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RVing in severe storms? Do this, and definitely don’t do that!

This past week produced day after day and night after night of severe weather. Tornado watches, warnings, and tornadic storms hit the Gulf Coast and Middle Atlantic states repeatedly. The timing could not be worse. It’s almost the end of the month. That means Snowbirds are heading back to their homes in the north. Folks from south Texas and southern Florida plan to travel right smack dab through the storm-inflicted areas. And all of those RVers have had to determine what to do when RVing amid severe storms.

We learned about RVing in severe storms through experience

A few years ago, my husband and I experienced the severe Midwest Derecho. Sustained winds pummeled the area where we were RVing. I can tell you from that horrifying experience that your RV is not a safe place to be when severe weather descends. The Derecho winds easily lifted our RV off the ground, pushing it over onto its side. Cupboards, closets, and doors flew open with the storm’s blast. The RV’s contents flew everywhere. I cannot imagine being inside the rig during that destruction.

Our fifth-wheel RV was totally destroyed. Thankfully, we were able to take shelter in a nearby church and so escaped bodily harm. I often wonder what we would have done if the church had not been available. Just what is the best recourse when RVing amid severe storms or even the threat of storms?

Do this

The National Weather Service warns people in mobile homes (structures most similar to RVs) to “leave well in advance of the approaching severe weather and go to a strong building.”

Don’t do that!

Forget about hunkering down in your RV in hopes that the storm will pass by without incident. As soon as you learn of a severe storm watch you need to make plans for shelter. Also, make sure everyone along with you understands the plan and can physically do what’s needed to stay safe. RVtravel.com has a great list of RV parks with storm shelters.

Do this

It’s generally best to stay in place rather than attempt to “beat the storms.” Springtime storms are notorious for shifting directions as they develop. It’s generally best to stay put. Wait a day or two to travel if you can. Then start for home after the weather system has cleared your travel route.

Don’t do that!

We spoke to a few campers who planned to try and “outrun the storms.” They left our campground a day early and arrived ahead of a storm. However, they barely escaped that night’s tornado. A tree branch broke out one of their RV windows, but they were physically unharmed.

Do this

Meteorologists continually observe and update a storm system’s progress. It’s important for RVers to tune in to local television or radio programming for current updates. It’s also a good idea to have a weather radio in your RV (more on those here). If storms are predicted, you’ll want to check with your campground manager. Ask if the CG has a designated storm shelter. Take time to walk to the shelter and show folks traveling with you how to find it, as well.

Don’t do that!

Don’t wait for storm sirens to sound before locating the campground’s storm shelter. It might be an actual underground bunker built specifically for sheltering during a tornado. Or the campground may designate another solid structure as its shelter. Just find it ahead of time. Once the local storm sirens sound you may not have enough time to locate and safely move to and get inside the shelter.

Do this

If your campground doesn’t have a suitable storm shelter, plan to stay in a hotel overnight. Your life and the lives of those with you are worth the extra cost. Always choose safety over the storm.

Don’t do that!

What happens if a storm suddenly hits while you’re driving the RV? The National Weather Service has this advice: “Do not take shelter under a highway overpass, where wind speeds can increase due to a tunneling effect.” Instead, “Find shelter in a ditch and cover your head for protection.”

Have you ever taken refuge in a campground storm shelter? Or experienced severe storms while RVing? Share your experiences in the comments below or over in my forum.

##RVDT1831

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Steve
1 month ago

I went far from home to check out a used TT I was considering buying. It was at an RV park where the owner had another RV he actually used. The park owners were friends of the guy I was potentially buying from; and since it was rural and later in the day the TT owner agreed I could stay in it that night. All normally set up. I hadn’t listened to local radio and a severe (possibly tornadic) storm I hadn’t known about came through. The TT was bucking and jumping but fortunately stayed planted.
I’m sitting up in bed, hanging on and thinking to myself “I’m in a TT that I haven’t even purchased, the first night I’d ever spent in an RV, and here I’m going to die.” It was that bad. Well the RV and I made it through unscathed. No leaks no damage. Some trees were snapped; other RV’s were damaged. The RV was a tad bigger than I wanted but I made him an offer that day.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

What a great story. Thanks, Steve! Take care. 😀 –Diane

Ron Jewell
1 month ago

In June, 2017, we were at the FamCamp at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. About 8:00 the tornado siren went off, and we went through driving rain to the shelter. An airman was having a graduation party for his daughter in that building. We all crowded into the concrete block restrooms The girl’s grandmother from Mexico was really scared. When the storm ended, I found five dents in a row on the tailgate of my truck. Then we went back to the trailer, and found the popup next to us was on its roof, and our 35 foot travel trailer, and the 5th wheel next to us were blown off their blocks and moved about 3 feet. The vapor barrier under the trailer was torn by both front stabilizing jacks. We had to leave the next day because of tree damage. As we left we saw the phone poles near the campground were snapped in two like match sticks.

The same date the next year we were back at Offutt AFB, and we had to go to the shelter, but the storm was not nearly as bad as the previous year.

Steve
1 month ago

Our first RV spring storm experience was in a state park campground on top of a mountain. Our travel trailer and a camper van were the only campers when a 1:00 am windstorm struck. The trailer was rocking so much we were afraid to hook up. We were adjacent to the brick restroom-shower building, so we moved our camp chairs into the men’s restroom. We stayed there until dawn, when the wind finally died down. Then we hooked up, got a refund for the next night, and moved to a cg at the base of the mountain.

Our next experience occurred the 2nd night after picking up our new fifth wheel in Chicago. While visiting Mammoth Cave, one of the heaviest downpours I have ever experienced began shortly after our arrival at a private RV park. We were able to pick up a local TV station to watch the weather. The meteorologist showed the radar just as a hook echo appeared directly above us. The funnel touched down 2 miles to the east! Now we watch the long-term forecast and just wait out storms.

Rich
1 month ago

we’ve been in severe weather several times over the past 36-seasons but only once was any kind of storm shelter available. i recall one time in Van Horn, TX. when we checked in I asked where the storm shelter was located as a tornado watch had been issued for that area. the fellow at the desk just scoffed at that and said there was nothing to worry about.

we, along with a couple we were traveling with, were at a campground in West Memphis several years ago. rain was in the forecast but instead of just rain we had an hour or two of RAIN. so much so that most of the campground was severely flooded including the tent area. our MH and our buddy’s TT were two of only a few that escaped the flooding because we were on slightly elevated pull-thru sites. the water was still present in the morning when we took off for home.

Russ Whitlock
1 month ago

December 26, 2015. E-4 Tornado tears through east side of Dallas. Watching TV in our three month old Fleetwood Discovery the meteorologist said “seeing no sign of rotation”. We stepped outside to discovery a funnel cloud silhouetted by lightening strikes. We had a plan, grab the dogs, jump in the toad and get as close to a nearby concrete building at base of cell tower. In the headlights we witnessed the scene from Wizard of Oz as parts of buildings and RV’s blew by. Over as quickly as it started the 78 units in campground were destroyed. Three, including our Discovery were recognizable. Days later we were allowed into the campground to find letters and a big “X” on the underside of our coach. It was on its driver’s side, but in tact. The escape windows on that coach were on the driver’s side. Still get chills thinking of that night.

Jill
1 month ago

Don’t forget to have a “go bag” always ready. At a minimum it should have copies of important documents including dr and medication information, a working flashlight and first aid kit.

Gail
1 month ago
Reply to  Jill

Yes! Thanks Jill!

Bob p
1 month ago

I guess storms never hit FL, there are only 3 storm shelters on the list. Our “new” home is rated for category 3 hurricanes, but nothing is tornado proof. The park we live in has over 950 units, roughly 1800+ residents with 7 main buildings that may or may not be storm shelter rated. After serving a year in Vietnam with the worst injury being a bad shaving cut when we came under rocket attack while showering, I adopted a theory about life and death. I believe when we are born we are entered into a book of life, beside our birthdate is a death date, barring us doing something stupid like suicide, that’s the date we’ll die no matter what the medical professionals do. The Bible says we are given 3 score and ten for life expectancy, for those unschooled in biblical language that’s 70 years. At 79 I feel I’m living in bonus years that God has given me for a purpose. DW and I got married 6 yrs ago this June 8th and are looking forward to spending 25 years together, please don’t get in our way

Michael Galvin, PhD
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

Of course, there is no book of life with preordained date of death. How long you live depends on exercising, eating well, taking necessary supplements, and following medical advice, among other factors. I have lived a healthy agnostic life, one year longer than Bob p.

Ernie Powell
1 month ago

Life is determined by God the Father, when you are born and when he receives you back again.

Joe Goomba
1 month ago
Reply to  Ernie Powell

Please curb your religion.

Pat
1 month ago

I’m always surprised when people go inside their RV instead of to a shelter during severe weather. Last year the weather sirens went off three times in one day including once for the derecho that went through central Iowa. We were at a COE campground just south of ground zero of the derecho in Iowa. The trees sustained quite a bit of damage but amazingly there was no damage to RVs, but we didn’t take any chances and headed for shelter.

Pat
1 month ago
Reply to  Pat

I forgot to add that pets are allowed (indeed there are signs encouraging campers to bring pets to shelters) at the two COE reservoir campgrounds in Iowa and at most, if not all, state campgrounds that offer shelters.

tom
1 month ago

Living in hurricane prone Deep South, we are always prepared. House is as fortified as it can possibly done without a total rebuild. Spare fuel and genset, water and food (week+).
Weather radios are easily at hand.

Lisa Adcox
1 month ago

We were caught in a storm that no warnings or watches were issued in TN on KY line. It came on so fast that we had no way to take shelter. We were at Families home. The RV was less than a week old and it shook around a lot. After storm was over we seen damage on street and felt lucky we had no damage to rv but truck suffered some minor dents. Just down the road the tornado went through middle of a mobile home. It was empty.

McTroy
1 month ago

We were caught in a terrible storm in Columbus Ohio 2 years ago. We left our trailers for the shelter of a very small bunkhouse cabin. We had 4 large dogs, 2 children and 6 adults in there! But we were safe and the storm passed around us. While we were safe at the campground a tornado hit our hometown. We were blessed to have only minor damage from that too.