Top Tips For Driving in Winter Weather

RV travel doesn’t have to stop with the arrival of winter, but there are considerations to keep in mind when driving in cold weather.

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.
The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it. Don’t go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination. If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure you and your RV is prepared, and that you know how to handle winter road conditions.

Prepare an emergency survival kit containing a cell phone, warm blankets, gloves, salt or sand, LED flashlights, first aid kit, NOAA Weather Radio, road flares, bottled water, and non-perishable food. Inspect tires, use tires designed to operate in snow and ice, and keep tires inflated to proper levels. Inspect wipers and wiper blades. Make sure you have a snowbrush and ice scraper in to remove snow and ice. Sunglasses help cut glare from snow.

There are no secrets when it comes to winter driving. If there is ice on the road, it is dangerous.

If you’re driving on ice, you may not know it until you need to stop. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a 4-wheel drive, a fifth-wheel or travel trailer, or a motorhome: brakes are the great equalizer.

Ice on your windshield means ice on the road. The ice doesn’t have to be packed up on the roadway to be dangerous—a thin sheet of ice can develop quickly into a thick problem.

Keep an eye on the temperature. Water freezes at 32 degrees. The roadways tend to be slightly warmer than the air temperature, but once you’re down that low in temperature, you need to be wary.

Winter
There are no secrets when it comes to winter driving. If there is ice on the road, it is dangerous.

Look for spray coming up from other vehicles. If spray is coming off the tires, it’s likely that the roads are wet (as opposed to ice covered), but keep in mind that a short stretch of road with ice on it can be just as dangerous as an ice-packed roadway.

Do not follow too close.

Watch for warning signs. If there are vehicles spun out in the median or shoulder, the roads are bad. If you start seeing big semis spun out, it’s time to get your RV off the road. It’s not worth endangering your life and the life of your family. If you can’t find a nearby RV park or campground locate the nearest truck stop or Walmart to overnight.

Be sure to keep your fuel tanks full so you won’t run out.

Prior to departure check weather conditions along your intended travel route. When traveling, listen to local radio stations for the forecast and update on current weather and road conditions.

Minnesota in winter (Source: minnesota.publicradio.org)
Minnesota in winter (Source: minnesota.publicradio.org)

Any vehicles traveling through mountain passes and northern states and provinces may be required to carry a set of tire chains available in case of a snow or ice storm. Practice putting them on while it’s warm and dry. Motorhome owners might want to consider the damage a broken tire chain could inflict upon the fiberglass body of their rig. If possible, avoid roads where chains are required.

Drive an RV slower than you would drive a car—especially in bad weather. Leave extra room between your RV and the vehicle in front of you. RVs require even more time and room to stop in bad weather.

Use extra caution when traveling across bridges and overpasses. They freeze before the road.

Vision can be hindered when driving during a bright, sunny day and the surroundings are snow covered. Wear sunglasses to reduce glare and improve vision.

winterrvtipsWorth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

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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.

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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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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

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Top 5 Ways to Survive a Dust Storm

A dust storm usually arrives suddenly in the form of an advancing wall of dust and debris which may be miles long and several thousand feet high.

In a scene reminiscent of the 1930s Dust Bowl, on October 18, 2011, Lubbock, Texas went from light to dark in an instant, as the 8,000 foot dust cloud, traveling at a whizzing 70 mph, swept through. (Image via YouTube)
In a scene reminiscent of the 1930s Dust Bowl, on October 18, 2011, Lubbock, Texas went from light to dark in an instant, as the 8,000 foot dust cloud, traveling at a whizzing 70 mph, swept through. (Image via YouTube)

Dust storms that turn day into night are a hazard to drivers. Dust storms can strike with little warning. Blinding, choking dust can quickly reduce visibility, causing accidents that may involve chain collisions, creating massive pileups.

Dust Storms are among nature’s most violent and unpredictable phenomena. High winds lift dirt particles or, in the case of sandstorms, sand, into the air, unleashing a turbulent, suffocating cloud of particulates and reducing visibility to almost zero in a matter of seconds.

Nearly all dust storms are capable of causing property damage, injuries, and deaths, and they can occur in any arid or semi-arid climate.

Dust storms usually last only a few minutes, but the actions a driver takes during the storm may be the most important of his or her life.

No matter where you live, it’s a good idea to know what to do if you see a wall of sand racing toward you.

1. Heed Dust Storm Warnings

Since dust storms are most likely to occur on hot summer days under certain atmospheric conditions, meteorologists can frequently predict the possibility of these storms.

During threatening weather listen to commercial radio or NOAA Weather Radio for Dust Storm Warnings.

A Dust Storm (or Sand Storm) Warning means: Visibility of ½ mile or less due to blowing dust or sand, and wind speeds of 30 miles an hour or more.

2. Be Prepared

A massive dust storm descended on the Phoenix area on Tuesday, July 5, 2011, drastically reducing visibility and delaying flights as strong winds toppled trees and caused power outages for thousands of residents in the city. (Source: disastersurvivaltools.com)
A massive dust storm descended on the Phoenix area on Tuesday, July 5, 2011, drastically reducing visibility and delaying flights as strong winds toppled trees and caused power outages for thousands of residents in the city. (Source: disastersurvivaltools.com)

If you are in a storm-prone area, carry a mask designed to filter out small particulates, and bring airtight goggles to protect your eyes. It’s also wise to carry a supply of water in case you are stuck in a storm. Dust storms are usually accompanied by high temperatures, and you can quickly become dehydrated in the dry heat and high winds. Wear or carry clothing that covers your body to protect you from the sandblasting.

3. Outrun the Storm?

If you see a dust storm from some distance, you may be able to outrun it or detour around it. Some dust storms can travel at more than 75 miles per hour, but they frequently travel much slower.

Trying to outrun a storm, however, is not advisable if you have to put yourself at risk by traveling at high speeds. If the storm is catching up with you, it’s best to stop and prepare for it. Once consumed by the storm, your visibility can potentially be reduced to zero in a matter of seconds.

4. Pull Over

If you’re driving a vehicle and visibility drops to less than 300 feet, pull off the road as far as possible (exit the freeway if possible), set your parking brake, turn OFF your lights, make sure turn signals and emergency flashers are off, and take your foot off the brake pedal to ensure the tail lights are not illuminated.

If your exterior lights are on, other drivers will use the taillights of the person in front of them as a guide to help navigate the road ahead of them. If you are pulled off the road and are sitting there with your lights on, unbelievably, someone might think they can follow you and run right off the road or even collide with you! Turning your headlights off while stationed off the road, will reduce the possibility of a rear-end collision.

Never stop on the traveled portion of the roadway.

If you are NOT able to safely pull off the road, keep your headlights on, turn on your emergency flashers, slow down, and proceed with caution, sounding your horn periodically.

Use the highway’s centerline to guide you if you can’t see in front of you. Pull over at the nearest safe spot.

5. Take Cover and Stay Put

Dust storm over Denver, Colorado. (Source: worldgeography.com)
Dust storm over Denver, Colorado. (Source: worldgeography.com)

Do not attempt to move about in a blinding storm, as you will not be able to see potential hazards in your path.

Roll up the windows and turn off vents that bring outside air in.

DO NOT enter a dust storm. If you can avoid getting caught in a storm, do not tempt fate.

Please Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series on Surviving Dust Storms

Part 2: Pull Aside & Stay Alive

Worth Pondering…

Houses were shut tight, and cloth wedged around doors and windows, but the dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes.”
—John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

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Why Snowbirds Should Go West This Winter

Earlier this year, weather forecasts suggested an early formation of El Niño would result in a slightly warmer and wetter weather for the United States.

U.S. winter outlook (Source: NOAA)

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center there’s a catch this year; the fickle El Niño has not formed as expected.

El Nino is the Pacific weather system that indicates warmer ocean water in the equatorial Pacific, and that influences the jet stream and gives forecasters confidence in their work.

This prognostication provides snowbirds looking for the warmest and driest roost some direction.

Go West, Snowbirds, Go West

The western half of the Lower 48 is forecast to have a warmer-than-average winter.

Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, said in a statement that El Nino development “abruptly halted” last month.

“This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Nino decided not to show up as expected.”

According to Halpert, it stalled out last month, leaving neutral conditions in place in the

U.S. winter outlook (Source: NOAA)

tropical Pacific.

NOAA still sees signs a weak El Nino will develop and its outlook, released last week is based on that tentative assumption.

The winter outlook suggests warmer-than-average temperatures in much of Texas; the Central and Northern Plains; the Southwest; the Northern Rockies; eastern Washington, Oregon, and California; and the northern two-thirds of Alaska, the center said.

Hawaii, however, is expected to have cooler temperatures.

The outlook also suggests drier-than-average conditions in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, northern California, Idaho, western Montana, most of Nevada and portions of Wyoming and Utah, the center said.

It will also be drier in the upper Midwest (including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and northern Missouri); eastern parts of North and South Dakota; Nebraska; Kansas; and western Illinois, the center said.

This winter should be wetter than average across the Gulf Coast region from the northern half of Florida to eastern Texas, the center said.

It’s a crap shoot for the rest of the country. They are given an “equal chance” for one of three winters: above, near, or below normal, the center said. The center’s outlook doesn’t predict snowstorms, however.

Halpert stated that if El Nino suddenly strengthened, below average temperatures and above average precipitation might cover a larger region of the South, whereas dry conditions might expand beyond the north central U.S. towards the Ohio Valley.

Halpert stressed the difficulty in developing this year’s outlook, both due to the elusive El Nino, and broader challenges in seasonal forecasting.

“The science behind seasonal prediction is in its infancy,” Halpert said, noting such outlooks are about 20-30 percent better than a random guess, and even less than that when the El Nino signal (or conversely, its opposite phase, La Nina) is weak.

This is the first time in 60 years of records El Nino has displayed this kind of erratic behavior, according to Halpert, so the past provides few clues about what the future may bring.

Halpert acknowledged El Nino is not the only player in developing seasonal outlooks.

The Arctic Oscillation, one of the other key predictors of winter conditions, can not be forecast more than two weeks or so in advance.

During 2009-10 the Arctic Oscillation was sharply negative, resulting in cold, stormy conditions over the Eastern U.S.

Last winter, it was largely positive, resulting in the opposite conditions. It remains a big wildcard heading into this winter.

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

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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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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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