Let me first say that as I am writing this, I am soaked to the bone. I only spent a total of about three seconds in the rain, yet I am absolutely drenched.
Probably the biggest danger of full time RV living is weathering a storm. I’ve done it several times, or at least I thought I had.
Nothing I have ever previously experienced compared to what just happened today. You see it on the news all the time; RVs toppled and in ruins after a storm.
We thought we were about to make the news.
I mean, you hear people talking about RV safety and things that could happen. But like all disasters, you think it could never happen to you.
I urge you. Please don’t think that way. It can, and at some time, eventually WILL happen to you.
It Started Yesterday
We started hearing talk around the campground and on social media that storms were coming. Some of the locals were talking about evacuating and staying with family in the area to ride out the storm.
We were listening. We did evaluate our options. We thought about running. That’s one of the great aspects of full time RV living. If for any reason you feel uncomfortable where you are, you can always move.
But in this particular case, that didn’t seem to be an option. When I started looking at the forecasts for different areas, it was apparent that to escape this storm, we were going to have to travel around 400 miles before the storm got here, and even then, there was no guarantee. The forecast maps seemed to be covered in red.
We just weren’t willing to do that. The forecasts weren’t TOO bad… They were generally calling for winds at 25-30 mph with gusts at 35. I had been through several similar sounding storms, so I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal just to ride it out. Sure, the rig would shake a little bit, but that’s no big deal, right?
This is the actual weather forecast map. The storm covered the entire region.
The day of
This morning, I woke up to the rig rocking. Which is weird, because usually when that is happening, I’m directly involved in the cause of the rocking. Not this time.
Through the day, we started making preparations.
I had the kids clean up the site so that nothing went flying. While they were doing that, I filled up the gray, black and fresh tanks. I thought a little weight might help steady us out and minimize the rocking.
I ensured the outside patio tent was securely tied down to the picnic table (that is easily over 200 pounds) using paracord. It’s the heaviest non-concrete picnic table I’ve ever seen. It’s not going anywhere.
As the storm was getting closer, we were getting reports from the west that the storm was worse than previously thought. I started to think about what we were going to do if it got too bad.
The best I could think of was the campground laundry room. Since I wasn’t sure how long we’d be in there and we’d have the kids with us, I wanted to make sure everyone was as comfortable as possible. I loaded up the truck with a few folding chairs and a cot. I figured everybody could just bring a Kindle, tablet, or computer and safely hang out for a little while.
The storm cometh...
I knew the storm was getting closer. It had been windy all day, but now it was picking up a bit and getting darker outside. It was time to start paying attention to the radar map on my phone. If full time RV living is in your future plans, I recommend you find a weather app that you trust and get really good at reading the radar map. I use AccuWeather.
It looked bad, really bad. It was moving fast, so it was also going to be here soon. It was thin, though. The combination of being thin and moving quickly gave me some solace that it would be a very brief storm. If it got bad, it wouldn’t last long.
The weather map I use has colors from mild to severe going green, yellow, orange, red, dark red, and purple. We’ve ridden out several storms in the red and even a couple in dark red. We weren’t intimidated by those colors. What I did notice though was that there was a section of purple that seemed like it was popping up about 45 miles to the southwest of us. Guess where the storm was heading?
You guessed it. Northeast.
It seemed it was going to pass just to the south of us, that is unless it kept growing, which is what it looked like it was doing. We were also hearing reports of some areas seeing winds of 70+ miles an hour. Which is, well you know, concerning.
When I pointed this out to my wife Shanna, she downplayed it. “Oh, it’s got a little spot that is clearing up. That’s the part that’s going to pass over us.” That’s definitely not the way I saw it.
So here I was, seriously concerned that danger was eminent. I’m pleasantly suggesting to the wife that we go ahead and go to the laundry room and set up the little camp there just as I had planned. I say pleasantly because I had to be careful. I have a 10-year-old that is deathly afraid of storms. If he detected the slightest amount genuine concern in my voice, he would be physically sick to his stomach with anxiety. No exaggeration.
The drawback to this tone of voice was that Shanna wasn’t really taking me seriously either. No matter how many times I told her it was time to go. She kept working on her computer, the 10-year-old kept playing games on his phone, and the three-year-old kept doing his normal cartwheels through the living room.
I kept spreading cream cheese on my celery. Hey, I was hungry.
Everything was going normally, just as it would any other day.
But outside it was starting to rain.
What was THAT?
So, there I am, watching the rain picking up. Counting the time between the lightning strikes and the sound of thunder. The camper is rocking a good bit more now. Wondering what it would be doing if I hadn’t filled up all the tanks.
I’m trying to convince Shanna that the purple part of the storm is growing and is about to be right on top of us, but she’s not buying it.
Whatever is on that computer is more important.
All of a sudden, something falls. You see, we use the top of our slides as shelving. In the kitchen is cereal, paper towels, and other necessities. More toward the living room is where the board games are kept. My hats are on the other side. Convenient storage and quickly movable when traveling, but I’m getting off track here…
Anyway, something falls. As I look over to see what it is, I notice it’s cereal boxes falling off the slide. Then I see why. The wind is lifting the entire slide up and pushing the top into the camper. I see daylight coming through the seals. The entire rig is rattling.
It’s time to go.
Flirting with Oz
It goes from no one paying attention to my pleas for evacuation to complete chaos in about 1.3 seconds. Shanna is yelling at the three-year-old to come on that it’s time to go. He’s completely terrified, naturally feeling safer in his own home than going outside into the storm.
Part of me is planning our escape while the other part is wondering how good an idea this whole full time RV living idea was…
I see the 10-year-old is coming downstairs from his loft and knowing his shoes were on the stairs, I am confident that he’s good. After I ensure that Shanna has successfully extricated herself from under her computer and has the baby taken care of, I grab the dog and head for the door.
Oh, my plate of cream cheese covered celery. Don’t forget that.
As I’m headed for the door, the tent flying away.
This seems extremely odd, as I’ve never seen paracord or the knots I had tied ever fail.
And then I see that they didn’t.
The picnic table is still securely fastened to the tent. You remember, the world’s heaviest picnic table? Well, it’s now completely airborne. Flying through the air headed towards the rig at a diagonal angle.
It misses the camper by inches and heads to the rear. I don’t wait to see where it lands before I scream to everyone with urgency that it’s time to go. NOW.
“It's not THAT the wind is blowing, its WHAT the wind is blowing.”
We're Not in Kansas Anymore
So, I’m at the door with a dog in one hand and a plate of celery in the other. I try to open the door and it’s locked. WHO THE HELL LOCKED THE DOOR? Of all the times the door has to be locked it has to be now when we gotta MOVE!
I unlock the door and pull the handle again. I realize that I just locked it. It wasn’t locked in the first place. I’m fighting the wind. The wind is a fierce competitor. But I’m determined.
I end up having to lay into the door with a good bit of my body weight using my shoulder to get it open. Once open, it’s another struggle to keep it open long enough for everyone else to get through. My wife has it now. Time to go.
It’s raining worse than I’ve ever seen. Everything is gray. I can’t see much of anything. The fact I had on my glasses just made it worse. Had I not just been to the truck not long before to load in the chairs and cot, it would be much more difficult to find.
I’m sure you’ve seen it rain sideways. It’s pretty common during bad storms. But I’m not sure you’ve ever seen the seer VOLUME of water that was pelting us mercilessly. There was so much rain and the wind was blowing so hard, it was like there were no raindrops. It was just water. Lots of it. And it was PISSED!
It didn’t take but a second or so for everyone to get to the truck and get in. I look around to assess the situation quickly. Everyone is soaked. Like just jumped into a swimming pool drenched.
I drive up to the laundry building, mostly going off instinct because visibility isn’t zero. It’s negative.
Once we get there, everyone bails out of the truck. I'm Flash Gordon over here, running at full speed through the depth of angry water. I can’t see much at all. As I get closer to the building, visibility slightly improves because I’m under an overhang, but only enough to tell the direction of the door.
It was not enough to tell exactly how far away the door was and I slammed into it at full force, busting the window panes out of the frame. I had to pull my arm back out of the door.
Finally, everyone was safely inside. There were a few people already there to escape the storm. They had one question for me…
You brought celery?
With a thick steel frame, I was shocked to see this table flying through the air. It came to rest about 30 feet away from where it started. We were concerned it was going to end up in the creek.
Luckily this glass didn't shatter when my arm went through it. Evidently, the glass stronger than the frame.
The campground is also an outfitter. The sign out front is down and there are kayaks laying all around.