Weather & Wildfire Safety for RVers
When traveling in an RV, watching the weather and keeping an eye out for wildfires is imperative for your safety. RVillage members share their tips & favorite tools.
Stormy weather in winter and spring. Blazing summer heat. Autumn hurricanes in the east, and wildfires out west. How do you keep yourself & your traveling home safe from the natural elements? Your home has wheels, and can be moved as needed to stay out of the path of hazards. You can even try to stay in the most comfortable climate based on the season. It just takes a little research & planning, and ongoing attention.
WeatherWhen traveling in different parts of the country, you should be aware of seasonal weather patterns and plan your routes to avoid dangerous weather conditions. Have you developed a plan for severe weather? Check out this thread about how some RVillagers prepare for inclement weather.
In some situations such as heavy snow or ice, it may be safer to stop and hunker down for a while. In other types of weather such as hurricanes or tornadoes, it's prudent to move quickly and relocate as far away as possible.
Having some flexibility in your schedule will allow you to re-route or delay the trip (depending on the situation), rather than pushing through to keep a campground reservation. When a weather situation looks risky, change or even cancel that reservation. Better to lose some cash than your home, or worse!
Can occur in the mountains as early as late summer, and can remain on the ground as late as early summer in the higher elevations (above 8,000 ft or more). When route-planning, check the weather a week in advance to avoid driving in blizzards & white-outs, or on icy roads.
Along the Gulf coast states, both coasts of Florida, and the eastern seaboard, active hurricane season is from mid-June through mid-September. There is usually plenty of warning time to get out of way before damaging winds and flooding occur. Should you tie it down and stay put? RVillagers offer their suggestions.
Whether it's flooding from rainstorms & hurricanes in the east, or monsoon season in the desert southwest—when water is covering a road, remember to “Turn Around, Don't Drown!” Water can be much deeper than it appears, and it only takes two feet of water to float a large vehicle or even a bus.
Winter and spring bring very strong winds to the midwest and western states, blowing truckers off the major freeways. Anytime of year: When checking the weather forcast for the day/week, also look at the wind speed. Many RVers won't travel in winds over 20 MPH, for good reason. It's safer to delay your trip. RVillagers report this as a useful website & app: Windy
From The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
“Where is Tornado Alley? Tornado Alley is a nickname invented by the media to refer to a broad area of relatively high tornado occurrence in the central United States. Various “Tornado Alley” maps look different because tornado occurrence can be measured many ways: by all tornadoes, tornado county-segments, strong and violent tornadoes only, and databases with different time periods.”
“However, the idea of a “tornado alley” can be misleading. The U.S. tornado threat shifts from the Southeast in the cooler months of the year, toward the southern and central Plains in May and June, and the northern Plains and Midwest during early summer. Tornadoes can occur and have been reported in all fifty states.”
“When are tornadoes most likely? Tornado season usually refers to the time of year the U.S. sees the most tornadoes. The peak “tornado season” for the southern Plains (e.g., Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas) is from May into early June. On the Gulf coast, it is earlier in the spring. In the northern Plains and upper Midwest (North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota), tornado season is in June or July. But, remember, tornadoes can happen at any time of year. Tornadoes can also happen at any time of day or night, but most tornadoes occur between 4–9 p.m.”
Learn more at NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) Severe Weather 101 - Tornadoes.
Know WHERE to shelter
If you are camping in those areas during those times, you should learn where the nearest shelter is. (It is not inside your RV!)
The “Go” bag
Many recommend having a “go” bag of essential documents, meds, pet records, etc. packed and ready to go—by the exit door, in case of an evacuation. Here's a suggested list of items to pack, offered by a helpful RVillage member.
Weather maps & online tools
RVillagers report the following maps and apps to be very useful in keeping an eye on the weather for trip planning, some have daily alerts that can be enabled.
- NOAA National Weather Service Map - Graphical Forecasts
- NOAA National Hurricane Center Map
- The Weather Channel
In Canada: Canadian Weather
Are there other weather apps that you have found to be helpful? Contribute to the discussion.
RVillagers suggest you also carry a NOAA radio onboard for times when a cellular or internet connection is not available. Keep some spare (charged) batteries too! Radio shown above, available on Amazon.
RVillage group: Road Warnings
Join the Road Warnings group to post about weather hazards in your part of the country—warn your fellow RVillagers!
While autumn can be a beautiful time of the year bringing in cooler temperatures and showy fall colors, it is also wildfire season in the western states. Fire season seems to be occurring even earlier each year with the ongoing drought there—with many fires starting up in early-summer and continuing through late autumn.
Wildfires happen suddenly—from lightening strikes, or caused by the stray spark of an exhaust pipe, a tow chain dragging the ground, or campfires left smoldering. There may be no fires in your area, and then suddenly you could find yourself surrounded by multiple large active fires. It's not safe to “wait out” a fire—leave the area, seek safer ground immediately. Heed evacuation warnings!
Wildfire maps & online tools
Be aware—when camping or traveling through high-risk fire areas, keep a close eye on one or more of the following maps, apps, and fire information web sites, submitted by fellow RVillagers:
- National map of current wildfires: Inciweb
- Comprehensive list of current active wildfires: National Interagency Fire Center
- “Fires” app:
- National map of large & small fires: National Fire Situational Awareness
- Latest wildfire news: Wildfire Today
- Fire forecasts by month: National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook
See also: National Weather Service's Fire Hazard Weather Map
In Canada: Natural Resources Canada Wildfires Map
With fires comes smoke, airborne ash & soot. This can significantly decrease air quality, causing additional health problems for people with respiratory or heart disease. Here is an app that is popular among RVers for monitoring air quality:
- EPA AirNow app:
- Shown in image above: AirNow Fire & Smoke Map (allow a few seconds for overlays of current situation to load)
Want to volunteer to help in a natural disaster area? Join the RVillage Cares group to see where efforts are underway.
Disclaimer: The information gathered here is compiled from the posts and opinions of RVillagers, and not of RVillage itself. RVillage assumes no responsibility for any inaccuracies or omissions.
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