Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi’s Gulf Coast RV Park

A strong storm system barreled through several Mississippi Gulf Coast communities yesterday evening (Monday, April 14), damaging and destroying numerous recreational vehicles in a campground, downing trees and power lines, and cutting electricity to some communities.

Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi's Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: Blake Kaplan/AP)
Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi’s Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: Blake Kaplan/AP)

One of the hardest hit areas in the region was Santa Maria RV Park in Gautier; about two dozen trailers and campers were knocked off their blocks, overturned, or totally destroyed, and two people were treated at the hospital for injuries.

The roads leading to the campground were littered with debris, and the street lights were out.

A severe thunderstorm warning had been in effect in advance of a strong cold front moving into the region.

The National Weather Service didn’t think it was a tornado, meteorologist Robert Ricks told the (Biloxi) Sun Herald.

“It was straight-line winds of about 50 mph and none of the RVs were tied down,” said Ricks.

“In talking with emergency management personnel, there were no power lines down. It appears to be because of the straight-line winds in an RV park configuration without tie-downs.”

Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi's Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: Tim Isbell/AP)
Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi’s Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: Tim Isbell/AP)

The police chief in nearby Moss Point, Keith Davis, told WLOX-TV there were downed power lines and trees there. He said one power line caught fire but it was quickly extinguished.

First responders quickly scoured the campground searching for anyone injured or stuck inside their RVs.

“We’re just looking at the damages, assessing what’s happened,” said the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Area Coordinator Carolyn Nelson.

“We don’t know exactly how much damage we have yet, but have at least 25 trailers so far

Red Cross volunteers were also on hand providing assistance to victims.”

Protecting Your RV During Extreme Wind

I think we can all agree that dealing with a major storm is NOT a pleasant situation.

Similar incidents have been known to happen, especially when parked in extremely windy locations and during severe storms.

Many RV owners have asked the question, “At what wind speed should I be concerned?”

RVs have been known to weather 75 mph wind speeds without tipping over; however, variables such as weight of the RV must be considered.

Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi's Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: WLOX-TV)
Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi’s Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: WLOX-TV)

The “rock-a-bye-baby” effects are intensely worrisome to most RV occupants. If you ever feel concerned about the wind, the following two recommendations should be considered.

Park Your Nose into the Wind

The less surface area the wind his hitting, the better. The pressure of the wind on your vehicle is called “wind load” and you can decrease it immensely by pointing the front of your RV into the wind as opposed to having the wind blow across the length of your RV.

For the average size RV in a 60 mph wind, the wind load is 2967 pounds when the side of the RV is to the wind. However, when the RV’s nose is to the wind, the wind load decreases to 1032 pounds. You face less than half the wind load simply by pointing your nose into the wind.

Extend your Stabilizers

Better safe than sorry. If the wind is causing you to lose sleep, simply extend those handy stabilizers and fret no longer. Stabilizers are an easy fix for a parked RV that is beginning to sway.

Worth Pondering…

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.

—Jimmy Dean

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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

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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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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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Be Prepared with Road Trip Planner

You and your family are packed into your recreational vehicle, heading out of town for a much-needed vacation to kick off the summer.

Heavy rain severely diminishes visibility on the road. Photo courtesy of RozSheffield (who was a passenger, not the driver when taking this photo)

The skies were clear when you left home, but several hours out the skies turn dark and ominous. Suddenly, rain pours down in buckets and you can hardly see.

A flashing road sign instructs drivers to turn to the highway’s emergency radio station. A severe thunderstorm warning, complete with quarter-sized hail and exceptionally high winds, is being issued for several local counties.

But you have no idea what county you’re in. Are you heading directly into the path of severe weather? Have tornado watches or warnings been issued?

When planning for a road trip, people often think to check the weather at their destination so they know which clothes to pack and the type of activities to prepare for. But how many people think to track the weather along their route?

Some RVers may look at a national summary forecast to get a gist of their route’s weather, but they may not have information on the specifics. Who knows what counties they’ll be going through, what the weather will be like, and when or where they can stop if the weather becomes too severe?

One useful tool to assist the traveler in planning ahead is the AccuWeather.com Road Trip Planner.

Using directions by Google Maps, Road Trip Planner allows you to not only enter your start and end points to get detailed driving directions; you can also input the time you plan to leave to see hourly weather forecasts along your route.

In the image below you live in Burlington (Vermont) and plan to take your family on a vacation to Cape Cod. Using Road Trip Planner, you select that you are leaving your address at 9:00 a.m. and heading to a specific location.

AccuWeather Road Trip Planner provides the weather forecast for your route so you can plan ahead.

A list of directions will be generated, as well as a map that shows your route and the weather you can expect along the way. It approximates where you should be in hourly intervals and gives you the weather and temperature for that area.

If you were to see that you should be near the Methuen (Massachusetts) area around 2:00 p.m., and that they are expecting rain, you could research what counties you’ll be passing through so you can understand emergency warnings. You’d know to keep your umbrella easily accessible in the cockpit area.

You could also look for a place where you can stop temporarily in case the rain reduces your visibility so that you no longer feel safe on the road. You could look up the town on AccuWeather.com to see if a warning for flash flooding or severe weather is posted.

While you’re on the road it is crucial that you pay attention to all lights and signs.

Keep your radio on and tuned to the weather channel. Ensure that you heed all watches and warnings.

“Watches, like severe thunderstorm watches and tornado watches, which are two of the most common types, are issued when weather conditions are conducive for the event to occur,” said AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Mike Pigott.

A “tornado watch,” for example, includes the “large hail and damaging wind threats, as well as the possibility of multiple tornadoes,” according to NOAA National Weather Service.

Image courtesy AccuWeather

“Warnings are different. A warning is issued when the weather event is happening now,” Pigott said.

“In terms of flooding, for instance, a flood warning means a river has spilled over or flash flooding is occurring.”

Your RV or car is NOT a safe place to be if a flash flood or a tornado is coming through the area, so if the weather is turning severe find a secure place to stop and wait out the worst of the storm.

Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle so you don’t end up stranded without the proper supplies.

By taking the time to prepare before you hit the road, you could save yourself hours of aggravation during your trip.

In poor visibility, drive slowly and put on your hazard lights. It’s always better to be late to your destination than to get in an accident and not arrive at all.

Related Stories

Worth Pondering…

You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.
—Yogi Berra

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Lake Guntersville Rebounds One Year after Storms

On April 27, 2011 Lake Guntersville State Park was hit by multiple tornadoes.

Thirteen months after three tornadoes tore a path of destruction through Lake Guntersville State Park, the park has rebounded and is still a primary vacation spot in North Alabama. Improved views from the campground and a recently renovated championship golf course are just a few of the attractions that make the park so special to visitors.

“There was major damage to the park during the storms, but it is giving us the opportunity to rebuild a new and improved Lake Guntersville State Park,” said Tim Wishum, Acting Co-Director of Alabama State Parks.

“Some of those improvements include gas logs in the chalets, a newly planned nature center, and various campground improvements. We look forward to reintroducing the new Lake Guntersville to the public.”

Some of the improvements are still in the planning and execution stages, but the park has many offerings to keep even the most adventurous guests satisfied including the 18-hole Eagle’s Nest Golf Course, 36 miles of hiking trails, excellent fishing, 139 improved campsites with more opening soon, six primitive campsites and two rental campers, more than 35 geocacaches, 18 chalets, and five lakeside cabins.

All of the 112 lodge rooms are now open and the Pinecrest Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

All damages to the Lodge & Convention Center have been repaired and the facility is now 100 percent operational. This includes all banquet and meeting rooms.

. "Eagle Awareness" weekends in January feature guided field trips at Lake Guntersville Resort State Park.

The most noticeable impact of the storms is the loss of more than 5,000 trees. Included in that number are approximately 95 percent of the trees that once forested the campground and about 65 percent of the golf course’s trees. There are plans to replant the campground and golf course, but for now visitors can take advantage of the improved views of Lake Guntersville, Alabama’s largest lake.

“While we’d still rather have our trees, the view from the chalets and the lodge is fantastic,” Wishum said.

Details

Lake Guntersville State Park

Lake Guntersville State Park is located along the banks of the Tennessee River in northeastern Alabama between Bridgeport and Guntersville. The park overlooks the majestic 69,000-acre Guntersville Reservoir, and ranges over more than 6,000 acres of natural woodlands.

The park has an 18-hole championship golf course, a beach complex, fishing center, hiking trails, nature programs, and a day-use area. Modern campground and lakeview cottages on the lake, coupled with a resort lodge on the pinnacle of Taylor Mountain, and chalets on the ridge-tops provide a selection of overnight accommodations beyond comparison.

Rent a pontoon, flat bottom fishing boats, and canoes at the Town Creek Fishing Center.

The hiking trails in Lake Guntersville State Park traverse moderate to difficult terrain and cover over 36 miles of park property. They are multi-use trails, serving as hiking, biking, and horse trails. The trails are varied with some following alongside the banks of the Tennessee River, others lead to seasonal waterfalls and wildflowers, and some that peak your interest just by their name alone such as the Old Still Path and the Moonshine Trail.

One year after tornadoes slammed into Lake Guntersville State Park, most of the facilities have reopened, and the views from the lodge are spectacular.
One year after tornadoes slammed into Lake Guntersville State Park, most of the facilities have reopened, and the views from the lodge are spectacular.

The trails differ in length from .5 miles to 3.5 miles yet connect with one another to form a loop of trails that add up to 36 miles. Enjoy a short 30 minute hike, guided Saturday morning interpretive hikes, or pack a picnic lunch and head out for a day exploring the ridges, waterfalls, and river in beautiful Lake Guntersville State Park.

Fishing, boating, camping, hunting and eagle watching are popular sports in the area. Eagle watching centers on Guntersville State Park and the dam during the winter, though some bald eagles stay all year.

Park Resort Address: 1155 Lodge Drive, Guntersville, AL 35976

Phone: (256) 571-5440

Website: alapark.com

Worth Pondering…

Dixie

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten, (Alt Original: Cinnamon seed and sandy bottom,)
Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.
In Dixie Land, where I was born in,
early on one frosty mornin’,
Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.

—Daniel Decatur Emmett

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Five Things You Need to Know Today: April 13

Since I like things to come in fives (and tens), here are five things YOU need to know TODAY!

1. South Dakota State Parks See Record Number Campers

Custer State Park buffalo round-up. (Source: travelsd.com)

It may seem a bit early to get out the camping equipment, but that’s exactly what many people are doing this year in South Dakota.

“We’ve seen visitors from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado,” Custer State Park Campground Manager Lance Catron told KELO-TV, Sioux Falls.

“With the perfect weather that we’ve had in March, the reasonable temperatures have helped us out tremendously,” Catron said.

And while Custer State Park rented three times as many camping sites this March as they did last, the numbers for the entire state are even greater. Statewide, South Dakota’s state campsites saw a 388 percent increase.

“If everything holds true, we’ll have one of the best camping seasons we’ve ever had here in Custer State Park,” Catron said.

State parks are well on their way to breaking more records. Campground reservations are up 15 percent at Custer State Park compared to this time last year.

2. Passport America

Passport America, a family-run business, is the “original” 50% Discount Camping Club.

Passport America invented the 50% discount concept in 1992 and continued to improve upon the concept. Their stated goal is to save you money.

More than 1600 campgrounds across the US, Canada, and Mexico currently participate in the Passport America Program.

Disclaimer: I am a member of Passport America but do not represent or promote them.

To read more about Passport America and other discount camping clubs, click here.

3. Safe Driving Tips

RVs are not difficult to drive but there are a few things to keep in mind that will make your travels safer and more enjoyable.

Check lights before traveling. Prior to starting your day’s travel check the functioning of all signal lights, 4-way flashers, brake lights, and head lights.

Look well ahead. DO NOT overdrive your visibility—90% of all driving decisions are visual based.

Leave Yourself an Out. Determine the lane of least resistance and safety and maintain safe following distances. Leave room to change lanes when stopping behind another vehicle. Is there a way out of here? DO NOT drive your RV into any place that you can’t see a way out of—especially if that RV is a large motorhome towing a car.

Click here for more RV driving tips.

4. Tornadoes: The What, When & Where

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. (NSSL photo courtesy Seymour)

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms.

People, recreational vehicles, cars, and even buildings may be hurled aloft by tornado-force winds—or simply blown away. Most injuries and deaths are caused by flying debris.

A tornado is a vertical funnel of violently rotating air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.

The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 miles per hour or more and can clear-cut a pathway in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

Once a tornado in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, carried a motel sign 30 miles and dropped it in Arkansas!

To read more on tornadoes, click here.

5. Money Saving Tips: Extending Your RV Travel Dollars

We all know that times are tough. The economic downturn has touched everyone. Many are facing unemployment and dwindling home values. Nobody knows when the economy will pick back up, or when Americans will begin to spend their hard-earned money again. When the economy tanks, we look for savings—and that true for everyone, including RVers.

Saving money on unnecessary spending frees up bucks for other things. While an RV is one of the biggest investments we can make, the ways we can save when camping with our RVs, are almost limitless.

For tips that will help you save money while still enjoying all the fun, freedom, and flexibility oft RV travel, click here.

Have a great weekend.

Until next time, safe RV travels, and we’ll see you on the road!

Worth Pondering…

I think, therefore I am.

I listen, therefore I know.

I travel to discover, therefore I grow.

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Top 10 of 2011

Time glides with undiscover’d haste
The future but a length behind the past.

—John Dryden

Let's Go RVing to Mount Dora, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hello, RVing friends! The year is turning over, and another 12 months of RVing, photography, hiking, and birding has flashed by.

Thank you for reading, providing feedback, and returning frequently to read my latest article. Thank you for your continuing support!

The End is almost here!

This is article # 593 since my first post on August 18, 2010. Okay, the end isn’t near, but the end of the year is almost here, and it’s time to think about wrap-ups as 2011 draws to a close.

The end of the year is the traditional time for doing a summary, and some reflection.

Looking back there were certain events and articles that kindled reader interest and comments. Please allow me to highlight the 10 most popular during 2011. Interesting, four were posted during the 2010 calendar year.

10. 2012 Quartzsite Show Dates Announced

What is Quartzsite? Quartzsite is located in western Arizona, 20 miles east of the Colorado River on I-10. In 1856, settler Charles Tyson built a fort at the present site of Quartzsite to protect his water supply. Fort Tyson soon … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 1351

Posted: September 27, 2011

9. Buffalino squeezing a lot into a tiny RV

Let's Go RVing to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many people around the world are experimenting with living in smaller spaces; some are living in recreational vehicles, but they tend to be larger and consume a lot of fuel. Treehugger reports German industrial designer Cornelius Comanns has converted the … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 1656

Posted: August 26, 2010

8. Forest River launches Shasta RV division

Elkhart, Indiana-based Forest River Inc. is reviving an iconic nameplate with the launch of the Shasta RV division, a stand-alone business unit headed by industry veteran Brad Whitehead that will initially create around 100 new production jobs, according to a … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 1790

Posted: August 19, 2010

7. Tornadoes: Emergency Preparation

Let's Go RVing to Quartzsite, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. All types of vehicles can be blown over, rolled, crushed, lifted, or otherwise destroyed by even a weak tornado. People have been hurt or killed when large trees crushed their recreational vehicle. NOAA Weather … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 1882

Posted: May 4, 2011

6. A Real Gem: Quartzsite, AZ

It’s that time again. Every winter the tiny town of Quartzsite is transformed into the Snowbird capital of the world. This tiny desert town bursts at the seams each January when tens of thousands of recreational vehicles converge on Quartzsite … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 2165

Posted: January 5, 2011

5. Homemade Teardrop Trailers Make Comeback

Gary Daniel and Don Wheeler are two -it-yourselfers who built their own teardrops—compact, efficient travel trailers measuring just 4 feet by 8 feet. Central Illinois Recreational Show Daniel and Wheeler will be among teardrop owners who will display their rigs … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 2580

Posted: March 2, 2011

4. How to Locate a Dump Station?

RV owners periodically find themselves needing to locate an RV dump station. This may be a result of dry camping with no sewer service or dump station available, spending the night at Wal-Mart or a truck stop or the weekend … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 2652

Posted: June 18, 2011

3. Old is New Again: New Retro RV Manufacturer

Let's Go RVing to San Antonio, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A recent trend in the RV manufacturing industry is the development of an increasing number of retro-style trailers entering the RV marketplace. Retro-style trailers make a lot of sense for today’s modern market. These oldies are small, which makes them … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 2983

Posted: March 14, 2011

2. Quartzsite 2011 RV show dates announced

Dates for the 2011 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show in Quartzsite, Arizona, have been pushed back to January 22-30, according to a news release. “The 2011 show looks like it will be another big one with exhibit space selling … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 5033

Posted: September 11, 2010

And the NUMBER ONE most read story of 2011…

1. Teardrop trailers sees upswing in sales

The economy has influenced all facets of daily life and occasionally in a positive way. Around since the 1930s, Teardrop trailers are seeing a boom in popularity, Auburn Journal reports. In Auburn, California, American River Sales has sold American Teardrops … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 5520

Posted: September 25, 2010

Happy New Year from Vogel Talks RVing!

Let's Go RVing to Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Happy New Year to all my readers. Best wishes for 2012. Find what brings you joy and go there. Remember, the journey, and not the destination, is the joy of RVing. Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in an RV.

Happy Trails. Life is an adventure. Enjoy your journey.

Worth Pondering…

We will open the book. Its pages are blank.
We are going to put words on them ourselves.
The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.

—Edith Lovejoy Pierce

May the months ahead be filled with great RVing experiences!

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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

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Hurricane Irene: “Get the Hell off the Beach”

Hurricane Irene made landfall near Cape Lookout, North Carolina, just before 8 a.m. EDT with Category 1-force winds of 85 mph.

This graphic shows an approximate representation of coastal areas under a hurricane warning (red), hurricane watch (pink), tropical storm warning (blue) and tropical storm watch (yellow). The orange circle indicates the current position of the center of the tropical cyclone. (Credit: noaa.gov)

The center of Irene is located about 5 miles north-northeast of Cape Lookout, North Carolina, or about 60 miles southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and is moving to the north-northeast near 14 miles per hour.

The center of Irene is forecast to cross through the North Carolina Sounds, through the Outer Banks, and back into the Atlantic today, then riding up the coast with an eventual landfall anticipated on Sunday along Long Island then on the other side of Long Island Sound in Southern New England as a minimal hurricane.

Tropical-storm-force winds will continue to spread up the coast and inland across parts of North Carolina and Virginia, with hurricane-force winds moving onto the North Carolina Coast near the Sounds and along the Outer Banks.

Hurricane warnings for the next 48 hours have been issued for North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, coastal Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

Hurricane Irene's outer bands reach Kill Devil Hills, N.C., early Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011. Hurricane Irene has weakened to a Category 1 storm as it nears the North Carolina coast but forecasters say it remains extremely dangerous. (Credit: ABC News)

So far, eastern North Carolina has already seen three tornadoes in the past few days, and the majority of the state and areas of Maryland and Virginia are under tornado watches through Sunday.

Nearly 200,000 homes in North Carolina are without power. Hardest hit were Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, where Progress Energy reports 190,000 customers without power. Most of those customers are residences.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn’t sugarcoat his warnings yesterday (August 26) for residents of his state still on the coast as Hurricane Irene lumbered northeastward: “Get the hell off the beach. You’ve maximized your tan.”

“Don’t wait. Don’t delay,” said U.S. President Barack Obama. “I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now.”

This is especially sage advice for all RVers along the Eastern Seaboard. “Get the hell out of Dodge!”

Evacuation orders for the country’s eastern seaboard covered at least 2.3 million people, including 1 million in New Jersey, 315,000 in Maryland, 300,000 in North Carolina, 200,000 in Virginia, and 100,000 in Delaware.

“This is probably the largest number of people that have been threatened by a single hurricane in the United States,” said Jay Baker, a geography professor at Florida State University.

The last hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. was Ike, which pounded Texas in 2008.

Abandoned beach front houses are surrounded by rising water in Nags Head, North Carolina. (Credit: Gerry Broome/AP)

After several extremely active years, Florida has not been struck by a hurricane since Wilma raked across the state’s south in October 2005. That storm was responsible for at least five deaths in the state and came two months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

It has been said to everything there is a season. Hurricane season is considered between June 1 and mid- to late- November and should be of some concern to RVers.

Here are some bits of information that may help RVers in understanding hurricanes and in planning survival preparations:

  • Hurricanes don’t appear without warning as tornadoes often do.
  • Hurricanes slowly develop from tropical depressions into tropical storms before becoming named hurricanes. The process takes days, sometimes weeks. By the time they are named they are being followed closely by weather media.
  • As they develop they grow in size. Average is 200 to 400 miles across. The big ones grow to 550 or more miles wide.
  • Hurricanes move forward slowly along their way which is not a straight line. They have been known to twist and turn and double back or go in a loop.
  • Some Hurricanes carry huge quantities of rain while others transport very little water.
  • A danger of hurricanes comes from flying debris picked up by the winds and thrown or dropped with great force.
  • Tornadoes are frequently spawned by hurricanes.

Worth Pondering…
Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out. You’re done. It’s 4:30. You’ve maximized your tan. Get off the beach. Get in your cars and get out of those areas.

—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

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