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What RVers Should Do When Tornados Threaten

As RVers we like to think we can avoid bad weather just by driving away from it but occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that avoiding them is not possible. If you are RVing in areas where tornadoes are possible remain alert for severe thunderstorms and signs of an approaching tornado. The thoughts below and your common sense should get you and your RV through the bad weather.

What to do Before Tornados Threaten

Plan to Survive

You should have a weather radio with SAME technology. The National Weather Service (NWS) continuously broadcasts updated weather warnings and forecasts that can be received by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (NOAA) Weather Radios sold in many stores.

The NWS tracks rotating winds within thunderstorms with radar and can then issue warnings before a tornado is formed. Early detection of increasing rotation aloft within a thunderstorm can allow life-saving warnings to be issued before the tornado forms.

  • Keep your head. Compared to all the space out there you are not a very big target. Chances are good that your RV won't be hit by a tornado. But the possibility does exist, so being calm and prepared can save your life.
  • Know where you are... town, county, state... so you recognize your area if you hear it on the radio. Generally, weather alerts are issued by county.
  • Have a map of the area where you are, so you may be able to track the approaching tornado from information on weather bulletins.
  • Be aware of developing thunderstorms and warm, moist air with cold weather fronts moving eastward.
  • If you're actually on the road do not even think that your RV can out drive or out run a tornado headed your way.
  • Your RV, even if tied down, offers little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.
  • Get out of your RV and seek shelter... in or behind a concrete building or in a ditch along the road.
  • Check with the manager of the RV Park. Find out if there is a storm shelter. Or scout the area to find the spot where you will head for safety if the weather deteriorates.
  • If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room of the RV park's club house or into a concrete restroom building.
  • Stay away from windows. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most deaths and injuries.
  • Whenever there are bad weather signs be sure your cell phone is charged and you have the phone numbers you will need with you.
  • Plan where to meet those with whom you are RVing in case you get separated at some point.
  • After it has passed if you were in or near its path be alert for downed power lines.

What to Do When Tornados Threaten

Warnings... What to Listen for

Warning signals may differ in different locations. The RV Park manager should be able to tell you what to listen for. If not, contact the local police department (on a non-emergency line).

TORNADO WATCH: The early alert. Tornadoes are possible where you are located. Remain aware for approaching storms. Local radio and television stations will broadcast the alert.

TORNADO WARNING: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated place of safety. The Fire Department will sound alarms.

The sound of a tornado is classically described as being similar to that of a speeding freight train rumbling in the distance.

What to Look for:
Some environmental clues to watch for:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Turbulent, swirling clouds
  • Large hail
  • Loud roar; similar to a freight train

Caution: Some tornadoes appear as a visible funnel extending only partially from a cloud. Likely, below the visible funnel a column of rotating air that cannot yet be seen until it begins to pick up dirt and debris as it touches down.

Make the decision!

Every year, many folks are killed or seriously injured by tornados despite advance warning.

The preparedness information in this article, combined with timely severe weather watches and warnings, could save your life in the event a tornado threatens where you are. After you have received the warning or observed threatening skies, YOU must make the decision to seek shelter before the storm arrives. It could be the most important decision you will ever make.

You may also want to read: What RVers should Know About Thunder Storms and Tornados

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