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

Winter Weather Awareness Day

With early November marking by the first onslaught of winter weather in most parts of the US, many states proclaim a Winter Weather Awareness Day.

WinterWeatherAwarednessDayLOGOThis offers a good opportunity to think about and prepare for adverse winter weather.

Each year RVers and other motorists die from accidents caused by ice, snow, or fog.

In Texas, tomorrow, November 13, 2013, is designated as Winter Weather Awareness Day.

Have a plan of action when it comes to winter weather:

  • Check the weather forecast before you travel and have a way to receive National Weather Service Winter Storm Warnings
  • Monitor temperatures and visibilities
  • Drive according to the condition of the highway
  • Practice safe fire prevention
  • Assemble an emergency/disaster kit

Vehicle safety tips to observe during winter weather

Plan your travel and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm.

Patchy freezing drizzle or rain is deadly. When the temperature falls below 32 degrees, even a little mist, drizzle, or frost can create slick bridges and roadways. Slow down especially on overpasses and bridges.

winterweatherVedauwooEastWhen driving in low visibilities due to dense fog or snow, slow down and use your low beams.

Fully check and winterize your vehicle before you leave.

Keep your fuel tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

Always drive to the conditions of the highway.

Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes.

Fire and carbon monoxide safety tips for winter weather

Each year people die in RV fires and from carbon monoxide poisoning because of faulty heating sources.

Check fire extinguishers

Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Never use a generator, grill, or camp stove inside an RV. Locate unit away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come inside.

Maintain an emergency/disaster kit in your RV

Cell phone, charger, batteries

Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio

Flashlight with extra batteries

Fully stocked first-aid kit

A 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day)

Windshield scraper and brush

Tool kit (store on curb side of RV)

Battery booster cables

GPS and road maps

Prescription medicines

winterDetails

Texas Department of Transportation Highway Conditions

Phone: (800) 452-9292

Website: drivetexas.org

Texas Department of Public Safety Winter Storm and Ice Storm Preparedness

Website: txdps.state.tx.us

National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office

Website: srh.noaa.gov

NOAA, National Weather Service Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services

Website: nws.noaa.gov

Worth Pondering…

I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.

—Daniel Boone

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Track the Weather

The skies were clear when you left home or RV Park, but a few hours later the skies over the Interstate turned dark and ominous.

AccuWeather's Road Trip Planner provides the weather forecast for your route so you can plan ahead. (Source: accuweather.com)
AccuWeather’s Road Trip Planner provides the weather forecast for your route so you can plan ahead. (Source: accuweather.com)

Suddenly, rain starts pouring 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 counties in the area.

But you have no idea what county you’re in. Are you heading into the path of severe weather? Or is this cloud burst all that you’ll see?

Road Trip Planner

One way to help you plan 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 pick the time you are leaving to see hourly weather forecasts along your route.

Say you’re currently in Burlington, Vermont, and you are planning to drive your RV to Cape Cod.

You can go to the Road Trip Planner, select that you are leaving your current location at 9:30 a.m. and heading to a campground on Cape Cod. 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 predicts the weather and temperature for that area.

Website: accuweather.com

Earth Alerts: This disaster-watching program monitors online information related to severe, extreme, and violent weather and natural disasters in near real time, notifies you about alerts and updates, displays satellite data and imagery, and even lets you view the event in images and video.(Source: download.cnet.com)
Earth Alerts: This disaster-watching program monitors online information related to severe, extreme, and violent weather and natural disasters in near real time, notifies you about alerts and updates, displays satellite data and imagery, and even lets you view the event in images and video.(Source: download.cnet.com)

Earth Alerts

Earth Alerts is a free Windows-based application that allows you to monitor in near real-time a variety of natural hazard events that are occurring anywhere around the world. Alert notifications, reports, and imagery provide the user with a convenient way to view natural phenomenon as they occur, whether close to home or some far-flung corner of the globe.

Earth Alerts uses a variety of online resources provided by organizations such as the National Weather Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Smithsonian Institution (just to name a few).

Earth Alerts does more than just track weather-related phenomenon. Earth Alerts monitors multiple types of natural hazard events in a single application.

It keeps an eye out for earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, thunderstorms, floods, wildfires, and landslides.

You can select specific natural hazards or save specific locations. There’s also a mapping tool for viewing developing weather patterns. You can get all this information in near real-time alerts, too.

You can set Earth Alerts to hide in the tool bar and give you audio or visual alerts when new hazards occur. You can even have Earth Alerts send text messages to your phone or email.

You can even give it a try before you install.

Website: earthalerts.manyjourneys.com

Google Crisis Map

The Google Crisis Map gives you the most recent information on a storm's path. (Source: crisislanding.appspot.com)
The Google Crisis Map gives you the most recent information on a storm’s path. (Source: crisislanding.appspot.com)

The Google Crisis Map gives you the most recent information on a storm’s path. There’s an interactive map and a database of all the recent alerts and warnings. You’ll know when it’s time to evacuate or if it’s best to stay put.

A collection of national and regional-scale layers related to weather, hazards, and emergency preparedness and response, mostly for the US.

Website: crisislanding.appspot.com

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing.

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

Part 1: Prepare for Stormy Weather with Quick Exit Plan

Worth Pondering…

On the fourteenth day of April in 1935
There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky…
From Oklahoma City to the Arizona Line
Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande
It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down,
We thought it was our judgment, we thought it was our doom…
—Woody Guthrie, from his song, The Great Dust Storm

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Wind Flips High Profile Vehicles

Strong gusty winds caused problems for RVers, truckers, electrical crews, and even buildings in the Dakotas for the past two days (Wednesday and Thursday, October 17 and 18), has finally moved on.

South Dakota wind warning. (Source: valleynewslive.com)

According to the National Weather Service, strong northwest winds of 50 mph—gusting to 70 mph—persisted across South Dakota yesterday.

The South Dakota Department of Transportation advised motorists that extremely high winds were making travel difficult across the state, especially for high-profile vehicles such as semis, trucks, buses, and SUVs.

Motorists were advised to use extreme caution as many semis and vehicles tipped over on and along many roadways, especially in central and western South Dakota.

Gusting winds pushed trees onto several highways and blew down power lines and poles, causing temporary delays until highway maintenance crews arrived to clear the roads, according to an Associated Press report.

In the Black Hills area the Needles Highway was closed due to falling trees. Winding roads with a high number of pine-beetle infested trees were the areas of greatest concern.

South Dakota wind warning. (Source: valleynewslive.com)

KOTA reports that 77-mile-an-hour wind gusts broke off the top of a 40-foot electrical pole in Fort Pierre, and wind flipped a recreational vehicle at Fort Randall Dam.

Scattered power outages were reported across South Dakota and North Dakota. There was a power outage in the Black Hawk area around 2 a.m. Thursday but was restored around 3.

A building under construction in the New England North Dakota area collapsed. Tumbleweeds in Dickinson piled up as high as some buildings. Hess Corp. shut down some oil rig activity in the region.

“There is a low pressure system off to our east, and it’s creating a tight pressure gradient across the area. With a tighter pressure gradient, you get stronger winds,” meteorologist Katie Pojorlie of the National Weather Service office in Rapid City told the Associated Press.

As of about 3 p.m. Wednesday, the highest wind gust measured in western South Dakota blew across Union Center weather station at 72 mph, she said.

Downtown Rapid City logged a 68 mph wind gust, while Rapid City Regional Airport saw a 66 mph gust and 44 mph sustained winds, Pojorlie said.

A cold front also rolled in with the wind Tuesday night, dropping temperatures from the 60s and 70s to the 40s and 50s, Pojorlie said.

Sometime before 9 a.m. Wednesday, the wind is believed to have pushed a tree across a power line and on top of a house, Pojorlie said. The fire department responded, although no fire was started as a result of the fallen power line, she said. The fire crew waited until Black Hills Power arrived to handle it.

South Dakota wind warning. (Source: valleynewslive.com)

About 3:30 a.m., a small fire started on top of a power pole along East Philadelphia Street, and embers were falling from it, Colby said. A fire crew responded to keep the fire confined to the pole and waited for Black Hills Power to arrive to put out the fire, she said.

A fire is one of the department’s biggest concerns during a high wind event, Colby said.

“The wind will spread that fire quickly. It makes it very difficult to control,” Colby said.

Worth Pondering…
On the fourteenth day of April in 1935
There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky…
From Oklahoma City to the Arizona Line
Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande
It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down,
We thought it was our judgment, we thought it was our doom…
—Woody Guthrie, from his song, The Great Dust Storm

Read More

Why Worry About Thunderstorms?

A thunderstorm affects a relatively small area when compared to a hurricane or a winter storm. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Despite their small size, ALL thunderstorms are dangerous!

(Source: reocities.com)

Every thunderstorm needs:

  • Moisture—to form clouds and rain
  • Unstable air—warm air that can rise rapidly
  • Lift—caused by cold or warm fronts, sea breezes, mountains, or the sun’s heat

Thunderstorms can produce the following:

Lightning…

  • This natural phenomenon causes an average of 54 fatalities and 400 injuries each year, and accounts for more than $1 billion in insured losses each year
  • Lightning occurs with all thunderstorms and is directly related to the sound of the thunder
  • If you are outdoors and can hear thunder, you are in danger of being struck by lightning
  • Just remember, When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

Tornadoes…

  • Tornadoes cause an average of 60-65 fatalities and 1,500 injuries each year
  • Can produce wind speeds in excess of 200 mph
  • Can be one mile wide and stay on the ground over 50 miles
  • Tornadoes are usually the result of super-cell thunderstorms
  • Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air extending from a cloud to the ground and may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up, or a cloud forms within the tornado funnel
(Source: reocities.com)

Straight-line Winds…

  • Straight-line winds, resulting from downdraft bursts, can exceed 125 mph and can cause destruction equal to a tornado
  • Are extremely dangerous to aviation

Flash Floods and Floods…

  • Believe it or not, flash flooding is the number one killer associated with thunderstorms with more than 90 fatalities each year
  • Six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pickups
  • Flash floods can occur with little warning and are especially hazardous in low-lying areas
  • According to the National Weather Service (NWS), more than half of all flood-related deaths occur when a vehicle is driven into the floodwaters
  • If you see water crossing the roadway, don’t drive into it; turn around
  • Be especially vigilant in low-lying campgrounds, such as those along rivers and creeks

Hail…

  • These ice stones cause more than $1 billion in crop and property damage each year
  • Hail can be larger than a softball (five inches in diameter), fall at speeds of up to 100 mph, and do extensive damage to a recreational vehicle’s roof, slide toppers, and awning
  • Thunderstorms occur primarily in the spring and summer and are the result of moist, unstable air colliding with a cold front, warm front, sea breezes, mountains, or the sun’s heat, which results in lift
  • Moisture is drawn upward into the atmosphere, sometimes as high as 12 miles
  • Cooling, it condenses and freezes
  • When the weight of the frozen moisture overcomes the updraft, it falls
  • When the super-cooled liquid water particles (snow, ice pellets, and ice crystals) rub against each other near the freezing line in the atmosphere, the friction produces an electrical charge (when opposite charges meet, lightning results)
  • Thunder is the sound of super-heated air expanding away from the lightning at the speed of sound

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

(Source: NOAA)

How hot is lightning?

  • As lightning passes through air, it can heat the air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit—about five times hotter than the surface of the sun

How far away was that lightning?

  • The sound of thunder travels about a mile every five seconds
  • If you count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the crack of thunder and divide by 5, you get the number of miles away from you (10 seconds is 2 miles)

Worth Pondering…
If I’m on the course and lightning starts, I get inside fast. If God wants to play through, let him.

—Bob Hope

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Lightning: What You Need to Know

Before heading out in your recreational vehicle, ensure you have a plan and know what to do if you encounter severe weather.

Know what actions to take to protect yourself, family, pets, and property against severe weather. (Source: NOAA)

Summer is the peak season for one of the nation’s deadliest weather phenomena— lightning.

But don’t be fooled, lightning can strike year round.

Lightning is fascinating to watch but also extremely dangerous.

Understanding the dangers of lightning is important so that you can get to a safe place when thunderstorms threaten. If you hear thunder—even a distant rumble or a crackling aloft—you are already in danger of becoming a lightning victim.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), 1,800 thunderstorms occur at any moment around the world. That’s 16 million each year!

In the United States, there are about 25 million lightning flashes every year. Each of those 25 million flashes is a potential killer.

While lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. In addition, lightning injures many more people than it kills and leaves some victims with life-long health problems.

In the United States an average of 54 people are reported killed each year by lightning. To date, there have been 4 deaths in 2012—two in Louisiana and one each in Alabama and Florida. During 2011 there were 26 fatalities in 18 states.

Lightning also causes 400 injuries each year and accounts for more than $1 billion in insured losses each year.

Lightning is one of Mother Nature’s visual wonders. However, it can be very deadly. (Source: NOAA)

People struck by lightning suffer from a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms, including memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, chronic pain, numbness, dizziness, stiffness in joints, irritability, fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, depression, and more.

How Lightning Forms

Lightning is a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere or between the atmosphere and the ground. In the initial stages of development, air acts as an insulator between the positive and negative charges in the cloud and between the cloud and the ground; however, when the differences in charges become too great, this insulating capacity of the air breaks down and there is a rapid discharge of electricity that we know as lightning.

What is Thunder?

Thunder is the sound made by a flash of lightning. As lightning passes through the air, it heats the air quickly. This causes the air to expand rapidly and creates the sound wave that we hear as thunder.

Normally, you can hear thunder about 10 miles from a lightning strike. Since lightning can strike outward 10 miles from a thunderstorm, if you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm.

Lightning Safety

There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Remember, When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many of the lightning deaths and injuries.

A safe vehicle is any fully enclosed metal-topped vehicle such as a hard-topped car, minivan, truck, motor coach, and recreational vehicle. It is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires.

When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground.

Lightning is a serious danger. (Source: NOAA)

While inside a safe vehicle, do not use electronic devices such as radio communications during a thunderstorm.

Don’t lean on doors during a thunderstorm.

Unsafe vehicles include golf carts, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, or any open cab vehicle.

If you drive into a thunderstorm, slow down and use extra caution. If possible, pull off the road into a safe area. Do not leave the vehicle during a thunderstorm.

Worth Pondering…
It was one of those hot, silent nights, when people sit at windows, listening for the thunder which they know will shortly break; when they recall dismal tales of hurricanes and earthquakes; and of lonely travelers on open plains, and lonely ships at sea, struck by lightning.

—Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit, Chapter XLII

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