Hurricane Preparedness: The RV Edition

Hurricane season in the Northern Hemisphere is June through November, but “peak season” for the tropics and the Gulf and Eastern-Seaboard in September and October. That’s when the tropical waters are at their warmest, and therefore most conducive to the induction processes that create the cyclone effects that create tropical storms and hurricanes.

There are lots of RV owners in the Southeastern United States, but all RV owners anywhere near the coast from Texas all the way up to New England should be aware of the threat, and take steps to mitigate it.

Here are a few RV-specific tips to guide your decision-making:

1.The most effective hurricane protection devices on any RV are the wheels. Use them.
2.Your RV is built to maximize mobility, not structural strength. If your RV and a hurricane get into a shoving match, your RV is going to lose.
3.Don’t be in your RV when it does.
4.Some people will tell you to evacuate based on the category of the hurricane. They will tell you that while your RV won’t withstand a direct hit from a Category V or IV storm, or even a Category III storm, you might be able to weather a Category II storm and you should be ok in a Category I hurricane.

Those people are idiots.

5.A big storm will kick the sea level up. Way up. As high as 10-12 feet over normal sea level. This isn’t just the tide coming in. A storm surge that big is a wall of water that will lay waste to everything in its path. Big storms erase entire islands from history. Don’t be on them when the storm comes.
6.The ocean isn’t the only thing that can jump the shore line. Storms have been known to push lake water over the levees, too. For example, the storm surge generated by the Miami Hurricane of 1926, and again by the Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 caused Lake Okeechobee to jump its banks and drowned hundreds of people in and near Clewiston and Moore Haven in an event memorably fictionalized by Zora Neale Hurston in her classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. The lake flooding inundated an area fully 75 miles wide.

You don’t want to be anywhere near anything like this in an RV.

7.Check out this handy tool from the National Hurricane Center that can help you predict sea, lake and overland surges from hurricanes (SLOSH).

So what can I do?

Here are some practical things you can do to prepare for the storm and keep both you and your loved ones and your RV safe:

Insurance

Buy insurance now. When you can track the storm on the Weather Channel, it’s too late. If you want insurance coverage during the storm, you must purchase it when the weather is clear. After all, it wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark, and you don’t wait until the ‘bail out’ order before you pack your parachute.

Make sure your personal effects coverage is adequate, as well as the coverage on the vehicle itself.

  • Try to find a garage or storage building, preferably made of sturdy concrete or cinderblocks. You’ll probably want to make this arrangement well ahead of time.

  • Fill your fuel tank at the first whiff of possible danger. Gas stations often run out of fuel days before the expected arrival of a storm, and fuel companies aren’t eager to send tankers into the path of a storm if they aren’t sure they’ll have time to safely make it out – and have access to fuel of their own.

  • Check your tires for tread. If they’re worn, replace them before the rain comes. Inflate your tires to the proper pressure.

  • The National Guard doesn’t move through a hurricane strike area until winds are below 40 miles per hour. Neither should you.

  • Check your windshield wipers. They’ll be working overtime. You may want to treat your windshield, as well, to maximize visibility.

  • Get bottled water early (My local Walmart here in Fort Lauderdale, Florida was out of bottled water by Friday night for a storm expected to hit Monday morning).

  • Don’t drive through standing water. The best way to avoid having to do that is to leave before the flood.

  • Have a destination picked out ahead of time. Make your reservation, if needed, early. There will be lots of RV owners heading out of town at the same time and hookup space will be at a premium.

  • Be prepared to ‘boondock.’ Power may be out for days anywhere within 50 miles or so of the storm track.

  • Pack mosquito repellent. You’ll thank me later.

Can’t move your RV out of town for some reason?

  • Park your RV away from large trees that could come crashing down on top of it. If you can’t move the RV, then consider cutting down the tree ahead of time.

  • Board up your windows. You can use a product called Plylox® to secure the boards to the windows. Get them now: They’ll disappear from the shelves in the days before the arrival of a storm.

  • Inventory your personal belongings. Use an app like www.knowyourstuff.com to help you document your property in case you need to file an insurance claim. You’ll be glad you did.

  • Tie down everything. You may need to get some special straps for awnings. Don’t wait for the last minute to buy them: They’ll be gone when you get to the shop. Pay special attention to awnings.

  • Remove external antenna and fixtures.

  • Point the rear of the vehicle at the wind. This reduces the surface area exposed to the wind and protects the windshield against flying objects. (If you’re taking shelter nearby and the eye of the hurricane passes over you, you’ll have to go out and turn the RV around, since the wind will now come from the opposite direction.

  • Don’t store vital emergency supplies inside your RV, which can easily break apart in hurricane-force winds.

  • If you’re stuck in your RV for some reason during the storm (you dummy!), the safest spot, away from flying glass and debris, is the toilet.

  • Ballast your rig. Make it heavy. I recommend filling every cooler and 5-gallon water container you can get your hands on with water. The more weight you have inside, the harder it will be for the winds to knock over your RV.

  • Assume your RV is going to leak. It’s just going to happen. Embrace the horror, and have some tarps and buckets on hand to protect what you can.

  • Don’t put your generator inside your RV. Yes, people steal generators. That’s better than waking up dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, which happens to people after nearly every big storm, because they try to hide their generator inside their home or RV.

The Takeaway


The best policy, in all cases, is to pull up stakes when the Hurricane Watch is issued and get out of the path of the storm. Mobility is your best defense. Don’t wait until the Hurricane Warning is in effect: You may have a hard time getting fuel and you could run into traffic that will slow you down. You don’t want to be stuck in traffic on U.S. 1 trying to get out of the Florida Keys when the storm surge cuts off the only road in front of you and behind you.

Seriously, don’t be a hero. Don’t be a burden on first responders. Get you and your RV out of town if you can. If you can’t get the RV out of town, stay in a shelter and not in the RV.

If you can’t move your RV, for some reason, it’s better to collect on an RV policy than a life insurance policy.

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