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RVing During Hurricane Season: Hurricane Prep for RVers

RVing During Hurricane Season: Hurricane Prep for RVers 1

I moved to the Space Coast of Florida in the mid-1990s. Living beachside on the east central coast of Florida got me quickly acquainted with living in a hurricane zone. 

It was the very active hurricane season of 2004 that actually got me into RVing. During the middle of my third mandatory evacuation inside of a few weeks, I stayed up late while Hurricane Jeanne’s winds howled outside. 

Inside, I was surfing eBay – shopping for my first RV. And I won an auction on a used pop-up camper, committing to it sight unseen (not the recommended way to purchase an RV, by the way).  

I figured if a hurricane struck again, it would be much better to evacuate in my own little home on wheels instead of scrambling to find crash spaces in friends’ guest rooms not in the path. And then if my home was damaged, I could live in the RV onsite while repairs were made. 

2004 spared us with minimal damage. And now I had an eBay pop-up camper. I took it out to Florida State Parks and festivals and fell in love with the lifestyle of vacationing in something that felt like home. 

Fast forward a couple years, and I encountered this guy who had just hit the road full time in a tiny camping trailer. We fell in love. I was already digging RVing and could work remotely with some internet access – so I sold my home and moved in with him. We’re still full-time nomads 14 years later by RV and boat.  

Having strong family, community and business ties to Florida has had us frequently in the southeast for hurricane season.

Your first thought might be – Florida? In summer? Yes, it’s hot and humid. But the ocean breezes really do make it more temperate. 

Next thought. What about hurricanes? Won’t you die?

Hurricanes - The Gift of Notice

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Unlike other natural disasters across the world – earthquakes, tornados, flash floods and wildfires – hurricanes come with the built-in gift of advance notice. 

It’s quite rare for one to sneak up on you without a couple days (or more) notice. And just because it’s hurricane season and you’re in ‘the zone’ (which stretches all along the Gulf of Mexico coast and up the eastern seaboard) doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be impacted by a major storm. 

Paying attention to tropical storm forecasts (The National Hurricane Center,  Tropical Tidbits and Windy are daily visits for us) can give you plenty of time to execute your hurricane plan. 

(If you’re choosing to be in a hurricane area, you do have a hurricane plan, right?) 

RVs Have Wheels - Use Them!

RVing During Hurricane Season: Hurricane Prep for RVers 3

We’ve heard the argument that an RV is designed to encounter sustained 60-80 mile per hour winds. After all, that’s what they undergo when we drive them down the interstate. So, some RVers just plan to stay put through the smaller storms. 

But a broadside 130mph gust can flip an RV right over. 

RVs also aren’t built for flying debris that high winds can toss around. Tree branches, heck – whole trees, lawn furniture, pieces of fences and more can all become deadly projectiles in those sorts of winds – and severely damage traditional homes, never mind our flimsy RVs. 

And remember, hurricanes aren’t just wind events. They can spawn severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, storm surges and massive flooding rains. 

The preferred hurricane plan for an RV is to do what they do best – turn on the ignition and drive away! Our homes have wheels. USE THEM. RVs are perfect bug-out vehicles being self-contained wherever we land. 

Know the area you are in, and what the actual risks are. Coastal areas are prone to more severe impacts and will often have mandatory evacuations ordered once warnings go up.  

Some RV Parks or campgrounds may actually close down and kick you out as part of their storm preps. 

You really might not have a choice to stay. 

If you’re more inland, you may be ok or just need to move a few dozen more miles out of the way to be safer. Talk with locals who have gone through a storm or three. And track the constantly changing storm forecasts closely.  

Tips for Being Prepared for Hurricanes in an RV

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Keep your tanks at their optimal levels, always. 

When an evacuation is ordered, local fuel stations will become absolutely clobbered with everyone filling up. Trying to maneuver your large RV in that chaos will be a disaster in itself. 

Fuel can become scarce as the storm approaches and remain that way for days or weeks after the storm. Always keep your fuel tanks full, so you’re ready to turn the key and drive away or able to use your generator after the storm when power may be out for weeks. 

Keep your fresh water tank topped off as well, especially in the day or two before a storm approaches. Some RV parks may actually turn off water in preparation, and after the storm water may be unavailable due to contamination or water main breaks. Use those RV water tanks to your advantage. 

Definitely empty those black and grey tanks in advance of the storm! You just don’t know when you’ll be able to dump again, as drainage systems could become backed up with flooding from the storm. 

If you evacuate, anticipate that main roads will be slow going – especially if you wait until the last days before the storm’s approach. Staying aware and getting out early can result in a smoother exodus but could also result in evacuating for no reason if the storm’s track changes. We always try to stay ahead of the mass exodus if we can and take back roads instead of main roads to avoid as much traffic as possible. 

As you’re evacuating, continue to track the storm – it’s path could change to intersect with your destination!

So where should you head? Preferably fully out of where hurricane conditions are predicted. While local parks might be shutting down, other facilities might open up and welcome evacuating RVers – sometimes even for free. Stay in ‘the know’ via various RVing groups, who will often share various suggestions of places you can head. 

After the storm, if you decide to head back to where you evacuated from, investigate first to see if it’s even safe. Anticipate power and water not being available, massive damage, stores not being open or stocked for awhile and your RV park not even being suitable for return. 

If it is safe for return, your self-contained RV may be the perfect base camp to endure the challenges. Perhaps you can even bring in supplies from outside to help others, and pitch in and help with the clean-up while locals are dealing with significant damage.

RVing During Hurricane Season: Hurricane Prep for RVers 5


Cherie Ve Ard & Chris Dunphy

Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy of Technomadia.com have been living and working full-time on the road since 2006, and Internet connectivity has been essential to them every step of the way. To help other RVers with the challenges of staying connected, they co-authored The Mobile Internet Handbook, and in 2014 they launched RVMobileInternet.com to provide unbiased information, reviews, resources and tutorials to help us all stay better connected on the road. 

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RVing During Hurricane Season: Hurricane Prep for RVers 6

4 Responses

  1. Keep remembering the last storm we evacuated for . . .
    Day 1) The storm will be coming up the east Coast of Florida! So we head up to Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Get checked in, get set up and got some sleep.
    Day 2) In the morning, looked at the new track, and it looks like it was going to come straight up through the center of Florida!! So we packed up and headed west to Apalachicola. It was becoming Ground Hog Day! We got set up and got some sleep
    Day 3) Once again, in the morning, the new track took it straight up through Apalachicola!!! I was sure I was being chased by the hurricane! It was at that point, we decided we were going following another RVer couple and headed to to the Escapee’s Rainbow Plantation RV park in Alabama! It was a wonderful park, and a wonderful time. Also, it was very nice to be able to bring our house and all out “stuff” with us! Good times!!
    I just wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to that RV couple. Thank you for sharing all the knowledge, the lessons, and your great RVing advice over the years!

  2. Consider getting amateur radio license. Cheap Chinese radio will help keep you informed. Emergency nets pop up before, during, and after the storm. When all else fails!

  3. Last spring we evacuated 5 times to tornado shelters in Alabama. We also had high winds the previous fall from hurricane. The last tornado was a F1 direct hit on our storm shelter 200 feet away from the rig. The Class A 2014 Forest River FR3 RV tipped sideways enough that debris flew and was caught under the back left tires. We narrowly missed a total loss of our rig. No damage was found anywhere other than leaves and dirt on the sides. Hundreds of trees fell, but near us, just short of the camp site. The next week I went and bought two ground anchors from the Tractor Supply Company. In the past I used these to tie down my plastic tunnel green houses on a farm. One went in the ground at the hitch, the other at the front frame. I used large ratchet straps to anchor down the rig . The goal of this is to not have the rig ever roll. Even with other damage from wind or tree the motorhome needs to stay stationary. The fact that the back left tires were off the ground and we sustained no structural damage was impressive. Obviously this is not for short term camping, but I can put these in the ground in about 20 minutes if need be. (afternote: When I left Alabama after 5 months, One pf the anchors would not “unscrew” from the clay soil. A tractor loader could not pull it out. A testement to how strong these anchors are.)

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