What To Do When Stormy Weather Hits Your Campground

You’re­ on what you ho­pe­ will be a leisurely RV camping­ trip. It’s a warm summer afternoon.

Following several days of rain, one RVer leaves Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona
Following several days of rain, one RVer leaves Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Suddenly, a few raindrops splat your arms, and before you know it, the sky opens up. Then you hear thunder in the distance. What should you do to ensure your family’s safety?

Stormy weather can happen at any time, anywhere.

What to do when it storms at your campsite is a common question for many campers—especially when they’re camping during the steamy, thunderstorm-prone summer months. Thunderstorms are common throughout the US and Canada, but they occur most frequently during the summer months in the Southeast, Midwest, and Great Plains.

While yo­ur best choice depends on the severity of the storm and your location, being prepared to act quickly could be a matter of survival. Knowing what to do before, during, and following severe weather is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count.

Be Informed

Know the risk in your area for hurricanestornadosthunderstorms, damaging winds, dust storms, blizzards, ice storms, and other severe weather phenomena.

NOAA Weather Radio continuously broadcasts National Weather Service warnings, watches, alerts, forecasts, and other hazard information 24 hours a day. It also broadcasts alerts of non-weather emergencies such as national security, natural, environmental, and public safety.

Following several days of rain, a path is cleared across the wah allowing RVers to leave Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Following several days of rain, a path is cleared across the wash allowing RVers to leave Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The average range is 40 miles, depending on topography. The National Weather Service recommends purchasing a radio that has both a battery backup and a tone-alert feature which automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued.

Make a Weather Disaster Plan

Create a weather disaster plan, put an emergency survival kit together, and keep important papers and valuables in a safe place.

Most emergency preparedness plans have several steps in common, such as having a well-stocked first aid kit.

Begin your plan with one or more ways of staying on top of weather forecasts. RVers commonly travel with TV reception, computers, or cell phone Internet access, useful for getting weather reports.

Some communities use sirens as a warning system. Check with your RV campground regarding local siren signals, their storm warning system, and location of nearest tornado shelter.

Build an Emergency Kit

Assemble your emergency survival kit well in advance of an emergency. You may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice and will NOT have time to search for the supplies you need.

Have an emergency package of basic supplies, and keep them readily accessible in an easy-to-carry kit.

Prepare for a weather disaster by gathering emergency supplies including water, non-perishable food, can opener, first aid kit, medications and medical treatment items, flashlights, cell phone with charger, NOAA Weather Radio, emergency cash, pet supplies, important personal documents and medical information, road maps, emergency blankets, flameless LED candles, emergency tools, emergency contact information including family, friends, and doctors, and a full tank of fuel.

Following several days of rain, a path is cleared across the wash allowing RVers to leave Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Following several days of rain, a path is cleared across the wash allowing RVers to leave Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You personal documents such include copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.

Additional Safety Tips

ALWAYS know the county in which you are located, so that you can get accurate weather information (National Weather Service severe weather warnings are issued based on counties).

DO NOT drive into a flooded area.

30/30 Rule – if the time between lightning strikes and thunder is less than 30 seconds, you need to take shelter.

NEVER try to outrun a tornado in any vehicle; instead, take shelter immediately. When a tornado approaches, anyone in its path should move to a pre-designated shelter—preferably a designated storm shelter or basement. Recreational vehicles and mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.

Stay in regular contact with your family or close friends—let them know you are safe.

Worth Pondering…

Safety doesn’t happen by accident.

Read More

RV Severe Weather Safety Tips

Severe weather can happen at any time, anywhere.

Source: accuweather.com
Source: accuweather.com

Being prepared to act quickly could be a matter of survival. Knowing what to do before, during, and following severe weather is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count.

Be Informed

Know the risk in your area for hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, damaging winds, dust storms, wild fires, blizzards, ice storms, and other severe weather phenomena.

Visit weather.gov to get the latest on weather threats.

NOAA Weather Radio is a network of radio stations in the U.S. that broadcast continuous weather information directly from a nearby Weather Forecast Office of the service’s operator, National Weather Service (NWS), an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA Weather Radio continuously broadcasts National Weather Service warnings, watches, alerts, forecasts, and other hazard information 24 hours a day. It also broadcasts alerts of non-weather emergencies such as national security, natural, environmental, and public safety.

Source: epawablogs.com
Source: epawablogs.com

The average range is 40 miles, depending on topography. The National Weather Service recommends purchasing a radio that has both a battery backup and a tone-alert feature which automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued.

Make a Weather Disaster Plan

The next step in severe weather preparedness is creating a weather disaster plan, putting an emergency kit together, and keeping important papers and valuables in a safe place.

Most emergency preparedness plans have several steps in common, such as having a well-stocked first aid kit. Some general disaster plan steps and resources common to any weather emergency would benefit most RVers.

Begin your plan with one or more ways of staying on top of weather forecasts. RVers commonly travel with TV reception, computers, or cell phone Internet access, useful for getting weather reports.

Some communities use sirens as a warning system. Check with your campground regarding local siren signals, storm shelters, and its weather emergency plan.

Build an Emergency Kit

Assemble your emergency survival kit well in advance of an emergency. You may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice and will NOT have time to search for the supplies you need.

Have an emergency package of basic supplies, and keep them readily accessible in an easy-to-carry kit.

Prepare for a weather disaster by gathering emergency supplies including water, non-perishable food, can opener, first aid kit, medications and medical treatment items, flashlights, extra batteries, cell phone with charger, NOAA Weather radio, emergency cash, pet supplies, important personal documents and medical information, road maps, emergency blankets, flameless LED candles, emergency tools, emergency contact information including family, friends, and doctors, and a full tank of fuel.

You personal documents such include copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.

Additional Safety Tips

Source: eye4weather.info
Source: eye4weather.info

ALWAYS know the county in which you are located, so that you can get accurate weather information (National Weather Service severe weather warnings are issued based on counties).

DO NOT drive into a flooded area.

30/30 Rule – if the time between lightning strikes and thunder is less than 30 seconds, you need to take shelter.

NEVER try to outrun a tornado in any vehicle; instead, take shelter immediately. When a tornado approaches, anyone in its path should move to a pre-designated shelter—preferably a designated storm shelter or basement. Recreational vehicles and mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.

Stay in regular contact with your family or close friends—let them know you are safe.

Worth Pondering…

Safety doesn’t happen by accident.

Read More

Prepare for Stormy Weather with Quick Exit Plan

Given the rash of severe weather that’s been striking the United States and Canada this spring and summer, it would be prudent for all campers and RVers to have a quick exit plan in place regardless of where you travel.

Following heavy rains in the mountains a wash separating the campground from the entrance road at Catalina State Park near Tucson flooded stranding campers for several days. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Following heavy rains in the mountains a wash separating the campground from the entrance road at Catalina State Park near Tucson flooded stranding campers for several days. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Water is a major feature at numerous campgrounds and RV parks. Many state and provincial parks and other public recreation areas are in low-lying areas that are susceptible to flooding during periods of heavy precipitation.

Access to current weather reports and related information—weather radio, mobile wireless phone, satellite radio—will enable campers to be on top of the weather and to take proactive measures in the event of high waters, flood, thunderstorms, or other severe weather conditions.

Be Prepared 

Be prepared for changing weather conditions.

Make sure your fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries installed.

Keep the RV and toad or tow vehicle fuel tank, propane tank, and fresh water tank filled.

Maintain the correct air pressure in the RV and toad or tow vehicle tires.

Travel with a wireless mobile phone and charger, GPS navigation system, adequate maps, and a good road atlas.

Following a path cleared by state park staff, RVs were able to leave Catalina State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Following a path cleared by state park staff, RVs were able to leave Catalina State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Always carry a first aid kit in your RV. Whether you buy a ready-made first aid kit or put together your own, be sure to keep it well stocked.

Include items such as adhesive bandages in assorted sizes, sterile gauze pads (dressings) in small and large squares, adhesive tape, antiseptic solutions (such as hydrogen peroxide), antiseptic wipes, antibiotic cream, anti-itch cream, burn cream, throat lozenges, cold pack, thermometer, scissors, tweezers, safety pins, disposable non-latex gloves, and triangular bandages to hold dressings in place or to make an arm sling.

Don’t forget to include a first-aid manual.

Travel with an adequate supply of prescription medications.

Maintain a well-stocked emergency supply kit that includes extra blankets, non-perishable packaged or canned food items, bottled water, garbage bags, manual can opener, flashlights, spare batteries, extra medication, protective weather apparel, and any other personal items needed for an emergency.

Tools to keep handy include booster (jumper) cables, road flares, wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, and duct tape.

At the RV Park

Formulate an emergency plan once you arrive at the campground—not when a storm is barreling towards you.

If the weather turns foul, what will you do? Where will you seek shelter? At what point do you consider evacuating the campground?

Does the RV Park have an emergency evacuation plan in case of severe weather? Inquire when you register. If they do not have a plan, devise your own. Where is the nearest storm shelter?

Plan an evacuation route. Make sure you know at least two ways out of your RV site in the event of downed trees, downed electrical lines, or flooding.

Following a path cleared by state park staff, RVs were able to leave Catalina State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Following a path cleared by state park staff, RVs were able to leave Catalina State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When camping during severe weather, park the RV in a sheltered area. Do not camp near power lines or under large trees. Avoid low areas prone to flash flooding. During lightning, it is always safe to be inside the RV.

Retract awnings in high winds and while away from the RV.

In the event you need to evacuate the campground do not drive through standing or running water. Moving water can sweep away your vehicle, and roads covered by standing water are prone to collapse.

Following these easy steps will ensure you’re prepared to protect yourself and your RV.

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing.

Please Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

Part 2: Track the Weather

Worth Pondering…

Whether the weather be fine,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the whether,
Whether we like it or not
—Anon

Read More

The One-Eyed Monster: Storm Surge & Saffir-Simpson Scale

The greatest potential for loss of life related to a hurricane is from the storm surge!

Storm Surge

Depiction of a fifteen foot hurricane storm surge occurring at high tide of two feet about mean sea level, creating a seventeen foot storm tide (Source: NOAA SLOSH Display Training Manual
Depiction of a fifteen foot hurricane storm surge occurring at high tide of two feet about mean sea level, creating a seventeen foot storm tide (Source: NOAA SLOSH Display Training Manual

Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level to heights impacting roads, homes and other critical infrastructure.

In addition, wind driven waves are superimposed on the storm tide. This rise in water level can cause severe flooding in coastal areas, particularly when the storm tide coincides with the normal high tides. Because much of the United States’ densely populated Atlantic and Gulf Coast coastlines lie less than 10 feet above mean sea level, the danger from storm tides is tremendous.

The storm surge combined with wave action can cause extensive damage, severely erode beaches and coastal highways. With major storms like Katrina, Camille, and Hugo, complete devastation of coastal communities occurred. Many buildings withstand hurricane force winds until their foundations, undermined by erosion, are weakened and fail.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale Summary (Source: encyclopedia.com)
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale Summary (Source: encyclopedia.com)

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale classifies hurricanes into five categories based on their sustained wind speed at the indicated time.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale provides information on wind impacts only. The scale does not address the potential for other hurricane-related impacts, such as storm surge, rainfall-induced floods, and tornadoes.

Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and property. Category 1 and 2 storms are still dangerous, however, and require preventive measures.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale Summary

Category 1
Sustained winds:
74-95 mph
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage
Minor damage to exterior of homes
Toppled tree branches, uprooting of smaller trees
Extensive damage to power lines, power outages

Category 2
Sustained winds:
96-110 mph
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage
Major damage to exterior of homes
Uprooting of small trees and many roads blocked
Guaranteed power outages for long periods of time – days to weeks

Category 3
Sustained winds:
111-129 mph
Devastating damage will occur
Extensive damage to exterior of homes
Many trees uprooted and many roads blocked
Extremely limited availability of water and electricity

Category 4
Sustained winds:
130-156 mph
Catastrophic damage will occur
Loss of roof structure and/or some exterior walls
Most trees uprooted and most power lines down
Isolated residential due to debris pile up
Power outages lasting for weeks to months

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (Source: earlyalert.com)
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (Source: earlyalert.com)

Category 5
Sustained winds:
157 mph or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur
A high percentage of homes will be destroyed
Fallen trees and power lines isolate residential areas
Power outages lasting for weeks to months
Most areas will be uninhabitable

Note: This Part 4 of a 4-part series on Hurricanes and the RVer

Part 1: Hurricane Primer for RVers

Part 2: Are You Prepared for This Year’s Hurricane Season?

Part 3: Hurricane Season: A Primer

Worth Pondering…

Name the season’s first hurricane Zelda and fool Mother Nature into calling it a year.

—Robert Brault

Read More

Hurricane Season: A Primer

The ingredients for a hurricane include a pre-existing weather disturbance, warm tropical oceans, moisture, and relatively light winds aloft.

How do hurricanes form? (Credit: weatherwizkids.com)
How do hurricanes form? (Credit: weatherwizkids.com)

If the right conditions persist long enough, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains, storm surges, and floods we associate with this phenomenon.

For a hurricane to form, the ocean water must be warmer than 81degrees. The heat and moisture from this warm water is ultimately the source of energy for hurricanes.

Hurricanes evolve through a life cycle of stages from birth to death. A tropical disturbance in time can grow to a more intense stage by attaining a sustained wind speed of 74 mph. Hurricanes can often live for a long period of time—as much as two to three weeks. They may initiate as a cluster of thunderstorms over the tropical ocean waters.

Once a disturbance has become a tropical depression, the amount of time it takes to achieve the next stage, tropical storm, can take as little as half a day to as much as a couple of days. It may not happen at all. The same may occur for the amount of time a tropical storm needs to intensify into a hurricane. Atmospheric and oceanic conditions play major roles in determining these events.

Hurricanes are huge, really enormous in size. The average hurricane is 200-400 miles across. Big ones will be 550-plus miles.

The relative strength of a hurricane is measured on a scale based on its greatest wind speed. This scale is named the Saffir-Simpson Scale for the men who invented it. This scale ranges from categories 1 to 5, with category 1 hurricanes being the weakest, and 5s the most intense. Hurricanes strong enough to be considered intense start at category 3 or with sustained winds exceeding 111 mph.

This photo is a composite of three days' views (Aug. 23, 24, and 25, 1992) of Hurricane Andrew as it slowly moved across south Florida from east to west. (Credit: NASA)
This photo is a composite of three days’ views (Aug. 23, 24, and 25, 1992) of Hurricane Andrew as it slowly moved across south Florida from east to west. (Credit: NASA)

There have only been two category 5 hurricanes that made landfall on the mainland U.S. (Florida Keys 1935 and Camille 1969). Recent intense hurricanes to make landfall on the United States were Opal in 1995 and Fran in 1996.

On average ten tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico each storm season. Many of these remain over the ocean. Six of these storms become hurricanes each year.

In an average three-year period, roughly five hurricanes strike the United States coastline, killing approximately 50 to 100 people anywhere from Texas to Maine. Of these, two are typically “major” or “intense” hurricanes, with winds greater than 110 mph.

Researchers continue to investigate possible interactions between hurricane frequency and El Niño. El Niño is a phenomenon where ocean surface temperatures become warmer than normal in the equatorial Pacific. In general, warm El Niño events are characterized by more tropical storms and hurricanes in the eastern Pacific and a decrease in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea.

Under the right atmospheric conditions, hurricanes can sustain themselves for as long as a couple of weeks. Upon reaching cooler water or land, hurricanes rapidly lose intensity.

Hurricanes don’t occur suddenly, like in the movies. It takes days and weeks for hurricanes to build from tropical depression, to tropical storm, and finally to hurricane. There is plenty of warning before a hurricane hits.

Hurricanes normally travel slowly averaging 10-20 miles an hour, though on rare occasions they can move along as fast as 70 mph or creep along at two or three.

Hurricanes do not travel in straight lines. They take curving paths, often looping and backtracking, and zig-zagging.

Hurricanes can have tremendous amounts of rain or very little.

Hurricanes have an eye, the center of the storm. The eye can be from five to 120 miles across with most being 20-40. The eye can be eerily calm with clear skies, fooling people into thinking the storm is over. However, once the eye passes over, the other half of the storm is still left to endure, with sudden ferocious winds coming from the opposite direction.

Threat Map for Hurricane season 2013 (Source: firstchoiceweather.com)
Threat Map for Hurricane season 2013 (Source: firstchoiceweather.com)

The sustained winds of a hurricane (74 to over 190 mph) are destructive and cause severe damage. However, hurricanes often spawn numerous tornadoes which also cause much of the damage. Flying debris can be a bigger hazard than the wind itself.

Hurricanes are tropical in nature but are not restricted to tropical areas, the coast, or the summer. Some of the worst and most damaging hurricanes have hit the Carolinas and northward in September.

The majority of hurricanes occur during late August and September.

Note: This is Part 3 of a 4-part series on Hurricanes and the RVer

Part 1: Hurricane Primer for RVers

Part 2: Are You Prepared for This Year’s Hurricane Season?

Part 4: The One-Eyed Monster: Storm Surge & Saffir-Simpson Scale

Worth Pondering…

Two things Florida can teach the other 49 states: how to make a good margarita and how to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane.
—Tom Feeney

Read More

Are You Prepared for This Year’s Hurricane Season?

A major problem is most everyone—yes, including many RVers—thinks they can ride out a hurricane or that it’s not going to be all that severe, or more commonly, like thousands of others, wait until the last minute then find themselves stalled in a heavy traffic along with all the unprepared, last minute evacuees watching as their half-empty fuel gauge sucks out the last drops of fuel.

Evacuation is the key to safely surviving a hurricane and your RV gives you a great advantage. But, don’t wait too long. Photo: Hurricane Rita evacuation. (Source: http://media.photobucket.com/user/JenThomasson)
Evacuation is the key to safely surviving a hurricane and your RV gives you a great advantage. But, don’t wait too long. Photo: Hurricane Rita evacuation. (Source: http://media.photobucket.com/user/JenThomasson)

Hurricanes Warrant Evacuation

Evacuation is the key to safely surviving a hurricane and your RV gives you a great advantage. But, don’t wait too long. As soon as you know a hurricane is on its way, load up your RV and head inland.

Hurricanes and tropical storms often stall once they make landfall generating torrential downpours, flash floods, hail, lightening, and/or tornados. Between 1970 and 1999, 59 percent of deaths from hurricanes were caused by freshwater flooding.

Since the path of the storm may change requiring you to alter your evacuation route, stay informed as you travel. The most useful item to stay informed of current weather information is a NOAA Weather radio. Make sure you have fresh batteries in the radio and carry plenty of spares.

Snowbirds and full time RVers will already have many of the supplies needed to live for up to a week. Part time RVers should check the contents of their rigs in preparation for the hurricane season.

Lay in supplies as though you are going off to boondock somewhere for a week. Ensure that you take plenty of extra drinking water.

Hurricane Season is Upon Us– Are You Ready? (Source: ladycouturemag.com)
Hurricane Season is Upon Us– Are You Ready? (Source: ladycouturemag.com)

Keep your fuel tank and propane tank topped off because there will be long lines at gas stations when the evacuation rush is on.

Be aware that severe weather can begin many hours before the eye of the hurricane lands and winds, water surges, and storm conditions can be severe and worsen.

Even if you’re among the first to evacuate you may find full RV parks and campgrounds.

Replenish your first aid kit and check on prescription medications.

Ensure you have clothes and supplies for everyone on board including the family pet. Keep cell phones and two way radios fully charged.

Keep everyone in your family, or group, informed of plans.

By the time a hurricane is named you should be following its location and be pretty well prepared.

Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in United States history. (Source: uptownmagazine.com)
Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in United States history. (Source: uptownmagazine.com)

You don’t fool around with either hurricanes or tornadoes! Only advantage—if there is one—of hurricanes is you have far more warning and better tracking than you do with tornado.

Note: This is the Part 2 of a 4-part series on Hurricanes and the RVer

Part 1: Hurricane Primer for RVers

Part 3: Hurricane Season: A Primer

Part 4: The One-Eyed Monster: Storm Surge & Saffir-Simpson Scale

Worth Pondering…

Anyone who says they’re not afraid at the time of a hurricane is either a fool or a liar, or a little bit of both.
—Anderson Cooper

Read More

Hurricane Primer for RVers

Hurricanes can have an impact anywhere along the East Coast, Gulf Coast, and even thousands of miles inland.

Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Hurricane Wilma was a category 5 hurricane and one of the costliest storms in history. Hurricane Wilma's highest sustained winds was at 185 mph. Lowest pressure point measured at 882 mbar. (Credit: hurricane-facts.com)
Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Hurricane Wilma was a category 5 hurricane and one of the costliest storms in history. Hurricane Wilma’s highest sustained winds was at 185 mph. Lowest pressure point measured at 882 mbar. (Credit: hurricane-facts.com)

During the 2012 hurricane season, Sandy led to Presidential disaster declarations in 13 states, sweeping from Maine to West Virginia.

Now is the time to prepare for the start of this year’s hurricane season

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface.

All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes. Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast also experience heavy rains and floods each year from hurricanes spawned off Mexico.

The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.

Hurricane can produce winds exceeding 155 miles per hour as well as spawn tornadoes and mircrobursts.

Flooding over access road 523 to Surfside beach, caused by Hurricane Ike forming in the Gulf of Mexico, is seen near Surfside Beach, Texas, September 12, 2008. (Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria)
Flooding over access road 523 to Surfside beach, caused by Hurricane Ike forming in the Gulf of Mexico, is seen near Surfside Beach, Texas, September 12, 2008. (Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Additionally, hurricanes can create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall. Floods and flying debris from the excessive winds are often the deadly and destructive results of these weather events.

Slow moving hurricanes traveling into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain. Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides. Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall.

Hurricane Preparation for RVers

If you RV on the East Coast, through the southern Gulf States to Texas, you’re already aware that Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico hurricanes and tropical storms are a fact of life from June 1 through November 30 and the height of the hurricane season occurs from late August through early October.

Although less common, they also occur on the Pacific Coast in southern California and Baja California, Mexico.

Any day now, you’ll turn on the TV and see a meteorologist pointing to a radar blob in the Gulf of Mexico make two basic meteorological points:

  • There is no need to panic
  • We could all be killed

You may wish to follow this simple three-step hurricane preparedness plan:

  • Step 1: Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at least seven days
  • Step 2: Load these supplies into your recreational vehicle
  • Step 3: Drive to Wyoming and stay there until after Thanksgiving
The pre-Hurricane Charley aerial photo on the left was taken several days following the passage of 2001’s Tropical Storm Gabrielle. Note the two relatively small breaches in the central part of the island. On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley carved the 450-m-wide breach that is shown in the right photo and in more detail in the first photo pair above. (Credit: coastal.er.usgs.gov)
The pre-Hurricane Charley aerial photo on the left was taken several days following the passage of 2001’s Tropical Storm Gabrielle. Note the two relatively small breaches in the central part of the island. On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley carved the 450-m-wide breach that is shown in the right photo and in more detail in the first photo pair above. (Credit: coastal.er.usgs.gov)

While you may deem this plan to be somewhat overkill, it begs the question: What should RVers do?

Above all else, use common sense and remain calm.

Planning and preparation is the key—and that’s where you should start NOW.

As an RVer you are already several steps ahead in preparation for a hurricane.

Before a Hurricane

To prepare for a hurricane, you should take the following measures:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know your surroundings.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes.

Note: This is Part 1 of a 4-part series on Hurricanes and the RVer

Part 2: Are You Prepared for This Year’s Hurricane Season?

Part 3: Hurricane Season: A Primer

Part 4: The One-Eyed Monster: Storm Surge & Saffir-Simpson Scale

Worth Pondering…

The first rule of hurricane coverage is that every broadcast must begin with palm trees bending in the wind.
—Carl Hiaasen

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NOAA Predicts Near-Normal 2012 Hurricane Season

Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season, NOAA announced from Miami at its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and home to the Hurricane Research Division.

Hurricane Irene in 2011 was a reminder that tropical systems can affect the Northeast and of the threat of inland flooding. (Credit: NOAA)
Hurricane Irene in 2011 was a reminder that tropical systems can affect the Northeast and of the threat of inland flooding. (Credit: NOAA)

For the entire six-month season, which began June 1, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms (with top winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane (with top winds of 74 mph or higher) and of those one to three will become major hurricanes (with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4, or 5).

Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

“NOAA’s outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D.

“But regardless of the outlook, it’s vital for anyone living or vacationing in hurricane-prone locations to be prepared. We have a stark reminder this year with the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.”

Andrew, the Category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida on August 24, 1992, was the first storm in a late-starting season that produced only six named storms.

Favoring storm development in 2012: the continuation of the overall conditions associated with the Atlantic high-activity era that began in 1995, in addition to near-average sea surface temperatures across much of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, known as the Main Development Region.

August 24, 2012 will be the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew's devastating landfall in South Florida. (Credit: NOAA)
August 24, 2012 will be the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew’s devastating landfall in South Florida. (Credit: NOAA)

Two factors now in place that can limit storm development, if they persist, are: strong wind shear, which is hostile to hurricane formation in the Main Development Region, and cooler sea surface temperatures in the far eastern Atlantic.

“Another potentially competing climate factor would be El Niño if it develops by late summer to early fall. In that case, conditions could be less conducive for hurricane formation and intensification during the peak months (August-October) of the season, possibly shifting the activity toward the lower end of the predicted range,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

“NOAA’s improvement in monitoring and predicting hurricanes has been remarkable over the decades since Andrew, in large part because of our sustained commitment to research and better technology. But more work remains to unlock the secrets of hurricanes, especially in the area of rapid intensification and weakening of storms,” said Lubchenco.

“We’re stepping up to meet this challenge through our Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project, which has already demonstrated exciting early progress toward improving storm intensity forecasts.”

Lubchenco added that more accurate forecasts about a storm’s intensity at landfall and extending the forecast period beyond five days will help America become a more Weather-Ready Nation.

The seasonal outlook does not predict how many storms will hit land. Forecasts for individual storms and their impacts are provided by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, which continuously monitors the tropics for storm development and tracking throughout the season using an array of tools including satellites, advance computer modeling, hurricane hunter aircraft, and land- and ocean-based observations sources such as radars and buoys.

“Every hurricane season we ask families, communities, and businesses to ensure they are prepared,” said Tim Manning, FEMA deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness.

“Being prepared includes developing a family emergency plan, putting an emergency kit together or updating your existing kit, keeping important papers and valuables in a safe place, and getting involved to ensure your community is ready.”

Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Hurricane Wilma was a category 5 hurricane and one of the costliest storms in history. Hurricane Wilma's highest sustained winds was at 185 mph. Lowest pressure point measured at 882 mbar. (Credit: hurricane-facts.com)
Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Hurricane Wilma was a category 5 hurricane and one of the costliest storms in history. Hurricane Wilma’s highest sustained winds was at 185 mph. Lowest pressure point measured at 882 mbar. (Credit: hurricane-facts.com)

NOAA’s outlook for the Eastern Pacific basin is for a near-normal hurricane season and the Central Pacific basin is expected to have a below-normal season. NOAA will issue an updated seasonal outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season in early August, just prior to the historical peak of the season.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

Worth Pondering…

Anyone who says they’re not afraid at the time of a hurricane is either a fool or a liar, or a little bit of both.
—Anderson Cooper

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Hurricane Primer

The ingredients for a hurricane include a pre-existing weather disturbance, warm tropical oceans, moisture, and relatively light winds aloft. If the right conditions persist long enough, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains, and floods we associate with this phenomenon.

How do hurricanes form? (Credit: weatherwizkids.com)

For a hurricane to form, the ocean water must be warmer than 81degrees. The heat and moisture from this warm water is ultimately the source of energy for hurricanes.

Hurricanes evolve through a life cycle of stages from birth to death. A tropical disturbance in time can grow to a more intense stage by attaining a sustained wind speed of 74 mph. Hurricanes can often live for a long period of time—as much as two to three weeks. They may initiate as a cluster of thunderstorms over the tropical ocean waters.

Once a disturbance has become a tropical depression, the amount of time it takes to achieve the next stage, tropical storm, can take as little as half a day to as much as a couple of days. It may not happen at all. The same may occur for the amount of time a tropical storm needs to intensify into a hurricane. Atmospheric and oceanic conditions play major roles in determining these events.

Hurricanes are huge, really enormous in size. The average hurricane is 200-400 miles across. Big ones will be 550-plus miles.

The relative strength of a hurricane is measured on a scale based on its greatest wind speed. This scale is named the Saffir-Simpson scale for the men who invented it. This scale ranges from categories 1 to 5, with category 1 hurricanes being the weakest, and 5s the most intense. Hurricanes strong enough to be considered intense start at category 3 or with sustained winds exceeding 111 mph.

There have only been two category 5 hurricanes that made landfall on the mainland U.S. (Florida Keys 1935 and Camille 1969). Recent intense hurricanes to make landfall on the United States were Opal in 1995 and Fran in 1996.

This photo is a composite of three days' views (Aug. 23, 24, and 25, 1992) of Hurricane Andrew as it slowly moved across south Florida from east to west. (Credit: NASA)

On average ten tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico each storm season. Many of these remain over the ocean. Six of these storms become hurricanes each year. In an average three-year period, roughly five hurricanes strike the United States coastline, killing approximately 50 to 100 people anywhere from Texas to Maine. Of these, two are typically “major” or “intense” hurricanes, with winds greater than 110 mph.

Researchers continue to investigate possible interactions between hurricane frequency and El Niño. El Niño is a phenomenon where ocean surface temperatures become warmer than normal in the equatorial Pacific. In general, warm El Niño events are characterized by more tropical storms and hurricanes in the eastern Pacific and a decrease in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea.

Under the right atmospheric conditions, hurricanes can sustain themselves for as long as a couple of weeks. Upon reaching cooler water or land, hurricanes rapidly lose intensity.

Hurricanes don’t occur suddenly, like in the movies. It takes days and weeks for hurricanes to build from tropical depression, to tropical storm, and finally to hurricane. There is plenty of warning before a hurricane hits.

Hurricanes normally travel slowly averaging 10-20 miles an hour, though on rare occasions they can move along as fast as 70 mph or creep along at two or three.

Hurricanes do not travel in straight lines. They take curving paths, often looping and backtracking, and zig-zagging.

Hurricanes can have tremendous amounts of rain or very little.

The pre-Hurricane Charley aerial photo on the left was taken several days following the passage of 2001’s Tropical Storm Gabrielle. Note the two relatively small breaches in the central part of the island. On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley carved the 450-m-wide breach that is shown in the right photo and in more detail in the first photo pair above. (Credit: coastal.er.usgs.gov)

Hurricanes have an eye, the centre of the storm. The eye can be from five to 120 miles across with most being 20-40. The eye can be eerily calm with clear skies, fooling people into thinking the storm is over. However, once the eye passes over, the other half of the storm is still left to endure, with sudden ferocious winds coming from the opposite direction.

The sustained winds of a hurricane (74 to over 190 mph) are destructive and cause severe damage. However, hurricanes often spawn numerous tornadoes which also cause much of the damage. Flying debris can be a bigger hazard than the wind itself.

Hurricanes are tropical in nature but are not restricted to tropical areas, the coast, or the summer. Some of the worst and most damaging hurricanes have hit the Carolinas and northward in September.

The majority of hurricanes occur during late August and September.

Note: This is the second of a two-part series on Hurricanes and the RVer

Part 2: Hurricane Preparedness for RVers

Worth Pondering…

Two things Florida can teach the other 49 states: how to make a good margarita and how to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane.
—Tom Feeney

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Hurricane Preparedness for RVers

If you RV on the East Coast, through the southern Gulf States to Texas, you’re already aware that Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico hurricanes and tropical storms are a fact of life from June 1 through November 30 and the height of the hurricane season occurs from late August through early October.

Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Hurricane Wilma was a category 5 hurricane and one of the costliest storms in history. Hurricane Wilma's highest sustained winds was at 185 mph. Lowest pressure point measured at 882 mbar. (Credit: hurricane-facts.com)

Although less common, they do occur on the Pacific Coast in southern California and Baja California, Mexico.

Any day now, as we enter the peak of the hurricane season, you’ll turn on the TV and see a meteorologist pointing to a radar blob in the Gulf of Mexico make two basic meteorological points:

  • There is no need to panic
  • We could all be killed

You may wish to follow this simple three-step hurricane preparedness plan:

  • Step 1: Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at least seven days
  • Step 2: Load these supplies into your recreational vehicle
  • Step 3: Drive to Wyoming and stay there until after Thanksgiving

While you may deem this plan to be somewhat overkill, it begs the question: What should RVers do?

Above all else, use common sense and remain calm.

Planning and preparation is the key—and that’s where you should start NOW. As an RVer you are already several steps ahead in preparation for a hurricane.

Hurricanes Warrant Evacuation

Twelve to 18 named tropical storms with winds of at least 39 miles (63 kilometers) an hour could form in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) head Jane Lubchenco (May 19, 2011). Credit: catastrophemonitor.com)

A major problem is most everyone—yes, including many RVers—thinks they can ride out a hurricane or that it’s not going to be all that severe, or more commonly, like thousands of others, wait until the last minute then find themselves stalled in a heavy traffic along with all the unprepared, last minute evacuees watching as their half-empty fuel gauge sucks out the last drops of fuel.

Evacuation is the key to safely surviving a hurricane and your RV gives you a great advantage. But, don’t wait too long. As soon as you know a hurricane is on its way, load up your RV and head inland.

Hurricanes and tropical storms often stall once they make landfall generating torrential downpours, flash floods, hail, lightening, and/or tornados. Between 1970 and 1999, 59 percent of deaths from hurricanes were caused by freshwater flooding.

Since the path of the storm may change requiring you to alter your evacuation route, stay informed as you travel. The most useful item to stay informed of current weather information is a NOAA Weather radio. Make sure you have fresh batteries in the radio and carry plenty of spares.

Snowbirds and full time RVers will already have many of the supplies needed to live for up to a week. Part time RVers should check the contents of their rigs in preparation for the hurricane season.

Lay in supplies as though you are going off to boondock somewhere for a week. Take plenty of extra water.

Flooding over access road 523 to Surfside beach, caused by Hurricane Ike forming in the Gulf of Mexico, is seen near Surfside Beach, Texas, September 12, 2008. (Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Keep your fuel tank and propane tank topped off because there will be long lines at gas stations when the evacuation rush is on.

Be aware that severe weather can begin many hours before the eye of the hurricane lands and winds, water surges, and storm conditions can be severe and worsen.

Even if you’re among the first to evacuate you may find full RV parks and campgrounds.

Replenish your first aid kit and check on prescription medications.

Ensure you have clothes and supplies for everyone on board including the family pet. Keep cell phones and two way radios fully charged.

Keep everyone in your family, or group, informed of plans.

By the time a hurricane is named you should be following its location and be pretty well prepared.

You don’t fool around with either hurricanes or tornadoes! Only advantage—if there is one—of hurricanes is you have far more warning and better tracking than you do with tornado.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Hurricanes and the RVer

Part 2: Hurricane Primer

Worth Pondering…
Anyone who says they’re not afraid at the time of a hurricane is either a fool or a liar, or a little bit of both.
—Anderson Cooper

Read More