Saturday, September 30, 2023


RVer Safety: Be prepared for a tornado

By Mike Sherman
Perhaps you have seen disaster movies featuring a vivid display of nature’s power. The special effects can be dazzling, no doubt about it. In my humble opinion, nothing is more frightening than a tornado.

Having been born and raised in California, I’ve never had to experience such an event. Rip tides? Yes. Earthquakes? Yes. But never a tornado.

I seldom travel through “tornado alley” but can’t help but think, What would I do if I’m suddenly aware of an approaching tornado?NOAA has a wealth of information but, as with all government instructions and suggestions, they can be too generic at times. I would want specifics, tailored to a lot of “what if” scenarios.

Perhaps you can look over the brief advice below, and then offer up your specifics to a situation that you have personally dealt with. Maybe you know a friend or family member that has experienced the scary situations mentioned. We could all learn, and perhaps take a better stance if trapped in a situation.

Safety information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

There is no such thing as guaranteed safety inside a tornado. Freak accidents happen; and the most violent tornadoes can level and blow away almost any house and its occupants. Extremely violent EF5 tornadoes are very rare, though. Most tornadoes are actually much weaker and can be survived using these safety ideas…

In a mobile home: Get out! Even if your home is tied down, it is not as safe as an underground shelter or permanent, sturdy building. Go to one of those shelters, or to a nearby permanent structure, using your tornado evacuation plan. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it.

In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. There is no safe option when caught in a tornado in a car, just slightly less-dangerous ones. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or underground if possible. If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible – out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.

If this subject interests you, check out this NOAA website.

Your experience and insight would be appreciated. Until next week, be safe!

Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.

Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at if you have questions, or leave a comment below. 

Read more RVer Safety articles here.



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4 years ago

We had a very sobering event just last month here in Oklahoma. The extreme flooding near Muskogee shut down road access to the campground where we camped so had to evacuate immediately. Searching for a campground far away from rivers took us to Dripping Springs just west of Okmulgee. We got set up and just started to relax when we noticed others leaving their RVs and going to the bath house. Checked the weather and learned we were in the path of tornadoes. Plus our daughter had been trying to call us to warn us. Our grandkids were with us as for their first camping trip. We drove to the concrete bath house and waited out the storms. I did hear a tornado (for the first time in my 60+ years)! I’ll never forget that sound and we would not have survived a direct hit from that but thankfully it passed us with only a little debris falling. Mother Nature can be so awesome at times. Our grandkids won’t be forgetting their first camping trip anytime soon.

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