Friday, December 2, 2022


Don’t let summer (or spring) storms blast your RV



By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Photo: finchlake2000 on

Summer is a great time for the RVer to get out on the road. There are plenty of places to explore and activities to pursue. The longer daylight hours allow more miles to be covered. But summertime also brings its own brand of weather. A look at the news from across the Midwest  shows that summer storms can pop up without warning — and even before summer arrives. Experienced RVers know summer storms can spell trouble.

A big motorhome may look invincible, and being up above the road-hugging level of a four-cylinder coupe, the view is great. But don’t let the view from the rig make you cocky. Weather is no respecter of height or size. A sudden blast of sheer wind can move your motorhome right off the road or whip your trailer into a frenzy of unexpected motion.

The best defense against weather-related RV accidents is keeping a weather-eye open. If you see a cloud that looks a bit ominous, it’s time to get more information. Turn off the satellite radio and tune in the local AM radio. Local stations — especially those that don’t play a “canned” imported format — can warn you of impending problems. This is particularly true in areas where tornadoes frequent.

Sure you’ve seen the neat action movies where the fearless storm chaser outruns the oncoming tornado. But whipping a fifth wheel or motorhome towing a trailer around in order to “make a run for it” isn’t a likely scenario. If you actually see a twister heading your way, your best “out” isn’t likely to try and outrun it. Both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service recommend getting out of the vehicle and taking shelter in a building. If there isn’t one in reach, things are a little less clear.

The old standard was: Get out of your vehicle and lie down in a ditch. The American Red Cross says they don’t support that advice any more, unless the ditch is “noticeably lower than the level of the roadway.” Not a deep ditch nearby? “Stay in the [vehicle] with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.” But beware: The agency says this is a “last resort.”

One thing that has shown up: Don’t climb under an overpass. Tornado winds have a way of funneling high winds and debris right under such constructs, and if you get in the way of the debris the outcome isn’t pretty.

In any event, if your rig is parked somewhere and there’s a danger of a tornado, do your best to take shelter elsewhere. While your rig can provide a measure of protection, even if you’re seat belted in, being tossed around inside a rolling coach can have fatal consequences.

But not all summer storms have the terrifying reality of a tornado. Sudden rainstorms are far more likely, and again, your rig is not Noah’s ark. The key to safety is to slow down, get out of the fast lane, and illuminate your rig by turning on your lights. If it gets too tough to see, then by all means, pull off the roadway as far as possible, and now TURN OFF your lights. That way, the guy behind you who doesn’t have enough sense to pull off won’t see your tail lights, think you know where you’re going, and plow right into your rig while you’re parked. The same holds true in a dust storm: Don’t try and punch through one of these devils: If you can’t see, you can’t drive. Pull it off the roadway, douse the lights, and wait it out.

If you’re not familiar with driving in desert country, beware the danger of flooded washes. In rain country, streams and rivers run all the time. In the desert, a wash runs only when there’s rain, and so road builders don’t handle them by sticking a bridge over them, they simply build the road through the wash. If you encounter water over the roadway in desert country, DON’T drive through it. Six inches of water can easily float any vehicle off the road, and every year dozens die in vehicles caught in flash floods. Drive through a “posted” wash in Arizona and need a rescue? The “Arizona Stupid Motorist Law” ensures you’ll pay for the cost of your rescue — or your estate will.

Lightning storms? You may have heard the old saw that the rubber tires of your car will insulate you against damage. Sorry, but that’s an old wives’ tale. Automobiles, by their metallic construction, act as an electrical cage, causing lightning strikes to roll off the car in a generally harmless fashion. BUT many RVs are fiberglass constructs — the lightning may just as soon blast a hole right through it.

If you’re on the road and lightning threatens, pull over and park, avoiding the tallest trees and utility poles. Close windows and sit with hands in laps.

Common sense may be your first line of defense in dealing with what Mother Nature can dish out. Just because your rig is big doesn’t mean a whit compared to the forces that weather can generate.


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5 years ago

What about sitting on the side of the road with foot on the brake? Brake lights let people know you are stopped, which is what you are if you are sitting on the side of the road. Just a thought.

Paul Herbst
5 years ago

Sorry Russ, I don’t care what the “safety experts” are telling you, I’m with Steven. After 40 years and driving and 23 years as a volunteer firefighter, I’ve seen my share of stupid, bizarre, or unexplainable driving events. Regardless, I’ll take my chances on the side of the road with my 4 ways ON over total darknss, thank you. That said, may I suggest that a better option might be to get off the main highway at the nearest exit and park in a safer place.

Thanks for your many great tips. Keep them coming!

5 years ago

It’s illegal to drive with flashers on in FL, but I am always thankful when drivers use flashers in heavy rain or fog. At least I can see them!

Bob Godfrey
5 years ago

We have become accustomed to a very bad habit in this country of using 4 way “emergency” flashers while driving in restricted visibility conditions which is completely unsafe. “Emergency” flashers are just that and should only be used in an EMERGENCY whether on the side of the road or stuck in the middle of it and only whilst the vehicle is stopped.

Steven Scheinin
5 years ago

I have heard the advise: “pull off the road and TURN OFF all you lights.” That does not make sense to me. What if the guy behind you decides he can’t see and pulls off the road where you are, he will not see you and hit you. Better advise, it seems to me, is when you pull off the road put on your hazard flashers. I would think other motorists are looking for this.

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