices: water, milk, fruit-infused water, fruit juice, watermelon, and sports drinks.

Chilie peppers in Hatch Valley, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eat spicy food. Capsaicin, a compound in chilies that gives them a kick, triggers a response in your nervous system that makes your face sweat and cools you down.

Symptoms of heat illness include dizziness/fainting, nausea/vomiting, rapid breathing and heartbeat, extreme thirst, and decreased urination with unusually dark urine. Age can make you more vulnerable to heat stress. Babies, young children, and seniors are less able to sweat and adjust to changes in temperature.

Staying cool at Lake Pleasant, Arizona

And finally, additional tips to stay safe in extreme heat include:

  • Avoid the direct sun as much as possible
  • Avoid strenuous activity and exercise
  • Avoid sunburn and wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin and an SPF 30 lip balm
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, UV-blocking sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat (I prefer a Tilley)

Worth Pondering…

“‘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.”

—Sydney Smith