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Severe Weather


Stiltner

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So I wake up watching the national news this morning......the headline was severe weather in this case Texas. Having friends visiting there for 30 days in their coach, prompted me to text them.

 

My question is; what do you do in this case? Tips and tricks? I say motor homes are vulnerable and avoid the severe weather when ever possible.

 

An ounce of prevention tells me to check forecasts, road conditions and travel routes daily.

 

If severe weather is unavoidable what so you do? Park where? ride it out?

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It will be interesting to see the responses as we have encountered a few iffy weather situations, albeit rare, when traveling and were starting to look for places, buildings to get behind so to speak. Fortunately the weather broke and we continued on our journey. I would think that ones choices would be different if you were on a large, well travelled 4 lane hwy vs traveling on a 2 lane road off the beaten path.

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We've tucked in on the lee side of a large building a couple of times over the years when unexpected high winds came up. Other times we've just ridden out unexpected storms in a rest area or shopping center parking lot, positioning the RV as best we could to minimize our "sail" area. As the availability of real time weather reports have improved over the years though, we've been able to pretty much avoid the worst weather conditions, usually only traveling when conditions are within our preferred limits. Sometimes that has meant staying an extra night somewhere, but we're rarely in a big enough hurry to let that bother us.

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We've had a few scares over the years. 60mph winds and a couple of 'close' calls with tornadoes.

 

However I'm getting very skeptical of many news reports. So often they over state the potential severity that I believe many folks are now disregarding the warnings. Take note of your evening news. Do they have the 'weather report' or do they call it something like 'severe weather warnings'. The media is pumping up these warnings to get your attention.

The problem is trying to sort out the headlines from the real facts. Er on the side of caution but don't get like us and be frozen with fear every time the media gets excited.

 

regards

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We too usually are able to avoid really serious stuff however

High winds means we find a CG and wait it out even if it takes a few days

Sudden serious rain/hail etc means we get off the road making sure we are not in a floody area

If we are already off the road we would pull in slide, and if necessary move ourselves to a storm safe building

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When my Mother was in her final days we were in East TX (Gainesville) for about a month and could not leave. We packed a bail out bag and had the dogs and cat leashes handy. The RV park shelter was the concrete block shower and bath house so that is where we would have gone if necessary. On one of our laptops we watched the cells moving (track and speed) on Weather Underground so we would have some warning along with watching the local TV station for alerts. Thankfully we did not have to seek shelter.

My wife and I grew up in tornado country (Me TX and her OK) and the Gainseville experience reinforced our desire to never have to live with that again. Here in Palisade/ Grand Junction CO, tornados are extremely rare and we don't have that concern. :)

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We watched the weather closely when we were fulltiming. We moved or didn't move depending on the forecast. When we got caught in high winds in Quartzsite we turned our RV into it to decrease our vulnerability--twice--since the winds shifted direction. When we were in Alabama when a hurricane was approaching we drove further inland. When we drove up tornado alley in the spring we researched campgrounds and found one with an official shelter and parked in the site closest to it. When we were in the Minneapolis area when a tornado was sighted headed our way we took shelter in the campground's bathroom. In all of these cases we kept our bugout bags packed and ready to go if conditions warranted it.

 

Linda Sand

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As some have noted, getting good information can be sometimes difficult.

Two suggestions to complement those already given:

 

1. Get a weather alert radio that

. . a. can run directly from your RV 12-volt system, and

. . b. has the SAME code capability (for locations where many counties are small -- to help filter down to just those you need to hear about).

Example: Midland WR300 accepts nominal 12-volt DC and has an external antenna connection (which can use your existing bat-wing TV antenna [i don't use TVs]).

 

2. A web-site I find particularly useful when in a "travel phase" is: http://graphical.weather.gov/sectors/conusWeek.php?expandweek=ON#tabs

. . where you hover your cursor over the items in the table to see the corresponding weather-element for the indicated time-frame.

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Had some friends in the Frisco area that sent pics of the damage their house incurred in this last round of Spring storms and it was pretty amazing...and pretty darn scary to think about what it would have done to the roof of our RV. Hail stones the size of baseballs went right through the roof...just can't imagine how scary that would have been. Normally there is enough time to seek some type of shelter for yourself but trying to find protection for a Class A RV is something else. We have ducked in to car washes and gas stations with awnings before in our car to ride out a storm hope we never have to try that with the RV..Just goes with the territory if you live in the south or midwest in the Spring! Stay safe everybody!

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It will be interesting to see the responses. The news showed high winds, rain righteous sebere thunderstorms with rooftops being blown off.

One thing which nobody has mentioned here is the reality of these events, as compared to how the news presents them. The story that you refer to is far more dramatic on the TV news than it was for our two sons, who actually live in the area where it happened. There was some damage and our son lost a fence blown down and will be getting a new roof and roof vents, thanks to his homeowner's insurance. The roof is true for several hundred of his neighbors and there were several other fences blown down as well as a few carports and one gas station. There were two schools damaged, but both are reopening today. Remember that TV is in the business of selling dramatic stories and their camera people are experts at things like camera angles and such to increase the visual effects. While home damage is a disaster for those who own that home, that doesn't change the fact that a few hundred people were harmed in a city of more than 3 million people.

 

You definitely should take cover when warnings come because you do not want to be in an RV when extreme winds hit because they are not tied to the ground at all. But the likelihood of you suffering damage isn't nearly has high as the news stories would have us believe. I have tented and RVed the midwest most of my life and have had more than one damage claim on our houses, but only once on an RV and that was parked next to our house. We have probably taken cover for a warning at least 100 times while RV traveling, perhaps 2 hundred and we continue to do that because taking cover is very much like wearing a seat-belt in that failing to heed the warning is needless risk. One of the reasons that people are hurt in these storms is the fact that most of us take cover so many times that we reach a point where we stop doing so, and then it hits us.

 

The point of this is not to detract in any way from the precautions advised, but only to put a bit of reality back into the story since thousands of RVs are occupied all through the middle west in spring storms but only an unfortunate few are harmed. Do pay attention to the warnings and take action, but do not become paranoid and think that you will die if you RV in any part of the mid-west! And just so you know, according to the US Weather Bureau, there are no states in which a tornado has never happened.

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Drizzle turned into one of Arizona's horrendous 5-minute monsoons the other day, and we did not hesitate to take the next exit and park until the storm passed over. The wind alone nearly blew me over trying to merge off the highway.

 

As for being parked when a storm is on the way... I would reach out to the RV park operator to ask about a storm shelter. I'm usually the tough guy who would rather watch the news than leave my home or apartment. But in an RV, I wouldn't hesitate to take only what's on my back (and my dog) and survey the damage later.

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What's incredible is the amount of information through advanced technologies we have at our fingertips now as compared to even ten years ago...at the touch of the phone screen we have real time radar feeds of weather systems headed our way...incredible. Beats the heck out of guessing which way the clouds are headed while looking through the windshield!!!

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Weather is less of a issue with us as it was years ago. We have many tools to keep track of severe weather at our disposal. NWS, Internet, Cell phones weather radio. We have pulled off the road many times into a rest area or truck stop and left the RV for a more secure area. Severe weather at night is our greatest concern as you can not see it coming but you still have the PC and cell phone.

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We're weather rookies, and take measures to do our best to not be caught off guard while traveling. Probably to some of you veterans, and or people who grew up in say tornado alley, we're too cautious. But that's OK.

 

At Cheery Creek State Park, just south of Denver, we had our first experience with heavy rain/hail/funnel clouds - and hearing warning sirens. We closed the slides, unplugged the coach, grabbed the dawg and a small bag of items, and went into the campgrounds meeting/shower/shelter area. (One gent that was with us, said he was tent camping and waved the camp ranger over as he was driving thru his loop. Asked him if he should be concerned with the current weather, and pointed up to the clouds that were in funnel shape. The ranger stepped out of his truck, looked up at it, and said 'Get to the shower room. I'm out of here!' - and jumped back into his truck and drove off:)!

 

We use Weather Bug Alert Apps (Verizon and ATT&T phones.). Have a Weather Alert radio that is both battery powered and has an adapter to plug into our 12V system too.

 

We're leaving from Southern California in mid May, to drive to Indiana for the 100th running of the Indy 500. We're planning to leave 6-7 days early for the run to Indy, so we can allow for days of 'sitting things out' if needed. And 'sitting things out', is our policy. We look at the various tools available for travel, and either alter routes, or just don't leave, if we feel the weather is looking dicey.

 

This has been a strange weather year, and who knows what will be happening 4-5 weeks from now... Hoping that the weather shifts to a more moderate pattern:)!

 

Be safe, travel when safe, stop when not safe, know where the nearest shelters are, and do use them. And, please you veterans of weather risk area travels, keep the tips coming in. Those tips, help us many rookies and could save a life.

 

Best to all,

Smitty

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A good question is "what were they doing there in spring?"

I drove up tornado alley in the spring. I was ready to go home to Minnesota but winter was not quite done there so I drove to Texas to be in place to head right up I-35 when the weather allowed. As all RVers know, you make trade-offs. The odds of me and a tornado being in the same place at the same time seemed a reasonable tradeoff for getting to go home. Of course, i watched the forecasts very carefully and had my weather alerts set to track my route.

 

Linda Sand

 

ps. Here're my tips: Forecasters rarely predict tornadoes because they happen very suddenly. What they often predict is severe thunderstorms with the possibility of hail; if the radar display is red take shelter, please. Plus, if the sky turns yellow-green take shelter immediately even if that means pulling onto the shoulder, exiting the RV, and lying down on the ground. Wet and muddy is better than dead.

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ps. Here're my tips: Forecasters rarely predict tornadoes because they happen very suddenly. What they often predict is severe thunderstorms with the possibility of hail; if the radar display is red take shelter, please. Plus, if the sky turns yellow-green take shelter immediately even if that means pulling onto the shoulder, exiting the RV, and lying down on the ground. Wet and muddy is better than dead.

Actually, with the latest in radar the meteorologists do in fact detect the rotation in a cloud formation that spawns nearly all tornadoes so it is pretty rare to have one that was not detected, but they can form fairly quickly so the lead time isn't usually very long even then. The sky color is really not so much factor as the shape of the formations. Rotating wall clouds tend to have a great potential for violent storms, but nothing is 100%.

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Several years ago there was a seminar that was put on by one of the trainers for the weather service for volunteer spotters. He taught a great deal about the kinds of formations and what they usually indicate. I attempted to find someone who could do that at next Escapade but was unable to locate anyone. It is an idea that I still have not given up and making happen, as I found it to be very informative.

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We sit out any bad weather and if needed would evacuate to a designated area in a campground, pull into a parking lot and seek shelter inside whatever building there was, or our current summer location has an underground shelter.

 

I have been in the area of 3 tornadoes that I remember and can tell you that up north, as Linda says, the sky during the day will turn a funny yellow greenish color. It's the nighttime bad weather I don't like. Another thing is that they do sound like a freight train. Hopefully if you ever hear one it will be in the distance moving away from you. We pay attention to the weather wherever we are and parked or traveling.

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If you can hear a tornado coming, you better get under/into whatever is the best cover in your immediate location as you don't have time to go to a shelter. What causes the most injuries is flying debris from the vortex as it passes close by. I have lived where they take place most of my life and I have helped to do recovery work from several, including Van, TX on Mother's Day, 2015. If you have nothing else, get into the bathtub and pull something like a mattress over you. If you can hear it while still in your RV, .................. all that I can think of is to get low and hang on for dear life!

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Several years ago there was a seminar that was put on by one of the trainers for the weather service for volunteer spotters. He taught a great deal about the kinds of formations and what they usually indicate. I attempted to find someone who could do that at next Escapade but was unable to locate anyone. It is an idea that I still have not given up and making happen, as I found it to be very informative.

Maybe try for one of the spotters rather than a trainer. Our former son-in-law was a member of SkyWarn and he would have been willing to do this but I don't know anyone in the area of the next Escapade.

 

Linda Sand

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In addition to all of the previous good information, I make it a practice to ALWAYS fill my tank up before I park and I normally keep a sharp eye on the National Weather Service NATIONAL Loop Radar. Sometimes its is hard to figure out exactly where you are, but with the NATIONAL LOOP Radar you can move it around enough, zoom in and out to figure where it is coming from and where it is going.

 

Usually tornadoes generally move from southwest to northeast, but some times they don't know that.

 

The reason I am up right now is that the HUGE system that the weatherman said was going to go west of Dallas decided to do it's own thing and encompass about 1/3 of Texas. Oh well, all I would have been doing was sleeping.

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