We were on the Pensacola Beach Florida coast when Hurricane Sally decided to take a turn and head directly for us! We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. Since we are Florida natives and know how quickly the weather can change, we had a hurricane plan that we used to safely avoid the storm.
Many new RV owners are planning trips to the coast in their motorhomes. While the US coasts are a great place to visit, if you are traveling from June through November, you are traveling during hurricane season.
With the record number of storms in the 2020 season, I thought it would be helpful to share these 10 tips for those new RV owners that may not know a lot about RVing during hurricane season.
Quick Shoutout and a Huge Thank You to the Pensacola Beach RV Resort Staff! They were tremendously helpful during our evacuation with our RV. They are currently closed due to the damage to the 3 Mile Bridge by Hurricane Sally, but we highly recommend visiting when they reopen.
1. When Is Hurricane Season?
Hurricane season for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts is from June 1 to November 30. This doesn’t mean that there will always be hurricanes during this time, it’s just the time of year when conditions are favorable for development.
2. Big Rig RVs And Weather Restrictions
All RVers need to be careful during bad weather, but Big Rigs are more vulnerable to being turned over in strong winds.
It’s also more difficult to avoid flying debris being pushed by strong hurricane winds when you are driving a Big Rig.
Commercial semi-trucks will not travel during high winds because it is not safe to do so. Take a lesson from them!
3. RV Height Can Limit Escape Routes
Our RV height is 12’10”, which fits under most bridges but in an emergency Hurricane evacuation, you may not be able to use the regular exit routes due to flood or high winds. This is another good reason to know your RV specifications!
4. Get Fuel In Your RV Before The Storm Approaches
During hurricane season, if you are traveling to the coast make sure you have plenty of fuel in case you need to leave quickly. You don’t want to be stuck in long lines trying to get fuel when a storm is approaching.
Plan Ahead And Evacuate Your RV Early
5. Most Bridges Are Closed When Windspeeds Reach 39 mph!
Local authorities will close bridges once it becomes too dangerous to cross them, especially for high profile vehicles like big rig RVs. The wind speed limits vary a little between states and are just guidelines.
According to the I-95 Corridor Coalition (a group of coastal states that help develop suggestions for road safety during significant weather-related events), most local law enforcement will close the bridge traffic once sustained winds reach around 39 mph.
Trust us, you do not want to drive your RV in high winds, especially over a bridge! It is extremely dangerous and completely unnecessary if you plan ahead and evacuate early!
6. Don’t Drive Your RV Through Flooded Roads
You have no idea how deep the water is covering roads, or whether the road surface has already eroded under the water. This happens to roads very frequently during hurricane storm surges and the road literally washes out!
Additionally, you do not want to drive your RV through the saltwater that the hurricane is pushing ashore. Saltwater is corrosive and will cause serious (and possibly irreparable) damage to your RV chassis!
7. Unhook Your Tow Vehicle
If possible, unhook your tow vehicle if it is safe to do so before evacuating and have your travel partner follow you. If you do experience high winds, you don’t want your tow vehicle whipping around behind your RV making it difficult to control!
This also gives you an escape vehicle in case you encounter roads that have become impassable with your RV.
8. Pay Attention To Tropical Weather Alerts
Many people on vacation tune out of news and weather, it’s your vacation and you are trying to relax! But when you RV on the coasts, it’s a good idea to check in with local weather stations every few days to find out what the tropical weather forecast is.
9. Use NHC To Get Accurate Weather Information
Local media can overdramatize just about everything, including the weather forecast! While it is a good idea to check in with local weather stations to see what the forecast is, we use the National Hurricane Center to get the most accurate and updated information on hurricane tracking.
Understanding Hurricane Definitions
The following definitions are courtesy of the National Hurricane Center website. They have a complete glossary, but these are some of the ones you will hear most often when a hurricane is approaching.
A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 64 kt (74 mph or 119 km/hr) or more.
Hurricane Local Statement:
A public release prepared by the local National Weather Service giving specific details for its county/parish warning area on weather conditions, evacuation decisions made by local officials, and other precautions necessary to protect life and property.
An announcement that sustained winds of 64 knots (74 mph or 119 km/hr) or higher are possible within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
An announcement that sustained winds of 64 knots (74 mph or 119 km/hr) or higher are expected somewhere within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds. The warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale:
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 categorization based on the hurricane’s intensity at the indicated time. The scale provides examples of the type of damage and impacts in the United States associated with winds of the indicated intensity. The following table shows the scale broken down by winds:
|Category||Wind Speed (mph)||Damage|
|1||74 – 95||Very dangerous winds will produce some damage|
|2||96 – 110||Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage|
|3||111 – 129||Devastating damage will occur|
|4||130 – 156||Catastrophic damage will occur|
|5||> 156||Catastrophic damage will occur|
A detailed description of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is available at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshws.php.
An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm, and whose height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic high tide from the observed storm tide.
Storm Surge Watch:
The possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 48 hours, in association with a hurricane or storm. The watch may be issued earlier when other conditions, such as the onset of tropical-storm-force winds are expected to limit the time available to take protective actions for evacuations.
Storm Surge Warning:
The danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 36 hours, in association with a hurricane or storm. The warning may be issued earlier when other conditions, such as the onset of tropical-storm-force winds are expected to limit the time available to take protective actions for evacuations.
The warning may also be issued for locations not expected to receive life-threatening inundation but which could potentially be isolated by inundation in adjacent areas.
Tropical Storm Warning:
Tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected within your area within 36 hours.
You can find a lot of other information on the NHC website, but the best advice is…