Weather Radio for your RV
Be weather smart:
Most of us would agree that driving an RV smack dab through the middle of a weather brawl isn't a great idea. If we agree that it isn't smart then why do so many do it? Good question. Most are in a hurry and "real-men" don't let a little weather slow them down.
In truly bad weather nature calls the shots and we all know that anything can happen. Fortunately, there are some things you can do that will help lessen the chance of finding yourself in major trouble even if you find yourself in the path of an impending storm.
We have one of those relatively cheap weather radios available from Radio Shack and a number of other places. Ours runs off 110 Volts when it is available and a 9V battery when 110 isn't available. It is OK but needs to be changed from channel to channel when we are traveling. If it is on the right channel it will alert us to impending bad weather and keep us updated during the storm.
I am going to repeat that last warning: On almost ALL weather radios you have to change the channels to the correct channel for the area you are located in. You have to do this every time you stop for the night, just like you have to plug in your electricity and put up your shades. If you do not change the channel to the channel serving that area you might as well not have the weather radio. I hope I have emphasized that enough and will drop the subject right after I remind you that you need to check the "back-up" battery in your weather radio each time you head out in your RV. Batteries do go dead in weather radios just like they do in smoke detectors and when either do not function because of "dead batteries" the result is the same! Enough said!
Some people rely on CB radios to keep abreast of events taking place further down the road.
If your weather information says it is a tornado watch, you have
a problem because a watch indicates weather patterns are favorable
to spawn a tornado for a certain length of time. A watch will say
something like: The watch is in effect until 4 am for the following
counties ..... If it is only 8PM you have a decision to make. What
do you do between now and 4 am?
If your weather radio is giving a WARNING, turn on your TV -----here again ya gotta KNOW which station is local. If you have satellite, crank up the bat wing and get a LOCAL station. If you are so high tech you can't get local TV, your weather radio is your only option unless you can find a local radio station giving weather information.
A typical tornado WARNING will go something like this: We have upper level rotation but no twisters reported on the ground yet - the storm is NW of Baytown in XYZ county heading NE at about 30 MPH. It should reach Timbuktu at 3:15 - Milton at 3:24 - Century at 3:27 .... ETC. If you are able to get this information on TV they may also show the area on each side of the projected path which the storm my move. IF you know where you are, you know how long you have to make a decision. If you are in the path you should head for shelter NOW (not your RV), you can never predict when that upper level rotation will change and become a tornado.
Weather radio invariably identifies storm locations by county. That is well and good if you are in familiar territory but when out in your RV Weather Radio locations are a cause for confusion. One time we were in Loveland, Colorado when our weather radio started issuing warnings of tornados here and there. They were following tornados on Doppler radar but only giving occasional county names or local names like crooked creek, Dawson's draw and other colloquial terms. We had a map that identified counties and were having extreme difficulty locating the counties. It just so happened that where we were located the weather radio was probably covering southeastern Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, eastern Colorado, northeastern New Mexico and eastern Kansas. The garbage they were transmitting was essentially worthless except to warn us that somewhere within broadcast range there was BAD weather. We had already determined that the concrete block bath house was our storm shelter of choice so I went outside to keep an eye on the sky until everything passed. We never did know where those tornadoes were but suspect they may have been in northeastern New Mexico traveling to the northeast across the southeastern corner of Colorado and into the Texas Panhandle.
Another time we were more fortunate with the nomenclature provided by the National Weather Service on Weather Radio. We were in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on election night the first time that Bush, the younger, was elected. If you will remember the fiasco emerging from Florida where the news people were calling it wrong and retracting all night long. During that entire spectacle a weather brawl was moving through our area complete with tornadoes. This time we were getting information about the immediate area. We were parked close to the official Campground storm shelter which was a concrete block bath house and were prepared to dash for it if a tornado was heading our way. I was using our computer mapping program Street Atlas ---- SA-8 at the time that would allow me to "find" places that the weather radio was identifying as they tracked the tornadoes. Joyce was using the official Louisiana road map which has some detail. We were able to track each tornado in a fairly reliable manner. Spelling was my biggest problem since the "find" feature relies on accurate spelling. French and Indian names are not my strong suite if you get my drift. It is names like Beaulieu, Webre, Grosse Tete, Bayou Sorrel, Plaquemine and Catahoula that were taxing my ability to use the "find" function. Thankfully, the tornadoes were moving to the northeast and we were able to find enough of the places so that we could plot the path and were anticipating where the next places would be. Things got confusing when they were tracking more than one tornado as you might imagine.
In both instances we had local television also providing information. Keep in mind that "local" television can be 60-miles or more away in many locations.
The point that I am trying to make is just having that Weather Radio isn't going to be enough to save you in and of itself. You are going to have to utilize the information being provided and make some quick decisions.
The first decision you should have made upon registering in the campground was to ask the person checking you in the location of the nearest storm shelter. If it is the owner they should be able to tell you where to go in case of a tornado. If it is hired help they may give you that "deer in the headlights" look. You can handle that look any way you wish I generally just ask them to find out and let us know. By handling it that way I am forcing them to learn something that they should know.
If by chance the campground does not have a "designated storm shelter" please understand that the reason they may not have one is the COST. Also if the campground does have one and you are in it when a tornado strikes and you are injured there is a potential for a law suite especially if the campground has told you that it is THE storm shelter. Because we live in this litigious times you should understand why a campground owner is reluctant to provide a storm shelter and why they might not want to recommend you stay in their storm shelter. If you sense that the owner manager is trying to dodge the question you might rephrase the question to something like "where would you go in case of severe weather"? By wording your question in that manner the campground owner may be more willing to share information. If you still don't get a good answer you might call the local sheriff's office for information on appropriate storm shelters in your area.
When the severe weather with a devastating line of tornadoes passed over central Florida in February of 2007 killing over 20 people there were 300 RV's in the campground at Lazy Days just east of Tampa, Florida. For those of you familiar with the area that campground was not far from the deadly action. Those staying in Lazy Days reported that the campground did not have a designated storm shelter because of the expense of constructing and maintaining one plus the liability issue of someone being injured while occupying their designated storm shelter. Meanwhile, the tornado actually completely destroyed a church that was constructed as a storm shelter and had served as a community storm shelter. One can only imagine the carnage if -------- for instance, the 600 possible inhabitants of the 300 RV's had been in this "storm shelter". Few would have survived. I, for one, can not imagine the number of law suites that would have been generated out of the utter devastation of a designated storm shelter in a campground, filled with campground guests. Can you say "Oh my gosh"!
Along this line it is wise to have a GOOD flashlight located next to the door of your RV. Note that I said a GOOD flashlight, one that has at least 3-D-cell batteries and puts out good light every time it is used. We have two GOOD flashlights mounted next to our front door and we have a supply of good batteries in case those in the flashlight need changing. A cell phone with a charged battery is something else you want to carry to the storm shelter.
In September of 2004 Hurricane Ivan visited the northern Gulf Coast between Pensacola, Florida and Gulf Shores, Alabama. It was a huge hurricane that had been tracked for days. Hurricane Ivan was so bad that the tidal surge came about 15-miles inland and actually knocked much of the decking off the I-10 Bridge that crosses Pensacola Bay. Believe it or not the driver of an 18-wheeler attempted to drive across the bridge in the height of the storm. I say attempted because his attempt killed him when the cab of his 18-wheeler fell into the bay as it reached the missing bridge pieces. We will never know what this guy was thinking or IF he was thinking. Every year we hear stories generally from the western States about people trying to drive vehicles across swollen creeks and such. Each time we hear those stories we always wonder-------what were they thinking?
So what do we need to do? I think the answer is to sit tight in a safe place until the bad weather passes. It is as simple as that.
Moving about in bad weather invites trouble.
If you are on the highway when severe weather impacts you it is always best to reduce speed, turn on headlights and if necessary the vehicles emergency blinkers. If it is bad enough --- pull off the highway. Storms like that do not last but a few minutes. I am thinking about thunderstorms but the western states have dust storms that are bad. Sometimes visibility is reduced to the point that law enforcement shuts down traffic on major interstate highways.
Generally local radio will also provide information if the weather is really bad.
For most RV'ers we just don't happen to find ourselves on the road in our RV. The RV is something we have spent a lot of time thinking about and supposedly discussing with our partner, wife, husband, significant other or whatever. One of the things that should be discussed at length is what we are going to do in case of BAD weather? Are we going to agree to pull off as soon as possible or are we going to agree to "keep on going" even if the weather is BAD. If you talk about bad weather before you get into the situation you will more than likely agree that pulling over is the only thing that makes sense. By having this discussion up front the one not driving can always say "We agreed in situations like this to pull over until the storm has passed". In most relationships that is all that is necessary.
I unplug the campground electricity when a thunderstorm approaches. We all know power spikes can and do occur during thunder storms. We also know that we have a lot of sensitive electronic equipment in our RV's that can be easily be "fried" by a voltage spike --- think (inverter/converter, refrigerator circuit board, water heater circuit board, heater circuit board plus all the automatic switches that switch input power automatically). It is also a good idea to disconnect electricity during periods of high winds because of power spikes caused by trees falling over power lines. Paying attention to little details like this can save you a lot of headache not to mention big dollars.