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RV Hurricane and Storm Safety

RV Hurricane and Storm Safety

by Stephine Mayberry

I grew up in Louisiana so I’d seen my fair share of hurricanes and tornadoes by the time Hurricane Katrina decided to grace us with her presence in August 2005. Thus began my stint with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA (great gig for the nomadic at heart but I got sucked into headquarters in DC – too many politics so 8 years in I bailed). I coordinated all media events, press conferences, and briefings from September 2005 until June 2006, as well as created educational material, acted as a PIO, did a little research and writing, and did some photography.
I also learned a lot about emergency prep. Now I will share some of what I learned with you.

Make the hard decisions.
When you know bad weather is coming, if you can move your RV or travel trailer out of the storm area or to a covered storage area, that’s great, but if it comes down to your life or your RV, that hard decision shouldn’t be too hard. RVs are tough, but they are not made to withstand extremely high winds. A tornado will rip an RV to shreds. It isn’t worth it. If you have enough advance notice of impending weather, go ahead a move. Keep in mind, though, that strong gusts can blow over a top heavy rig. At that point you need to decide if you are safer moving and risking being overturned, or leaving it and hoping for the best. Stuff is just stuff and most of it can be replaced. Your family is irreplaceable.

Take Basic Safety Measures.
When you get to a new RV campground take a little time to check out evacuation routes and the nearest storm shelter. If your RV park isn’t staffed, call the local police department to get the necessary information.
Put together a go bag in case you have to leave in a hurry. It is best to put it together when there is no storm on the way. When you put together a go bag while under duress you are likely to forget vital things. Include a couple of changes of clothing, water, medication, important papers, cash (in bad storms ATMs may not be operational), and always make sure that you have fuel in your vehicle. This is a good practice even when the weather channel isn’t reporting anything. Fires can come without any warning as can tornadoes. Even storms can come up suddenly even though nothing is in the forecast. Always be prepared.

RV Hurricane Tie Downs Work (well, some folks say so).
It seems the RV world is split right down the middle when it comes to hurricane tie downs. Some swear by them while others say just get out of Dodge. My take is tie downs might keep the frame in one place, but RV are not structurally built to withstand high winds. So, that’s where I am on that.

Don’t wait till the Last Minute.
If you have advance warning, take advantage of it. Take action before your options are narrowed by time. My days at FEMA taught me to keep an eye on the weather (after all, it was my job board), now I just like to stay ahead of anything Mother Nature might want to throw at me. I am not fond of surprises.

You don’t need a Tornado or Hurricane to get Wind Damage.
You expect tornados and hurricanes to have high winds, but other events can cause wind damage as well. Watch the forecast for gusts and high winds. Take the necessary precautions to protect your rig. When we were in Virginia in the blizzard of 2010 we had gusts of 60 and 80 mph. Talk about rattling the windows!

Be Careful with Flooding.
We are currently in South Carolina and have been riding out the terrible flooding (what is it with me and weather!). Fortunately, the RV campground where we are (Fain’s if you are ever in the Charleston area) is on pretty high ground. We had some flooding all around us but we stayed pretty high and dry. I kept an eye on the storm as it approached. We discussed pulling out, but after assessing the area we decided that our spot was actually a much better place for us to be as opposed to anywhere else in the area.
Flash flooding doesn’t play. One minute you can have dry ground and the next is a raging river. Don’t try to walk in water over your ankles (and you really shouldn’t walk in any flood water). Waters from a flood carry debris that can hurt you, harmful bacteria, and snakes. Your best bet is to stay out of the water until it recedes. If you are in a high area make sure you have adequate supplies and hunker down.

Keep more than one Source of Information.
We don’t watch TV so we rely on websites like NOAA and weather.com for our information. I also get the weather on my phone. However, I never rely on just one source. I check several sources and if something is coming I might check out one of the major news websites – both national and local. Information is a powerful tool.

How do you stay safe in bad weather? What’s your favorite bad weather tip? Post them in the comments!

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