General RV Guide to Camping During a Tornado

Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Christina

Severe weather can happen during any time of the year, but in the U.S. summer is typically the active season for weather-related disasters. Even on sunny days when the sky looks clear, storms can swoop in, and you could be caught in severe weather while on your camping trip. Tornadoes can happen anywhere, at any time. Although there are peak months in different regions, the majority of tornadoes happen during the spring and summer.

RV owners and enthusiasts know they should always be prepared for changing weather conditions. Whether camping in the rain or amid an intense thunderstorm, you should always be prepared and have an RV emergency kit. But there are things you should do immediately before and during the storm to keep you, your loved ones and your RV safe.

Keep an Eye on the Forecast while RV Camping

The best way you can keep yourself safe while camping is to stay alert and informed. When camping, you should get into the habit of visually monitoring the weather at all times. If you have access to the internet or cell phone reception, it is a good idea to check the weather forecast for the entire duration of your trip. Make sure you have enabled severe weather alerts on your phone. Also, make sure you have weather apps installed on your phone so you can have easy access to the most up-to-date information. Knowing the forecast early can give you more time to plan for whatever Mother Nature sends your way. You can also purchase a weather radio to ensure you have access to the latest forecasts.

RV Camping During a Tornado Watch

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. Because wind is invisible, it is hard to see a tornado unless it forms a condensation funnel made up of water droplets, dust and debris. Tornadoes are capable of completely destroying well-made structures, uprooting trees and hurling objects through the air like deadly missiles. The National Weather Service (NWS) notes that tornadoes can occur at any time of day or night and at any time of the year.

If you get an alert about a tornado watch, you don’t need to abandon your campsite immediately but you should be prepare to seek shelter. A watch means that tornadoes are possible in and near the area. Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. A watch is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states. Here are some general tips for RV campers during a tornado watch:

  • Secure your RV. Tie down or put away things like chairs, grills and other small objects that can become projectiles in high winds. Make sure your outside storage doors are closed and locked. Retract your awning and ensure it is securely fastened. Close and latch your windows. Get your emergency preparedness kit out.
  • Secure your site. Keep an eye out for weak tree branches or shrubs that could break under high wind conditions. Falling branches can cause severe damage during a storm.
  • Stay alert. If there is a watch issued, keep an eye on weather alerts via weather radio or local news apps. Be prepared to act.

What RV Campers need to do during a tornado warning

If you are under a tornado warning, you need to take action immediately. This means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Here are some tips for staying safe during a tornado warning:

  • Abandon your RV and seek shelter. NWS warns that RVs offer very little protection from tornadoes. Try to find an underground shelter or a large concrete structure with thick walls. If you can’t get inside, try to find a space that can act as a thick barrier between you and any debris flying through the air. Look for things such as concrete walls or even a large boulder.
  • Find the lowest point in the ground. If you are driving, camping or parked somewhere where no strong shelters are available, the NWS says you should try to find a ditch or low point to lie down. Try to find something to protect yourself from falling debris like couch cushions or even a mattress.
  • Beware of downed power lines. If you were in or near a tornado’s path, it is likely you will run into downed power lines. Give downed power lines a wide berth, often they can skip around and transmit electricity through wet ground. Avoid getting close to a downed power line to prevent electrocution.

Don’t let Severe Weather Ruin Your RV Trip

Whether you are camping in the rain or find yourself in a severe weather event – the most important thing you can do is be prepared. Don’t let the risk of severe weather ruin a trip or keep you from heading into the wilderness. Check out the General RV Emergency Kit Essentials Guide to help you prepare your RV for adventure. Visit the RV Parts Department at your local General RV Dealer to pick up gear to help you prepare for severe weather. Plus, check out our great selection of towing equipment, camp kitchen gear and more! If you have any questions, our RV experts are ready to help.