RV Weather – Hurricanes and Tropical Systems

You can and absolutely should steer clear of areas with active hurricanes or other tropical systems anywhere nearby. But the reality is that many, if not most, RVers are frequently on the road during the official Atlantic Hurricane Season, which runs from June 1-November 30 every year. And many of their destinations are along the Atlantic or Gulf Coasts, where tropical activity is most likely.

Hurricanes are like giant tornadoes that last for days, and sometimes even weeks. Though the windspeeds aren’t usually as intense as the worst tornadoes, they can be plenty bad enough to loft your rig in the air and throw it hundreds of feet, smashing it to bits when it comes down. Or to throw 2x4s and metal poles at it to pierce it and everything inside—including you. Or to wash you and your rig away with drenching rains and even storm surge, if you’re near enough to an ocean beach.

And don’t be fooled into thinking only a full-blown hurricane can be dangerous. It only takes sustained 35 mph winds to qualify as a tropical storm, and often 15 mph—less than half of that— is enough to rip your awning off. And some of the worst floods in history have been from tropical depressions that were the last remnants of previous hurricanes. Hurricane Camille in 1969 retained enough water to drown hundreds of people when she hooked back over Virginia after wreaking havoc on the Gulf Coast and turning inland.

None of these characteristics is anything to fool with. All of them can inconvenience you and make your life unpleasant at best, and kill you at worst. I have a storm chaser’s heart and would love to someday experience being in a hurricane…but absolutely not in my RV.

Seriously: If you’re an RVer and you’re told a tropical system is headed your way, don’t even wait to be told to evacuate: Just get out.

Don’t Wait Till It’s Too Late.

Remember, it takes us longer to get our campsites cleaned up and our rigs packed and ready for travel than it does for sticks-and-bricks residents to just pack a go-bag and throw it in the car. You do not want to dally and find yourself without enough time to properly prepare when it’s time to go, having to leave possessions or even pets behind because you need to hurry to save yourself, your family and your rig.

Nor do you want to find yourself in evacuation traffic with a half-full fuel tank. Anyone who has ever participated in a mass evacuation will tell you the first thing smart people pack is an extra gas can, because during evacuations, many beach areas have limited exit lanes and can turn into a parking lot. And even if you can get to a gas station, there’s a good chance they will have run their tanks dry filling other evacuees’ tanks.

Cars and light trucks may get good enough mileage to last through that, but if you have a rig of any size or need diesel fuel, you’re playing with fire by waiting to leave. Get out while you can still gather all your people and things, fill your tank(s), and actually find a camping spot once safely outside the evac zone. Remember to call ahead for reservations as soon as you know you need to leave, so you don’t find yourself without someplace to go within a reasonable distance.

Fortunately, modern technology gives us plenty of time to evacuate a hurricane zone long before it hits. This is a no-brainer for RVers: Just. Get. Out.

Hurricanes don’t just have their own, large-scale winds, they also spawn tornadoes along the outside of the eye. They can also bring both flooding rains and storm surge, none of which you should expect your RV to withstand or protect you from.

If it’s foolhardy to remain in an official hurricane evacuation area in a sturdy building, it’s suicidal in a motorhome or RV. Leave the area and come back when it’s safe.