When you live 75 miles inland from the East Coast in North Carolina, you learn how to prepare for hurricanes. I can’t tell you the exact number of hurricanes we have experienced, but it’s a lot. Depending on the category of storm and where it makes landfall, the results can be devastating. When a hurricane makes a direct hit on the coast, we need to be prepared for it.
Regardless of how prepared you might think you are, conditions can worsen without notice. Tornadoes, 100-mph winds, power outages, and shortages of gasoline, food, and drinking water are just some of the things that hurricanes can bring with them.
As an RV educator, I am an advocate for safety, and I can tell you from experience that hurricanes and RVs do not go together. But while it’s not safe to take shelter in an RV during a hurricane, your RV can be a lifesaver after the hurricane has passed. Here is how to prepare an RV for a hurricane.
Prepare your RV for Severe Weather
One advantage of hurricanes—if you want to call it that—is having time to prepare. Meteorologists know well in advance when a hurricane is forming, and they can track where it is going.
If your plan is to hunker down and weather the storm at home, and your RV is stored outside, you need to do whatever you can to protect your RV. Try to avoid parking it near or under any trees. Hurricanes typically result in a great deal of rainfall. The rain softens the ground, and the high winds can uproot trees, causing large tree branches to break off and fall.
If the RV has slide-outs, put them in the stowed position. If you have a towable RV, like a travel trailer or fifth wheel, position it on solid ground and chock the tires in both directions. Position the RV next to some type of structure, like your house or garage. Make sure it’s a solid structure that can withstand the high wind forces. The wind’s direction is determined by where you are in relation to the hurricane, but regardless of where the wind is coming from, your RV is better off sitting next to a solid structure. If there is the chance of flooding, move the RV to higher ground if possible.
Plan Ahead for When the Power Goes Out
It’s typical to lose power during hurricanes, sometimes for days on end. If you prepare in advance, your RV can be a helpful resource during that time. Fill the RV’s fresh water tank with potable water in case you need it after the storm. Make sure the LP gas cylinders are full and the battery is charged so you can cook, take showers, and use the refrigerator in the LP gas mode. It’s also wise to the keep the RV’s gas tank full in case you need to relocate.
Preparing to Evacuate in Advance of a Hurricane
As mentioned earlier, RVs are not safe during any storm with high winds. When there is a hurricane growing in size and strength, and tracking indicates it could make landfall on the North Carolina coastline, my family starts making preparations to evacuate from the storm in our RV.
Days before the hurricane arrives, we plug the RV into electricity and turn the refrigerator on. When the refrigerator reaches operating temperature, we stock it the same as we would for an upcoming RV trip. We fill the cabinets with canned food, and make sure we have consumable items like holding tank treatments and toilet paper.
We do a quick inventory of what’s already in the RV and add any clothing or other articles we might need during a storm. We make sure prescription medicine is filled and ready to go. We also plan ahead for our pets by bringing their bedding, medications, leashes, food, and a large portable container of drinking water. As a backup, we always keep extra cases of bottled water in the RV.
After the RV is stocked and ready to go, we fill the fresh water holding tank with potable water, check the level in the LP gas tank and fill if necessary, and make sure the coach batteries and the starting battery are fully charged. Then we do our regular pre-trip checks, making sure the RV is ready to hit the road on a moment’s notice.
Planning an Evacuation Route in an RV
As the hurricane approaches, we look to see where landfall is expected and plan our evacuation route accordingly. Avoid traveling anywhere close to the path of the hurricane, as it can travel inland for miles. Sometimes after making landfall, the storm’s movement is stalled and areas far and wide endure the wrath of the storm for much longer than expected. Rain can cause serious flooding, washed out roads, and closed bridges. You want to be as far away from these types of potential roadblocks as possible.
Once we decide on our route, we make campground reservations in advance. Remember that many people may be evacuating in RVs and looking for a place to stay. It can be difficult to find a campground with sites available during and after a hurricane, so make reservations as soon as possible.
When you use your RV to evacuate from a hurricane, try to think through all the potential scenarios. Our neighborhood is surrounded by two lakes with canals running between every street. Outside of the neighborhood we are surrounded by marshlands, streams, creeks, and a couple of major rivers. When hurricanes hit the area we live in, roads and small bridges are typically washed out and we can’t always get back home in the RV right away.
After the most recent hurricane hit our area, we stayed at a campground in Virginia for five days before the river crested. The river closest to our house crested at 61 feet, which is 26 feet above flood stage. Numerous roads and small bridges going to our home washed out, and it wasn’t safe to travel on secondary roads in a large RV. Stores were low on supplies and some gas stations were out of fuel.
When we evacuate our home during a hurricane, we stock the RV with plans of being gone for quite a while. That is one of the greatest perks of RV ownership—they provide us with shelter and everything we need to weather the storm.
Stay safe and stay prepared.