Preparing for Hurricanes in an RV
Hurricane season is officially here. And that means those along the east coast and Gulf Coast in particular are making plans to survive the storms that may make landfall soon.
Did you know that your RV can help you during a hurricane? Let’s talk about what you need to do to prepare for a hurricane, evacuate in your RV, prepare if you are sticking it out, and finally how an RV can help during the aftermath of a storm.
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The 2020 Hurricane Season
“NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).”
Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30.
But the storms really get active in the late summer months of August and September.
Prepare Before the Storm
You don’t have to wait until the last minute to prepare your RV for a major hurricane. Actually, it’s best if you do it well in advance of a storm so that you can wait for the storm with way less stress.
Your RV can be a great way to evacuate the storm (especially during an era of social distancing) and take your pets with you during the evacuation.
Your RV can also be a useful tool during the aftermath of a storm, as a place to live during cleanup.
Review Insurance and Take Pictures
Before hurricanes are even forecasted, you should review your RV insurance policy to make sure you’ll be covered. Check your limits and make sure that you have your deductible covered in an emergency fund. If you don’t have an emergency fund, this is a great time to start one!
When I got my new Tiffin, my insurance company asked me what my evacuation plan was (you’re insuring it buddy!) Make sure you know whether your insurance company will cover you if you stay or if you are required to evacuate.
You’ll also want to take pictures, inside and out, of your RV and the contents. Then save these pictures and even better, video, to the cloud. This will help you in case you ever need to make claims on your RV insurance. (Also a good practice for your home and other vehicles)
Be sure to highlight major upgrades that won’t show on your original build sheet. And any pricey things, like televisions, beds, etc. that have been added since you got your RV. If possible, save receipts from your major purchases as well.
Water Tanks During a Storm
As the storm approaches, you’ll want to fill up the fresh water tanks in your RV. That way, you can evacuate and boondock wherever you can find a safe spot.
If you are sticking it out without evacuating, the fresh water may be invaluable as the water system is often compromised. Even if the water lines are in tact in your city or county, the water treatment plant may be flooded or otherwise contaminated with waste. Having a bunch of safe, fresh water will be a wonderful thing for you.
During the storm, the extra weight of water at the bottom of the RV can also help stabilize the RV and help reduce the risk of it overturning. If you are sticking it out during the storm, you may want to fill the black and gray tank with clean water to provide that extra weight at the bottom of the RV.
If you are evacuating, you’ll also want to start with empty waste tanks. So go ahead and empty them out.
Don’t normally use your fresh water tank? Sanitize your fresh water system before the storm and filling with your drinking water. That way you know it’ll be safe to drink.
Test Out The Generator and Fill the Gas Tanks
Whether you are planning on staying home or evacuating, your generator needs to be in tip top shape. So test it out before the storm gets here.
Especially for those that often live or stay in an RV park, you may not be familiar with your RV generator (or you may even need to buy one!) But before, during, and after a storm, you may need the generator!
You’ll want to make sure that your generator is working and take any necessary maintenance actions ahead of the storm.
Don’t forget to have some motor oil on hand.
And a full tank of gas!
Portable RV Generator Recommendations
There are two RV generators that I recommend. Which one you want to go with will vary depending on your needs and your price point.
Champion 3500 Watt Dual Fuel Generator is quite popular among RVers. It runs on either regular gasoline or propane, which means you have more options for fuel based on price and availability.
The problem is that, like any 3500 or higher watt generator, is that this thing is heavy. It’s over 100 pounds. So you won’t want to be getting this in and out of a truck very often. Definitely not in and out of basement bays in the RV.
The other recommendation is actually two generators. That’s the Honda 2200 Watt RV Generator with the 2200 Watt Companion Generator. By running these two generators in parallel, you get enough power to run one RV air conditioner.
But since each generator is less than 47 pounds, it is much easier for one person to be able to manage the generators on their own. And it is easier to get the generator into a truck bed or in an RV basement bay. Also much smaller.
You can run one Honda generator by itself if you only need to keep batteries charged and the fridge cold. That’ll save you on gas and let you go much longer on whatever gas you do have.
Even if you don’t go with one of these portable RV generator recommendations, make sure that any portable generator you get is RV ready (has the RV 30 amp plug) and is an inverter generator (not a contractor generator). The inverter generator makes sure that you get good quality pure sine wave energy (not modified sine wave) which the electronics in your RV need.
Also, you’ll want to have extra gas on hand. You can get one of the small traditional gas cans. Or you can get a much larger DuraMax Flo and Go gas pump that will make it less likely to spill gas during transfer to the generator.
I first saw these in action at the Atlanta Falcons tailgate and instantly knew that this was going on the recommendation list! A large capacity, wheels for easy maneuvering, and a gas pump to make spills less likely. Yep, it’s a winner.
Stock the Pantry
No matter where you are going to be, you’ll want to stock the pantry.
Start with lots of non-perishable foods. And easy to fix foods.
If you are planning on grilling, make sure you have a fresh propane tank or charcoal.
A hurricane or other natural disaster is also a good time to go ahead and break out the plastic plates (save your RV water!) Or better yet, get biodegradable plates. I like this set with plates, cutlery, and even cups.
Don’t forget the pet food!
Don’t Forget to Stock the Medicine Cabinet!
Whether you’ll be evacuating or sticking it out at home, there is a good likelihood that you’ll run into some minor mishaps that call for first aid.
This is especially true if you’ll be on scene during cleanup.
So make sure you have plenty of band-aids, Neosporin, and what not.
And definitely add a bottle of Advil. Get the tablet kind, not the gel capsules as the heat can melt the gel capsules together.
Your back will thank me later!
See Also: Stock Your RV First Aid Kit
Other RV Preparations Before the Storm
There are a few other things you should do before the storm arrives that can help you during and after the storm.
Whether you are staying in the hurricane zone or you’ll be evacuating, go ahead and check your RV batteries. Both the engine and house batteries. Make sure that your house batteries are properly watered. There’s a good chance that at some point you will be boondocking or will not have shore power. Be prepared.
It’s useful to have a few large tarps handy.
Tarps are handy things to have after a storm. They can help cover up damage on your home or your RV to prevent further water damage. They can also be used as sun shades, just string them up between the RV and a tree, pole, or house. When you are doing clean up work, the little extra shade will be so welcome.
Also, stop by the ATM. Have a few hundred dollars in cash on hand. You never know when you will need it for things like getting gas, food, those fresh eggs at Harvest Host locations.
You’ll also want to make sure that you have originals or at least copies of important documents – drivers licenses, birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, and name changes, Social Security cards, insurance policies, deeds and titles for property and vehicles.
Don’t forget a power of attorney, especially if only one person in a couple will be attending to the cleanup while the others are away. You may need this to deal with insurance adjusters, banks, etc. on site while your spouse is away.
Before the storm is also a great time to get an up-to-date list of important contacts and account information. What’s the bank login? Does your spouse have one or know what yours is? Does everyone know who the insurance agents are? Do you have good coverage for storms?
Evacuating in the RV During a Hurricane
Your RV, whether a fifth wheel, travel trailer, or motorhome, is a great tool during an evacuation, especially in 2020.
Why RVs are Great in an Evacuation
When you evacuate in an RV, you don’t have to be around people, like those fighting over shelter space or hotel rooms. (Because that’s a concern in 2020, sigh)
Your RV is also great to help with the stress of an evacuation. You can cook your own food, sleep on your own sheets, stay with your pets. All great things to help reduce the stress on you and your family.
Make an RV Evacuation Plan
Even before the storm arrives, you’ll want to make an RV evacuation plan.
Since you are in a large vehicle, some recommended evacuation routes may not be available to you (height, weight, length restrictions). You’ll want to make sure that you have several routes pre-planned so that you can re-route as necessary. A Garmin RV GPS makes RV routing much easier.
You’ll also need to have a plan on where you’ll be going. Do you have a campground in mind? You’ll want to make reservations as soon as you can to make sure you’ll have a spot. Remember, a lot of people may be evacuating to the same area as you, also with their RVs.
When major storms hit, some places that you wouldn’t normally think about for RV camping open up. For example, Atlanta Motor Speedway is open to self-contained campers during storm evacuations. This is a great spot for those coming up to the Atlanta area from Florida or the Georgia coast.
Also, be prepared with some additional options further away. Hurricane paths may change, making your initial spot not so safe to stay in. For example, many from the South Carolina coast may head to the Augusta, GA area. This is typically far enough away from coastal flooding during a hurricane that skirts the coast. But if a hurricane is to hit along the Georgia or South Carolina coast and then come inland, the Augusta area may not be safe and require additional travel through Georgia.
Advice for Evacuating in an RV
The best advice for evacuating in an RV is to leave early – don’t get caught in all that evacuation traffic on major highways headed out. It’s a waste of gas and time and leaves you vulnerable to things like gas shortages.
And since you prepped way in advance of the storm, you’ll be able to leave early, right?
The other advice is to be flexible. If you are used to camping in a campground, can you boondock for a few days? It’ll open a lot more opportunities for places to stay. Or maybe a campground with only power and water, like McKinney Campground at Lake Allatoona, Georgia (north side of Atlanta on I-75 towards Tennessee).
Heading Back After the Storm
Before you head home after the storm, make sure that things are ready for you. You’ll want to make sure the roads are cleared and there is no flooding before you head home.
Even so, you’ll want to have a full tank of fresh water and full tank of gas when you get home. Even if you currently have power, it is not uncommon for trees to continue to come down, taking down power lines well after the storm has passed (or the late afternoon storms that are common in the southeast).
Arriving with a full fridge and freezer is also a good idea. Remember, even if everything is OK, it may take a few days to weeks to get the supply chains back up and running. So your grocery store may not have everything you need.
If some neighbors or friends stayed, talk to them to find out what they need or the area needs. Being out of town with a large vehicle, you have an opportunity to bring needed supplies back. Things that may be needed:
- Generators & Gas Tanks
- Tools like chainsaws
- Work gloves
- Laundry Detergent
- Cleaning Supplies
- Garbage Bags
- Bottled Water
Your RV During A Hurricane
OK, first off, you shouldn’t be planning on staying in your RV during a hurricane. It’s dangerous.
The RV should be before or after the storm, not during.
During the hurricane, you should be in a storm building. Something stable. Concrete. Interior rooms, no windows. You know the drill.
In case it is not clear, do not stay in your RV, no matter what size your RV is, during a hurricane!
If you are a full-timer in a campground, check to see if your campground has a storm shelter that you can ride out the storm. If you have a home, take an honest assessment of whether you can safely stay there.
If there is any doubt on your storm shelter, look for another suitable location. Often communities will open up schools, libraries, domed stadiums, or churches as suitable storm shelters. If you have pets, your choices are way more limited and these spaces will fill up quickly. Make sure your pets have up-to-date shots and bring a crate.
What To Do With the RV During the Hurricane
However, if the RV is staying in the hurricane zone, you’ll want to prepare it for the storm. Bring in the awnings and slides. Fill up your water tanks.
Store everything that is outside your RV. That cute little yard gnome is about to become a really powerful projectile.
You’ll want to park your RV away from trees and on high ground. Remember, hurricanes bring water! Whether that is because a levee breaks or it falls from the sky, there is likely to be flooding. So having your RV on higher ground reduces the chances that you’ll have flood damage.
If you have the option, position your RV so that it faces the wind. Your RV is made to withstand highway speeds. So it stands to reason that it can take the winds from many a hurricanes. But not broad-side. That’ll flip it over.
Instead, you want the short side of the RV to face the expected wind direction. And not only that, put the side with the fewest windows into the wind. That means for the Class A motorhomes with the large windshields, you’ll want the rear to face the storm. That way any flying debris is less likely to hit and break your windshield.
But don’t worry about things like windshield covers. I know those Magnashades are awesome for keeping things cool. But during a hurricane, they are just going to fly away. So bring in those windshield covers, tire covers, and anything else. After the storm passes, then you can bring them back out to keep your RV cool and protected.
Unplug Your RV As the Storm Approaches
Hurricanes are dangerous, especially when it comes to power. Some communities will even proactively shut down the power grid as a storm approaches.
Downed power lines. Blown transformers. Fires.
To protect your RV, you’ll want to disconnect from shore power. I even recommend that you not run a generator during the hurricane. Just let it run off batteries.
Once the storm passes, you can determine whether to connect to shore power or to a generator. If you are connecting to shore power, make sure that you have a great electrical protection system. Post-storm power grids are known to be sensitive. You’ll want to make sure that you have a good solid power supply before plugging in your RV.
Turn off Gas in Your RV
Just like they recommend that you turn off the gas to your home, I recommend that you turn off the gas in your RV.
Isolating the gas system means that if there is damage, it is less likely to cause major fires or explosions. Even a small leak can be deadly as gas builds up inside the RV. Then when power comes back on, boom!
While you’ll want a full tank of propane for after the storm, you’ll want to isolate it during the storm.
RV Jacks or No Jacks During a Hurricane?
Extra stability is good thing. But not always.
For motorhomes and many trailers, you may want to put down the jacks.
You definitely don’t want to use the jacks if you are at all unlevel. You want all the tires on the ground during a hurricane. I wouldn’t even want to use jack pads to level things out.
Because as the wind rocks your RV, the lack of stable ground could cause your RV to roll off the jacks, bend them up nice, or get them stuck in mud.
Generally, I’d recommend that you prepare your RV for travel – slides and awning in, jacks up, and unplugged from the house or campground electric. Don’t forget to bring the satellite dish in!
Using the RV After the Hurricane
The hurricane is gone. Now, it’s time to figure out what’s next.
Check Out Your RV
It’s important that you do a thorough inspection of your RV after a storm. Hopefully, your RV made it through safely, upright, and without any damage.
First, you’ll want to check for obvious damage, like broken windows or roof damage. If you have any major damage, you’ll want to immediately take pictures for insurance purposes (and probably to share on your own social media accounts). And then start doing what you can to protect the property – tarp it to prevent additional water damage, begin repairs, or salvage the contents if necessary.
But you’ll also want to check for small leaks. If you have any leaks, you’ll want to get on top of those right away. Small leaks can lead to major water damage and mold in an RV.
Check all your appliances, especially those that have exterior access (think: air conditioner, water heater, etc) That air conditioner or satellite dish sticking up over the RV could be damaged.
Caution Driving Your RV After A Hurricane
First, before you go anywhere, you’ll need to make sure that your path is clear. Is there flooding between you and your home base? What about trees? Remember, many trees will continue to come down for some time after the storm passes.
Never drive through standing water. While it may appear calm on top, flood waters can quickly take even a large RV down river. Flooded roads are also common to being washed away or collapse. That much water may also do serious damage to your RV or truck engine, keeping you away from home and taking away valuable resources from the cleanup.
Be aware of downed power lines! Remember, water and electricity don’t mix.
Mosquitoes and Hurricanes
Generally, mosquitoes aren’t going to be able to survive the hurricane winds.
However, in the after math of a hurricane, mosquitoes are common. Flooding or even small pockets of water are great breading grounds for mosquitoes.
You’ll want to be prepared. My recommendation is to have a long-sleeved work shirt that you’ve sprayed in permethrin. It’s been a long recommended favorite for tailgating – I cover my tailgate chairs to help provide long-term bug protection.
Also, you’ll want to quickly work to remove any standing water from your property. This will help remove breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Living in the RV Post-Hurricane
Is there damage at home? If so, your RV will be a great place to live during cleanup.
After major storms, it is common that there is a major lack of housing, especially as the clean-up crews arrive. They will take up all the remaining short-term hotels, AirBNBs, and even RV campgrounds. Having your own RV that you can keep on sight at your home takes out the housing question.
Being on site also is good for security. Having residents on premises reduces issues with looting.
Your RV also can provide power for lights and power tools to work into the night. You’ll also appreciate a clean bathroom and a cold bottle of water after all that work. Did I mention Advilearlier? Yeah, this is when you’ll really want it!
You can also be more proactive with insurance adjusters and government and private contractors that are there to assist you cleaning up. It’s a lot easier to schedule visits when you are already on site and not having to come from hours away.
If there is extensive damage around your home or home base, it may be a good idea to leave the pets and the kids back with trusted family outside the damage zone, if you can. There are often issues with storm damage that kids and pets will be in the way of during cleanup. Also, don’t discount the mental damage to both that seeing the destruction will bring.
If you do bring the kids and pets back, make sure that you take precautions to keep them safe.
You will probably want to leave pets in the RV during periods when you are working to clean up or meeting with adjusters and contractors. Rest assured that they won’t get too hot by using a RV Remote Temperature Monitors. You can be alerted when temps go up because the AC isn’t working – you’ve run out of gas or oil in the generator or the shore power has gone out.
For dogs that need their walks, you may want to get dog boots to help protect from things like broken glass.
After the initial clean-up, your RV may become more long-term housing as they rebuild your home.
Long-Term Generator Use
Yes, you can use your generator for days and even weeks on end. Your biggest concern will be keeping enough gas on hand to run the generator.
Another concern will be whether you have enough oil for the engine to work. Most modern generators will have a low-oil cutoff, below which the RV generators will not work. That’s why during your prep for the hurricane, I recommended that you get some motor oil.
Your third concern will be the exhaust from the generator. You need to make sure that you run generators only in well-ventilated spaces.
If you have an on-board generator, then your best bet is to use a Genturi generator exhaust system to push the exhaust up and over your RV (and it’s required for many RV tailgate spots!)
Just in case, you need to have a good working carbon monoxide detector in your RV, especially in the sleeping spaces. I like the 10-year battery operated detectors so you don’t have to worry about the power supply inside your RV.
See Also: Must Have RV Safety Gear
Use Your RV to Stay Safe During Hurricane Season
The most important thing is to stay safe, before, during, and after a hurricane. Your RV is just a tool for this.
To help you evacuate. To help you during clean-up. To provide a sense of consistency during a difficult time.
Use these tips to stay safe during hurricane season.