You and your family are packed into your recreational vehicle, heading out of town for a much-needed vacation to kick off the summer.
The skies were clear when you left home, but several hours out the skies turn dark and ominous. Suddenly, rain pours down in buckets and you can hardly see.
A flashing road sign instructs drivers to turn to the highway’s emergency radio station. A severe thunderstorm warning, complete with quarter-sized hail and exceptionally high winds, is being issued for several local counties.
But you have no idea what county you’re in. Are you heading directly into the path of severe weather? Have tornado watches or warnings been issued?
When planning for a road trip, people often think to check the weather at their destination so they know which clothes to pack and the type of activities to prepare for. But how many people think to track the weather along their route?
Some RVers may look at a national summary forecast to get a gist of their route’s weather, but they may not have information on the specifics. Who knows what counties they’ll be going through, what the weather will be like, and when or where they can stop if the weather becomes too severe?
One useful tool to assist the traveler in planning ahead is the AccuWeather.com Road Trip Planner.
Using directions by Google Maps, Road Trip Planner allows you to not only enter your start and end points to get detailed driving directions; you can also input the time you plan to leave to see hourly weather forecasts along your route.
In the image below you live in Burlington (Vermont) and plan to take your family on a vacation to Cape Cod. Using Road Trip Planner, you select that you are leaving your address at 9:00 a.m. and heading to a specific location.
A list of directions will be generated, as well as a map that shows your route and the weather you can expect along the way. It approximates where you should be in hourly intervals and gives you the weather and temperature for that area.
If you were to see that you should be near the Methuen (Massachusetts) area around 2:00 p.m., and that they are expecting rain, you could research what counties you’ll be passing through so you can understand emergency warnings. You’d know to keep your umbrella easily accessible in the cockpit area.
You could also look for a place where you can stop temporarily in case the rain reduces your visibility so that you no longer feel safe on the road. You could look up the town on AccuWeather.com to see if a warning for flash flooding or severe weather is posted.
While you’re on the road it is crucial that you pay attention to all lights and signs.
Keep your radio on and tuned to the weather channel. Ensure that you heed all watches and warnings.
“Watches, like severe thunderstorm watches and tornado watches, which are two of the most common types, are issued when weather conditions are conducive for the event to occur,” said AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Mike Pigott.
A “tornado watch,” for example, includes the “large hail and damaging wind threats, as well as the possibility of multiple tornadoes,” according to NOAA National Weather Service.
“Warnings are different. A warning is issued when the weather event is happening now,” Pigott said.
“In terms of flooding, for instance, a flood warning means a river has spilled over or flash flooding is occurring.”
Your RV or car is NOT a safe place to be if a flash flood or a tornado is coming through the area, so if the weather is turning severe find a secure place to stop and wait out the worst of the storm.
Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle so you don’t end up stranded without the proper supplies.
By taking the time to prepare before you hit the road, you could save yourself hours of aggravation during your trip.
In poor visibility, drive slowly and put on your hazard lights. It’s always better to be late to your destination than to get in an accident and not arrive at all.
You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.