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Tornado Warning in Livingston--No place to go!


NH2

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At 5:01am, the weather alert sounded on our phones. Message read: EMERGENCY ALERT. Tornado Warning in this area. Take shelter NOW.

 

We quickly dressed, grabbed the laptop & phones and made our way though the wind & rain to the truck. We're parked in the old section at Rainbow's End so it was only a short hop to the safe shelter of the activity center. In the time it took to drive the few hundred yards to the Activity Center, the wind gusts increased, the rain was coming down in sheets and there was NON-STOP lightening. Just as we pulled into the parking area, the power went out in the entire park. We scrambled from our truck to the activity center only to find the doors locked! I left Sue under the shelter of the entrance overhang while I went around back, in total darkness, to look for an unlocked door. I checked the side doors—LOCKED! I began rattling doors toward the back of the building when I saw a flashlight shine in my direction. A man & a woman were huddled in a small room that I later learned allowed access to the emergency telephone. They invited me in but I explained I had to go back to get Sue. As I dashed to get Sue, the scene was surreal. Panic struck when I couldn't find Sue where I had left her. But after another lightening strike, I caught a glimpse of her. She was nestled next to the soda vending machine trying find protection from the now sideways rain.

Sue & I were grateful to be in the small telephone area with the other couple. A park manager with a key (also seeking shelter) came by and opened the Activity Center just as the wind & rain began to taper.

 

To summarize:

We are in a park, along with hundreds of others, who live in trailers/motorhomes, with a potentially life-threatening storm rapidly approaching. The brick building on the premises has LOCKED doors, NO functional emergency lighting—NONE(batteries must be dead;in ALL of them!) and people who are unfamiliar with the area cuz, ya know, we're travelers.

In fairness to the administrators:
There is a clearly-stated emergency plan printed in the Rainbow's End brochure.


"In case of impending tornado alert, take shelter in the restrooms at the laundry building. Avoid large span roofed areas like the Clubhouse or Activity Center."

 

Though I understand and mostly agree with their statement, I question the feasibility of cramming hundreds of people into a few tiny bathrooms. For me, I'd rather take my chances in one of the several small rooms located in the Activity Center than I would in my trailer.

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Do I understand this correctly? Your complaint is that the building you were specifically told NOT to use as a shelter was locked?

Correct. Again, a few tiny bathrooms for hundreds of people seemed to be an absurd solution and staying in my rig was equally absurd.

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In our experience, few RV parks have real storm shelters and those that do it is by far the most common for them to be the restrooms.

Restrooms in most RV parks have multiple showers and stalls in their bathroom facilities & can provide refuge for a lot more people than what's available at Rainbow's End.

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I agree with NH2's comments about what had to have been an unnerving experience. I would also have abandoned our rv in a like situation and headed for the shower house if no other shelter was available. You definitely don't want to be inside an rv when this type of weather situation is close and definitely don't attempt to drive away from one. :o

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Correct. Again, a few tiny bathrooms for hundreds of people seemed to be an absurd solution and staying in my rig was equally absurd.

 

Could it be the construction of the activity building has been determined to be insufficient to serve as a tornado shelter? They may not have enough shelter space for everyone, but allowing people to use a building that's likely to fail would seem to open the park up to some potentially serious liability issues.

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As much as I love rving, severe weather is surely one of the negatives. It is just the nature of life. We could just as easily be camping somewhere in a tent. I t is good to know your campground as far as possible places to shelter. I would say that most restrooms in camping areas are marginal but better than nothing.

 

They had to be a little rattled as it certainly is a little scarey. I won't lie to anyone. I am seriously afraid of tornadoes. And after an 2 pretty close calls with straight line winds have a healthy respect for them. Maybe something good could come from the conversation.

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As much as I love rving, severe weather is surely one of the negatives. It is just the nature of life. We could just as easily be camping somewhere in a tent. I t is good to know your campground as far as possible places to shelter. I would say that most restrooms in camping areas are marginal but better than nothing.

 

They had to be a little rattled as it certainly is a little scarey. I won't lie to anyone. I am seriously afraid of tornadoes. And after an 2 pretty close calls with straight line winds have a healthy respect for them. Maybe something good could come from the conversation.

 

Yes, Jim, if nothing else perhaps this conversation will bring awareness to the weather related hazards of RV'ing. In 50 years of camping and RV'ing, I can remember only one place which had an actual storm shelter, and it was about 50 miles north of Wichita, KS. Many campgrounds in the Plains States had instructions or suggestions about where to go or what to do.

 

I'm surprised that the park in Livingston even mentioned weather. It's not exactly in tornado alley. There's very few places in this country which aren't subjected to severe weather on occasion. We should all be vigilant, pay attention to weather reports, and make plans ahead of time if we anticipate the likelihood of weather based danger. And, even then we can be injured or killed. It's the nature of nature.

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I graduated HS about 12 mile east of Lufkin and we lived in the boonies. WE were lucky to have 1 tv station sometimes. No weather alert radios. I think back in the olden days there may have been lots of tornadoes and other severe weather but we never knew about most of it unless we were in it or there was major damage from it. It seem to me there wasn't as much news coverage of what did happen.

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Just curious, what is the intended purpose of your thread? Are you just venting? Are you trying to effect change? Looking for peer support? Something else?

Your question is valid and causes me to ponder my purpose. I posted while my heart was still pounding. Your question helps me to recognize that both my tone and attitude might have shifted had I waited for the adrenaline running through my body to return to normal.

I blame myself for not establishing an efficient procedure for immediate exit, however, I also find little comfort knowing that my only hope for survival might be a facility designed to accommodate people on a first-come, first-saved basis.

Mark

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Having been campground host in a state park where tornadoes are common, I know a little about the issue of trying to provide shelters. As the data from FEMA states, there is no above ground shelter that will reliably withstand a force 5 tornado. In addition, when an organization posts a sign on a space stating that it is a storm shelter, that action makes them subject to liability suits if their public take shelter in that facility and are then injured. As the building committee chair for our community I did a lot of research on this issue. It is very expensive to make a truly tornado safe shelter and you then must carry additional liability insurance on that facility. But there is a lot more to this. As hosts who opened the shelter area at a Kansas state park, even after the campers in the campground were warned of an approaching dangerous storm, we never had more than three sites choose to come to our shelter. Most people do not avail themselves of such shelters even when available.

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Your question is valid and causes me to ponder my purpose. I posted while my heart was still pounding. Your question helps me to recognize that both my tone and attitude might have shifted had I waited for the adrenaline running through my body to return to normal.

I blame myself for not establishing an efficient procedure for immediate exit, however, I also find little comfort knowing that my only hope for survival might be a facility designed to accommodate people on a first-come, first-saved basis.

Mark

 

Mark, I suspect that if you had gone to the designated shelter (rest rooms), you would have found not many people there at all. I also suspect that most folks just rode out the storm in their RV, like they had done for the past 1 1/2 months of storms in the area. Some may have just slept right through it. Were you right to seek shelter? Were they wrong? Personal decision based on accepted risks.

 

I will say this, tornadoes in that part of the country are not the massive types you see destroying entire towns in Central/West Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, etc. Of course, if one hits your RV, it probably won't matter to you how large it was. What I've seen most of in East Texas is downdrafts of straight line winds in excess of 90 mph. Those can certainly flip an RV, you might be safer in your automobile which has less exposed sail area and is more aerodynamic.

 

I'm hesitant to criticize an RV Park for not providing adequate shelter. I certainly hope that complaints of such don't result in government intervention requiring costly upgrades to campgrounds and RV Parks. As already mention, a truly safe shelter for all the inhabitants of an RV Park would probably be cost prohibitive and put most of them out of business.

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Okay, never been through a tornado - warning or otherwise and hope will never be. Have been through a couple of downdraft microbursts and some gale force winds. What I find unusual though is locations that regularly have these sorts of weather events seldom have marked shelter locations or routes to shelters even when there is a high likelihood of a transient population. Even a marking on park map would be beneficial.

 

Why unusual? Along the west coast you can't go more than a couple of miles without seeing tsunami avoidance routing and directions for high ground and you've got to admit a tsunami is just a tad bit more rare than a weather event.

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Why unusual? Along the west coast you can't go more than a couple of miles without seeing tsunami avoidance routing and directions for high ground and you've got to admit a tsunami is just a tad bit more rare than a weather event.

 

You mean there are some Californians who don't realize that a tidal wave will be coming from the ocean side? Never mind, I knew the answer as soon as I typed the question.

 

Kind of like McDonalds putting up signs saying the coffee might be hot.

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I will say this, tornadoes in that part of the country are not the massive types you see destroying entire towns in Central/West Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, etc.

Having lived most of my life in areas where tornadoes take place I must point out to you that that sort of event is actually pretty rare and is always blown up larger by the news media. It is true that such things happen, but not very often and the vast majority of tornadoes just scare the dickens out of people while doing little if any damage. There are far more warnings than actual destructive events, which is one of the reasons that most people who are used to them seldom ever bother to take cover. I suspect that I have taken cover at least 200 times over the years and not once have we had significant damage within a mile of my location. The only one that was close to my home or RV was when we lived in WY where they are very rare events.

 

. What I find unusual though is locations that regularly have these sorts of weather events seldom have marked shelter locations or routes to shelters even when there is a high likelihood of a transient population. Even a marking on park map would be beneficial.

There really isn't anywhere that has tornadoes on a frequent basis, except perhaps Moore, OK but there are many places that have warnings fairly frequently. I'd bet that the most common reason for the lack of markings is partly due to the liability that goes with the provision of such a shelter, as I mentioned earlier. If you tell people that you have a shelter and then they take cover and are injured, you best have a big liability insurance policy. The signs that you speak of in CA are put there by the state and you will see shelter signs in state buildings in the mid-west also, but private businesses seldom have them mainly for that reason. If you were to ask when checking in where you can take shelter, they will probably offer suggestions but they probably will not tell you that any place will be safe.

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I guess I'm having a problem understanding why you would go to the Activity Center when the brochure clearly says NOT to use that location...and then be upset to find the doors are locked?

 

Now, if you'd gone to the restrooms as directed and found THOSE doors locked, then I'd say you'd have a reason to be upset.

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Tornadoes? Not growing up with them makes us all the more nervous of them. Two of the past three nights we have been in the 'wrong' place. Friday night we were at a major chain restaurant when along came a siren and a tornado warning. The staff shut down everything and asked everyone to move into their store room. Now I'm not sure of numbers but my guess is that 10% of the patrons took up their advice/request. Why? My guess is that folks have become media weary of all the warnings. Anyway after an hour many wiser folks were outside surveying the damage to their vehicles that were hiding under fallen trees. Then last night we had 4 hours of the media giving us warnings. Hail the size of watermelons. Nah maybe the size of softballs was coming. In the end we had four warnings. 4 hours of stress and all we got was a wet car park.

I'm not saying to not take severe weather warnings seriously. But the media has made everything far worse. Now if park owners were to base their facilities on these 'warnings' then I believe most of them would shut up shop and go out of business. I guess what I'm trying to say is that while s$#@ scared of bad weather I can't assume someone else will provide for my safety all the time. Awareness is key along with a good personal plan.

(Just out of interest we have in our years of RVing been too closely involved in several near miss tornado events. The worst being the one that went of to impact Joplin. In that event we were in a state park. The ranger came around and 'DEMANDED' that we spend a few hours in a near by ladies bathroom. Glad we did. An 18 wheeler was tossed over just nearby. Not funny. Not funny at all).

To the OP. I feel for you. I can understand the 'panic. It happens with us all the time. But awareness of where you are is the key to being safe. And that applies to life in general not just to bad weather.

 

I hate tornadoes.

 

regards

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We had a ton of tornado watches and warnings on the Texas Gulf Coast this past weekend (Thursday through Sunday nights). Horizontal rains, massive amounts of lightening, hail, and some power outages were common occurrences over a very large swath of the beach areas and many miles inland.

 

They were some of the strongest storms I've ever seen (even as a Native Texan). Several long-term RVers, including the park managers, also stated that these storms were some of the strongest they had ever experienced. There was wind damage to some RVs, mainly from outdoor items being thrown around.

 

If nothing else, we, as RVers, should remain vigilant and remember that RVs are very susceptible to strong storms and wind. We should all have a plan if faced with this type of bad situation.

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Had them touch down all around us here the night before last, all F1 and one was just west of us, then another just north of us, and then just east of us! Again, storms last night but no tornados touched down where we are I don't think.

 

There was a overnight RV park next to I-20, before we got to El Paso, or after, I don't remember, on that long dry dusty stretch that seems top take forever to get somewhere. Anyway it had a shelter that was amazing in its simplicity. It was an old school bus with all the seats in it. They had taken all the wheels and running gear off along with the engine, and dug a shallow ditch to set it in. Then they came along after and using a loader and lots of dirt they covered the entire thing except that large emergency back door. That was the access, and they had RR ties as a frame and dirt retaining wall around the door. They had a couple of vents on it but basically had provided one of the best tornado shelters I've seen for little to no cost if they could borrow the loader.

 

We have been right next to a few and had them dip into our yards and do amazing things. The only upside they have is that they hit very few compared to earthquakes, hurricanes, superstorms, and volcanoes, which can knock out the infrastructure for transport and energy/food access for an entire region, like those poor folks in Nepal now, and Argentina.

 

I rather face them than the eruption of the Yellowstone caldera or Mount Ranier any day.

 

As RVrs just remember that you likely have more weight per square foot than a mobile home but they have tie downs which can help. We ridden out some terrible winds in ours and always try to pick a spot where we can align the rig in line with the winds most common for storms. For example here the winds that are damaging come from the west but tornados and their fronts change that to a circular motion. Bottom line is that either the tornado hits you directly or it does not. If you stay away from windows a near miss won't usually get you with projectile debris. F4 Direct hits can take a regular house down to the foundations. They key is to know your shelters and go there when out traveling in your RV. The folks waiting to see if one comes along need to acknowledge that you usually won't see it through the storm or at night. When you hear it you are too late. Most folks don't have time to get from their living rooms to a shelter right outside the back door when it is heard.

 

NH2,

While you might have been venting, it never hurts to remind us all traveling in tornado country to remember and know our nearest shelter, even when it is sunny and bright. No harm no foul, at least from me. Thanks for the reminder.

 

Safe Travels!

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