RV 101: Severe Weather Tips

polk

It’s easy to keep track of the weather forecast when you’re at home, but when you travel three or four hundred miles in a day in your RV the weather can change several times in one trip. At the end of the day all you want to do is get some rest; weather is the last thing on your mind. The problem with this is severe weather can occur without much warning, and if you’re caught in it the results could be disastrous.

What can I do to avoid severe weather?

You should keep a portable, battery operated radio receiver in your RV at all times. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, a nationwide network of radio stations that broadcast continuous weather information directly from a nearby National Weather Service Office. They broadcast National Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day. Weather alerts inform you if you need to take some type of action in order to protect yourself, such as “seeking shelter” or to “evacuate an area immediately!”

Keep a weather radio receiver with you and you can monitor weather conditions no matter where you are!

Happy RV Learning!
Mark Polk

Watch the current episode of Mark’s RV Garage Internet TV at www.rvconsumer.com.

  • Molly Knotts

    Mark, being alert to weather is always a very good idea because when one is hit unexpectedly everything changes.
    This past summer, while on a 10,000 mile cross country trip, my husband and I went through a most terrible and unavoidable storm. We had left Billingsm MT and were spending the night just over the state line in Medora, ND. The entire day I had battled cross winds (yes a woman can drive the distance), and we were most happy to check into our campground and get settled for the night. After setting up, we headed off with our newly addopted dog Lola for a stroll and to listen to the evenings champagne western music entertainment provided by the RV park. After the second song, Lola became extremely restless and so I left our front row seat to take her back to the coach. As I approached our assigned slot, the owner of the campground was alerting each camper to take all appropriate measures to batten down the hatches and prepare for an extremely severe storm which was producing heavy lightening, hale, excessive winds and copious amounts of rain. I rushed back to the entertainment venu and signaled for my husband to come quickly!!!!! We secured our tow car, unhooked the water and sewer, and inhaled dinner while watching the news broadcasts of the approaching storm and discussing the plan of action.
    The camp ground office and bath house did not offer much protection and we decided that our safest place would be the center of the coach where there were no windows and where we could latch the two sliding doors on eather side of the laundry/shower area. I piled in the pillows and beadspread while my husband stowed our main power cord. The only power that we were using was the lavanette area ceiling light as the sky turned absolutely purple/black. We each put our backs against the sliding doors as I held the trembling dog…then the leading edge of the storm hit! As the coach rocked violently from side to side we looked at each other and both said I LOVE YOU at the same time…..it was at that moment that I realized that we were sitting on the floor beside the glass shower door!!!!!!!
    The Good Lord was with us that night. All of the coaches and campers were positioned with either their backs or fronts toward the winds of the storm. If we would have been cross ways we would have fallen like dominoes. The tornadoes were all around us (but not on top of us) and the hail hit a little further down the road and even though the lightning lit the sky for well over an hour, no one in the park was injured or suffered loss.
    When all was over, we thanked the man upstairs for sparing us and for making the light bulb come on in our brains…prepare for the unexpected and HAVE A PLAN!!!! We realized that the mid ship area was just as dangerous as the cockpit or bedroom. We should have secured the coach and jumped into our Smart car and headed to the nearest secure building, be it a restaurant, grocery store, bank, or hardware store…any where else but the coach.
    Now when checking into a park we ask where their safe building is located and if they don’t have one, we scout out the surrounding area for one. We have a plan!!
    Molly Knotts
    Cape Coral, FL

    • Molly Knotts

      Molly Knotts says:

      September 8, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Mark, being alert to weather is always a very good idea because when one is hit unexpectedly everything changes.
      This past summer, while on a 10,000 mile cross country trip, my husband and I went through a most terrible and unavoidable storm. We had left Billingsm MT and were spending the night just over the state line in Medora, ND. The entire day I had battled cross winds (yes a woman can drive the distance), and we were most happy to check into our campground and get settled for the night. After setting up, we headed off with our newly addopted dog Lola for a stroll and to listen to the evenings champagne western music entertainment provided by the RV park. After the second song, Lola became extremely restless and so I left our front row seat to take her back to the coach. As I approached our assigned slot, the owner of the campground was alerting each camper to take all appropriate measures to batten down the hatches and prepare for an extremely severe storm which was producing heavy lightening, hale, excessive winds and copious amounts of rain. I rushed back to the entertainment venu and signaled for my husband to come quickly!!!!! We secured our tow car, unhooked the water and sewer, and inhaled dinner while watching the news broadcasts of the approaching storm and discussing the plan of action.
      The camp ground office and bath house did not offer much protection and we decided that our safest place would be the center of the coach where there were no windows and where we could latch the two sliding doors on eather side of the laundry/shower area. I piled in the pillows and beadspread while my husband stowed our main power cord. The only power that we were using was the lavanette area ceiling light as the sky turned absolutely purple/black. We each put our backs against the sliding doors as I held the trembling dog…then the leading edge of the storm hit! As the coach rocked violently from side to side we looked at each other and both said I LOVE YOU at the same time…..it was at that moment that I realized that we were sitting on the floor beside the glass shower door!!!!!!!
      The Good Lord was with us that night. All of the coaches and campers were positioned with either their backs or fronts toward the winds of the storm. If we would have been cross ways we would have fallen like dominoes. The tornadoes were all around us (but not on top of us) and the hail hit a little further down the road and even though the lightning lit the sky for well over an hour, no one in the park was injured or suffered loss.
      When all was over, we thanked the man upstairs for sparing us and for making the light bulb come on in our brains…prepare for the unexpected and HAVE A PLAN!!!! We realized that the mid ship area was just as dangerous as the cockpit or bedroom. We should have secured the coach and jumped into our Smart car and headed to the nearest secure building, be it a restaurant, grocery store, bank, or hardware store…any where else but the coach.
      Now when checking into a park we ask where their safe building is located and if they don’t have one, we scout out the surrounding area for one. We have a plan!!
      Molly Knotts
      Cape Coral, FL

      Reply

      • Bobbi Hurd

        You are a lucky couple (and dog). That must have been horrific experience. But you learned and have shared with others. Thank you for making us campers realize the importance of having a “plan B”. We’ve camped for over 28 years and this is something we’ve never really experienced. But we have been lucky. We certainly will rememeber to make it a priority to find a safe location…just in case.

      • paulette paravati

        Hey Molly, I am a new RV camper & I am loving it… just this past weekend I spent my second weekend ever, camping in the Poconos where they were expecting 10 plus inches of snow…it was certainly scary but I survived!!! Needless to say I will be more cautious in the future with weather monitoring… I found your article very helpful Thanks!!!

  • Ken Pruyn

    He tells us to “Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio”, but doesn’t say how to find them.

    • Tom Thumb

      It’s a special radio that will alert you to bad weather. Radio Shack has many types.

  • Dianne

    It is also a good idea to look up on a map what county of the state you are located in because most bad weather broadcasts are by county.

    • Bobbi Hurd

      This is a good suggestion for campers as well as other road travelers. We found how important this was a few years ago while traveling in our car through West Virginia. Snowand icestorm warnings were issued and road closings given on the radio for certain counties. This didn’t help us one bit as we were trapped in the storm because we had no clue what county we were in and found ourselves headed right into the nonplowed highway. What a mess!

  • Rick Aron

    Know what county you are in as well as nearest cities, and which direction is north / south / east / west. Having a battery powered radio is escential, but most alerts are given based on counties and cities. If you do not know what county you are in, when they give an alert, you will not know how it effects you. Having an atlas in the RV is important as well. Navigation systems do not tell you what county you are in. An atlas will give you your county as well as surrounding counties.

  • Tommy Franklin

    National Weather Service watches and warnings are all done by county. So whether you are watching TV or listening to a NOAA Weather Radio for hazardous weather information, one thing you will need to know is the name of the county where you are located.

  • Pat Mitchell

    Several years ago we were in Maine when a tornado came through. Yes, even in Maine. We were camping well before the normal season and there was only one other camper in the park. No one in the office, after hours. As we watched the local news on the TV, we tried to figure out where the storms were headed in relation to where we were. It was so difficult because they mentioned road names not on our map and never said county names. As it turned out the storm missed us by about 1/2 mile. We used the weather radio but it was little help to us in an area we didn’t know. We lost our home in a tornado in 1974 so you can imagine how frightened we were. Not sure what the solution is. Hopefully the local stations do a better job now of defining the location of the storms. We now carry a crank powered flashlight/weather radio combination with us wherever we go.

  • Joel Downer

    Weather radios are more prevalent than many of us realize. My wife and I travel with a Midland CB transceiver in the cab of our RV. The transceiver has CB capability and NOAA weather band reception. Our Cobra two-way radios have NOAA weather band reception as well as two-way communication channels. I carry the Cobra whenever I am biking, hiking, fishing, or on an excursion away from the RV. I am not endorsing either brand, just letting readers know there are multi-purpose and inexpensive radios that are available at many stores.
    Be aware of Watches and Warnings posted for your area. Know what county you are in. Nothing beats an old-fashioned road atlas for an overview of a weather threat! Know the local geography. You don’t want to stay at a riverside campground if flash flooding is predicted. Your home weather radio is S.A.M.E. programmed for that specific area. Leave it at home and go portable.
    My advice as a former Emergency Manager is to be personally responsible for your safety. Once you develop the habit of being “weather aware” it becomes routine, and actually adds to the enjoyment of travel by giving you confidence that you have the latest information to make the best decision for you travels.

  • David

    The frequencies are;
    162.400 MHz
    162.475 MHz
    162.550 MHz
    FM modulation
    You can buy weather receivers at places like Radio Shack.

  • Stephen Korn

    All you have to do is purchase the NOAA Weather radio and it will find the closet weather forecast for the area that you are in.

  • Rex (GB)

    Cross winds what a nightmare The best action I find were the cross wind is in acess of 25miles per hour is to reduce speed down to 25mph or less and make for the nearest camp site .I witnessed in Montana an accident beween a two stacker and RV due to cross wind in the order of 35-40 miles per hour.One vehicle blown into the other both ending upside down in a field . So watch your speed in crosswind conditions. By the way I drive a Hurrican

  • larry bradford

    NOAA lists 7 active frequencies at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/. Most recent radios are programmed with 10, and one list I’ve seen listed a couple of other channels (maybe Canada?). As stated in other replies, many 2-way radios (FRS,
    CB, Ham) either will tune the frequencies, or have alert recognition built in. You
    WILL need to tune to the best channel for the COUNTY you are visiting. I normally
    program the SAME codes (link on the above URL) for the local and immediate surrounding counties as part of our “setup” checklist. Most weather radios have battery backup, as well as a “wall wort” power pack. In addition to RS, most of the big discount chains (KMart, WalMart, Target, etc) either stock them in electronics or have them available via their web stores. Don’t forget to add the radio’s batteries to your battery replacement checklist!

  • Jim Wilson

    Folks, if you have access to email go to the following address to find the county. http://www.naco.org/counties/pages/citysearch.aspx. You enter the city and it will provide you with a listing of all those cities in the USA with the state and the county. Have safe and happy travels. jw

  • cindy

    With lightening, if you have levelers, do you pull them up so as not to have metal touching the ground? slides in?

    Cindy

    • Ronald

      Well…
      What are the answers: 1.- Levelers up or down? 2.- Slides in or out?

      Thanks.

  • david

    So question for the more experienced RVers: When you hit high winds, do you slow down or speed up? I’ve heard both but we always slow down our vehicle and 30-ft. trailer. Talked to a friend today who flipped the 5th wheel on it’s lid and he was told to speed up in winds. Which is best and why? Thanks!

    • Gary Yates

      I can tell you as an OTR trucker for several years that to slow down is best. This decreases the natural tendency for the trailer to become airborn due to incresed aerodynamic lift caused by normal highway speeds. If your at 90 degrees to any tornado force wind you’re going to flip so try to face into the wind and get in a ditch or below ground if you can do not try to take shelter in an underpass it will just suck you out.

  • Darryl Todd

    In addition to NOAA you can track weather on Sirrius/XM radio but it may not be as locally accurate. WE check the local travel weather forecast every night on the Weather Channel on the TV and computer.

  • Jimmy

    When driving in windy condtitions ALWAYS, ALWAYS slow down. It allows for more time to react to wind gusts. I drove an 18-wheeler for fifteen years and driving slow in windy conditions, and all adverse weather conditions, is ALWAYS the best pracice.

  • Barrie

    You can never over-watch the weather. I suggest you visually follow the weather systems on the TV or the internet to determine if your route may intersect with advancing bad weather. If an intersect is possible then modify your route to minimize your risk. You may get a few days notice of possible risky conditions by watching the tracks of storms. Obviously the closer the bad weather is the more accurate the predictions will be.

    After a few perfect days at a camp site in Kansas we noticed a band of severe thunder storms coming out way so we backtracked for an hour to be sure to get outside the area of risk. as a result, the rest of the camping experience was also great.

    I am a trained weather observer but it is also easy for a beginner. The hardest part is to know where you are in relation to the approaching weather and where you are going.

  • Bruce Thomas

    An alert NOAA Weather Radio can save you life during severe weather. The new Midland HH54VP2 is perfect for the RV community, as it has a travel and home mode for county specific warnings. To learn more about NOAA Weather Radio go to http://www.weather.gov/NWR and read about America’s nationwide network. They also work in Canada! http://www.ec.gc.ca.meteo-weather

  • Gypsy Jane

    In addition to the above – I have text messages for severe weather alerts sent to my phone from The Weather Channel. When I change locations, I change the location in my account. It’s free.

  • Jackie

    Me and Karen my girlfriend both are ham radio operater,we always keep on eye bad storms! We even take our HT with us when we go camping.

    If we know bad storms are coming we need to take cover inside building it is best place,if the building have more room! We live in tullahoma tenn. The Koa is not far in Manchester tenn about 12to miles!

  • Donna

    I don’t know how you guys drive in the big winds. Certainly takes the ‘recreation’ out of recreational vehicle!
    I drive a Ford cargo van. My steps are very basic. I do watch the sky. If you’ve watched for a lifetime – you see a lot of the clues. Helped me in Nebraska. I have never experienced a tornado – but the sky looked threatening. And there had been thunder storms in eastern Colorado. Headed for the nearest campground. (I don’t have any use for GPS – I use maps)..Checked in – asked the owner what they do for tornado preparedness (figure the locals are the experts) and she let me camp right next to the tornado shelter – which was big enough for my van to drive right in if necessary.
    We only got thunder storms thankfully – but I felt very safe and secure. It was not a KOA kampground – but an excellent and well run campground. Gave me lots of useful info for traveling across Nebraska in tornado season. I’m from New England – I get the snow stuff. I ensure my van is road and weather ready. I have a crank radio and lights. I have an inverter in the event I need my PC. I have emergency thermal blankets for me and my dog. no cook food supply and enough water for 3 days.
    I’ve travelled in snow and rain safely. Be cautious. Listen to your inner instinct when it advises you to get off the road.

  • Mina

    We use weatherunderground email & text alerts sent regarding the area we will be going into. I also look at their radar screen (like tv) to see how weather is tracking or are expected to track. Just last month we drove from Goshen, IN to Sacramento, Ca. As we looked at the (cold) weather tracking across I-80, so we went south to I-70 & went west so hubby could warm up! Then turned north in Colorado to I-80 & only had to travel one day in rain & missed the “other” cold storm by going into (west) the rain. There was snow on the mountaintops and along I -80 in CA, but it was melting during our drive in the day.