Tornadoes

So … what should you do if you find yourself in a place of higher risk for tornadoes or other severe weather?

— Stay ‘weather-wise’. I recommend having at least two independent ways of getting severe weather information. As RV’ers that’s sometimes not a simple as turning on the TV or looking at the computer.

I recommend a NOAA weather radio (either tuned to the local area or better yet, one that locks onto the strongest signal) in addition to your favorite weather apps. If you are stationary and in a campground with access to either other-the-air or cable TV, local TV is a very good source. Ask the campground host how she/he gets their weather information. If you have cell signal or wifi, you can always go to the National Weather Service for credible info. On RV Weather, I post the latest NWS Tornado and Severe Thunderstorm watches and warnings, 24/7/365, here and here, respectively.

Truck towing RV runs into a tornado on the road and flips.
Watch this RV go airborne and destruct
Texas March 2021

If you remember nothing else, remember that RV’s ARE NOT A TORNADO HAVEN.

dwt

If you’re on the road, a local radio station (especially news radio) is a good source and your NOAA weather radio.

Whether you are traveling or especially camping, you’ll need to know what country you are in. Oftentimes both TV and Radio will refer to counties. Easy when we’re at home, but not something we think about always when RVing. There are some websites and apps (e.g., where-am-i.org) to help with that.

You can use weather apps, but be very careful they are using a current location. For reasons I don’t understand fully, many apps ‘lag’ my location around the U.S. by a day, a week or a month! Yes, I have ‘GPS location always on’ for those apps. Just check that. And yes, sometimes they work exactly as advertised. I don’t rely on the apps 100% though.

— Have a plan. Like General Eisenhower (I’m dating myself) famously said “plans are nothing but planning is everything”. You probably won’t execute the exact plan you came up with (and that’s fine), but having thought through where to go, what to bring, how to get there will serve you well.

— Know where to go. If you remember nothing else, remember that RV’S ARE NOT A TORNADO HAVEN.

— No RV (or mobile home) is constructed to withstand a tornado. They will either be thrown through the air or simply disintegrate, with fatal consequences for anyone inside. So know where to go.

— Ask your campground host or office when you check in.When we were staying at Harvest Hosts last summer in severe weather conditions, we would ask the farmer where’s the safest place to go — and verify the door was unlocked!! Oftentimes at campgrounds the bathhouses serve as storm shelters.

— If you are boondocking is there a structure (ideally concrete) you can hide in?

— If you’re on the road, frankly, it’s not good. If possible try to avoid driving towards a storm. If you can see the tornado, if traffic is light, and if possible, drive at right angles away from the storm.

— If you are in extremis, pull off well to the side of the road. You have a decision to make, with two not-great options. If the ground is not flooding and you can get lower than the surrounding area (like in a swale or ditch), it may be best to abandon your vehicle and get as low as possible outside, covering your head with whatever you have available. If there is no place to hide outside or there is rapidly rising and moving water, keep your seatbelt on, your head low and covered by a pillow or any object that will give you protection. Keep the ignition ‘on’ to ensure your airbags are armed. I have to stress though this option is an absolute last resort and is very high risk to your health and safety. Personally, I will leave the vehicle if at all possible.

— If you are in the path of the storm, understand it will come on you more quickly than you think. This is what happened in the top video. And we all know the constraints when towing.

— Know what to bring. Do you have a ‘bug out’ bag of essentials? Can you get your pets with you quickly?

— Rehearse in your mind your plan. Chances are you won’t have to do this. But if you do, having thought it through will let you stay calmer, be more decisive, and fight off panic.

Below are some excellent references from the Storm Prediction Center, ‘ready.gov’ and State of Ohio Emergency Managers on tornado safety (your safety, not the tornado’s). If you read through this and remember the key points, you are doing everything you can to minimize injury and maximize your chance of survival.

References

LongLongHoneymoon interview with James Spann

Tornado Safety

James Spann is arguably the dean of Television Meteorologists today in the United States. Outstanding credibility and communication skills. Sean and Kristy of LongLongHoneymoon fame did a 20 minute interview with Spann. It’s packed with outstanding information for RV’ers. Highly worth watching:

Hurricane and Tropical Storms

I’ll do a full write up on RV Safety and Hurricanes before the season starts (June 1st), but for now here are some great references to point you in the right direction. The good thing about hurricanes is they frequently come with days, vs. minutes of warning. That allows us to use our RV’s most valuable asset — its wheels! — and get out the storm’s path. Time is your ally: the sooner you make your decision to evacuate, the more options you have. In the Navy I used to tell Admirals who didn’t want to take action to avoid a typhoon, “You can either make the decision or the storm will make the decision for you”. Then they moved!

“Run from water, hide from wind” *

Old hurricane safety adage. *But don’t hide in your RV

References