Severe Weather and Fulltime RVing

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I had two concerns about becoming a fulltime RV family.  And when I say ‘concern’ I really mean fears.

When we discuss ditching the suburbs with people there are many fears that come up. Breakdowns. Loss of income. No internet service. Loneliness. Judgement.

Those fears I could deal with. I’m handy. I’m resourceful. Flexible. Tenacious. All good character traits for a suburbia ditcher.

My fears were a CPS visit and severe weather.

Those scared me because I couldn’t control them.

The CPS visit happened. We survived. I don’t expect that to happen again.

Weather keeps happening.

RVing During a Storm

As I write this we are setup in a campground and a nasty line of thunderstorms is going over. The winds are kicking up. A branch just fell on the roof but I can see it and it sounded bigger than it is. It’s too small to have done any damage. The rain is changing from an intermittent windswept sprinkle to a heavier drizzle.

I keep refreshing the radar on my phone to see where the red blobs are. MsBoyink and the kids are out doing laundry. They’ll just hunker down at the laundromat until it passes.

I’m in the RV, feeling like the captain prepping to go down with the ship. I rolled the awning up, flipped the kayak over, and tucked the bikes under the trailer nose. I closed all the vent, windows and storage doors.

RV parks are God’s bowling alley.80’s Standup Comic

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Now the lightning and thunder are kicking in along with some higher wind gusts. The winds are my main concern. We are parked under a large old Maple tree. The small branch that fell is nothing - the tree has some large dead branches that could fall and puncture our roof.

There’s a showerhouse close by I can book it to if need be - but I don’t think that will be necessary. The red blobs are breaking up and mostly going south of me.

Today's incoming storm in Fremont, MI

Today's incoming storm in Fremont, MI

Smartphone App Alert

Smartphone App Alert

To distract myself from the storm here are some quick tips that we use to mitigate our severe-weather risk.

Severe Weather Tips for RVers

  • Avoid Severe Weather Hotspots
    Don’t be in tornado alley during tornado season.  You have wheels and options - use them.
  • Choose Campsites Wisely
    Avoid campsites close to large trees, especially if the tree looks to be in ill health. Waterfront sites are often a first-choice, but what happens if the water level rises? Check the slope of the campground and try to avoid being in a low spot if you expect rain.
  • Play What-If
    What if a bad storm came up? Are the campground restroom/showers usable as a storm shelter? Or could you hitch up and go to avoid the storm?
  • Play Frogger
    Remember the old Frogger video game? You are the frog and the weather forecast is the road. Drive out of bad weather where you are, hold up and wait if there’s bad weather where you are going.
  • Get Alerts
    Use a smartphone app or weather radio that will give you alerts. Today’s storm came in faster than expected. I had NOAA Radio set to give alerts for our current location. Hearing my phone buzz in the other room was our first warning for this storm.
  • Don’t Be Paralyzed by Fear
    Don’t let the fear of bad weather, the photos of storm damage, or the “Facebookian Fear Mongerers” hold you back from chasing your suburbia-ditching dream.

    He Lived Safely is a horrible epitaph.

  • Pray and Let Go
    This is as much for me as you. All those character traits I listed above? I left out “overly-self-reliant”.  One of my goals for wanting to ditch suburbia was to learn to trust God more.
  • I’m still working on that last one.

    Finding myself in severe weather is often God reminding me who is actually in control. I want to pray “Please keep us safe”. But is safety all I ask of the creator of the universe?  I try to instead pray “Help us trust You no matter what You have in store for us.”

    The worst part of today’s storm is over. No more red blobs coming. But I fully expect another chance to let go and trust God for our safety.

    Keeping Dry?

    How’s your weather? Any good tips to add to my list above? Use the comments below.

    Update

    While in Nebraska we had our first-ever funnel cloud sighting - you can read about how that changed our day just a little.

    NOTE: The Ditching Suburbia fifth wheel bunkhouse RV is for sale and we are searching for a Class B RV / Camper Van - can you help?

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    15 Comments Severe Weather and Fulltime RVing

    1. Picture of Nico VeenkampNico Veenkamp July 21, 2015

      Michael, you make some excellent points on what to look for when you park your RV. This goes even double for when you go camping in a tent. As a camping enthousiast with our tent, I always look for trees to avoid and how to settle somewhere where a heavy rain and/or wind will have the least impact. And pick your alternative shelters carefully.

      I have had my share of adventures with a small tornado passing my tent some 50 yards away destroying every other tent in its way, waking up with my tent onder 2 feet of snow in the alps, waking up in Italy with the tent collapsing upon me when a heavy rain came down after three weeks of sweltering heat (all the pins had been loosened from the packed earth) and a collapsing tent, but not breaking, in extreme windy conditions on Iceland.

      Wherever you are, weather will happen. So be carefull out there, especially when you are in an area with spotty phone connections and unreliable weather information.

    2. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael Boyink July 21, 2015

      Yes - we haven’t tent camped in years (and even then it was not very remote). I have to imagine that weather is a bigger concern yet!

    3. Picture of JenniJenni July 22, 2015

      I had this same fear when we set out and it was a long 8 months before we actually found ourselves staring at a radar image that displayed the path of two F4 tornadoes, one on each side of us.  And the only alternate shelter was a solid 300-yard dash from our site.  But it ended well with no one (anywhere around) getting hurt, save for someone’s tractor barn.  Like most of the other concerns people raised when we hit the road, weather was no bigger an issue than when we lived in a gated community.  In fact, given that we had wheels and could bolt for safer places, we were probably better off.

    4. Picture of Laura BurtonLaura Burton July 25, 2015

      I really enjoy your posts and enjoy your writing styles. The weather is one of my greatest fears also and I appreciate your advice about Let go, Let God. A very good reminder and I think I will bookmark this post so that I can come back and be reminded that I am not in control. Thank you again and keep writing.

    5. Picture of DavidDavid February 18, 2016

      We just got our RV in December and spent nearly a month in an extended shakedown trip.  We weathered an Arizona mountain winter storm with 50 MPH winds and gusts over 70.  We had thunder snow and 50 MPH hail/sleet.  Temperatures dropped into the single digits.  I paced the rig all night like a trapped rat, worried about my family. 

      The really bad part was in our neophyte state we brought in the awnings but left the patio out.  No damage as the new MORryde rail system locks the patio down in a box configuration. (Pictures on the blog)

      Anything short of a tornado, I think we are good.  Next time I will just go to bed and sleep. ;)

    6. Picture of ChristyChristy February 23, 2016

      While we were living our 8yr mobile life, my husband helped our daughter and myself to study to get our Ham Radio Licenses.
      (You don’t have to learn Morse Code as he did years ago… But he has the highest license.) We even took Sky Warn Weather training classes in Texas.  It could be very useful to have the license and radios to help with weather and other emergencies.
      And an interesting “road school”
      learning experience!!
      Safe travels!

    7. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael Boyink February 23, 2016

      Heh - I actually had my technicians license in HS (and learned Morse Code..;)

      I was all cool witih my 2-meter walkie talkie showing off how to do phone patches..;) 

    8. Picture of JamesJames February 24, 2016

      November 2015, we were camped NE Houston when the big winds hit never expecting too much from it.  Then in December camping very near the Rio with bigger winds and just a little nervous.  Later, hearing of the damage near Dallas,  we were greatful but concerned for our fellow Texans.

    9. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael Boyink February 24, 2016

      Hey James - thanks for the comment. We rolled into Texas a few weeks after that storm so saw some of the residual damage from it. Glad we weren’t there!

    10. Picture of DD KingDD King February 24, 2016

      Yes, Michael, Keep your insurance papers and important papers handy to grab to take with you to the shelter if god forbid you ever have to use one. We did ONCE, one look at those poor souls in Louisiana yesterday and they would NOT have been able to find their important papers.

    11. Picture of JackieJackie February 24, 2016

      Great info. We are currently visiting family in TN ..it has been quite stormy so I know how you feel. We have a app called storm and the weather channel that will give you alerts of bad weather. Heading to Memphis this weekend. Then we are headed back to calmer seas in Tucson Az. Be safe out there… South
      is always better in the winter months if your able to ditch the North.

    12. Picture of Jerry BuggertJerry Buggert August 25, 2016

      There are a couple of approaches that have worked well for us. The NOAA graphical forecast (http://digital.weather.gov/)provides an excellent nationwide view of all aspects of weather over the next 7 days. This assists in planning timing, routes and potential destinations. We were in northern Idaho last fall, saw that it was starting to snow in Montana while it was 100 degrees in California, so plotted a route to New Mexico that stayed in perfect weather most of the way. We also saw a storm coming that we would not be able to avoid, so picked a spot (Moab, Utah) where we would be able to hunker down for a few days in a place with things to do (and good breweries). 
      We have also used the weather.com realtime radar to stay between thunderstorms. We drove from Fayetteville, NC to Beufort, NC with thunderstorms behind us, north of us and south of us, while not getting a drop of rain.
      To get forecasts in the middle of nowhere and at any point, the NOAA point forecast (http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lon=-118.46929361236988&lat=36.701266927166955#.V78MtIWcGP8) allows you to tap directly into the national weather model and get forecasts generated for specific points that are far from any town for which you can get a weather.com forecast. This includes high in the mountains, out in the deserts and off the coast.

    13. Picture of Marie PrzehorskiMarie Przehorski August 25, 2016

      Good subject matter Michael.  As we plan for our full-time life,  this is a subject that creeps into our conversation pretty regularly.

      Also, thanks for the reminder DDKING about the important papers.  I will plan a special container in a special spot accordingly.

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