We’ve had our share of bad weather this spring, but reading Outside Our Bubble’s post describing their recent brush with a tornado (on the same night we had severe weather in Ohio) reminded me of our first similar event, during our first year of travel. Hearing the tornado siren gets your attention!
On June 24, 2003, three months into our new lives as full time RV’ers, Odel and I camped at the fairgrounds in Sioux Falls, SD. That day came to be known in South Dakota as “Tornado Tuesday”, when 67 tornadoes were reported in southeastern and central South Dakota, tying what was at that time the record for the most tornado touchdowns in a single day for one state (which has since been surpassed, in Kansas). We heard tornado sirens 3 times, and went to the shelter 4 times that night. For Californians, it was a shocking eye opener about the true meaning of “heavy weather”!
Over the years, we have developed a plan for dealing with heavy weather. Here is what we do – and have – for those infrequent, scary times when weather threatens us.
Next, we check a map to find out which county we’re in, and the names of surrounding counties. Weather watches and warnings are given by county, so we need to know the name of ours – and we feel more comfortable if we know those around us, too.
We make sure our NOAA weather radio is receiving a signal and stocked with fresh batteries (ours runs on both 110 v and battery power). I tune it to the local channel (ours tunes automatically when I push a button). The blaring is an annoyance, but it will awaken us from a sound sleep, giving the warning we need if a tornado is on the way (it also alerts us while we are on the road).
I raise the TV antenna and find whatever local stations are available. Satellite TV won’t help much with local weather conditions, especially once we lose the satellite signal as heavy storms develop!
If a tornado watch is issued (meaning conditions are favorable for possible tornadoes), we prepare our “tornado bag”. In this bag, we want the minimum amount of weight and bulk with the maximum ability to help us put our life back together if we step out of the shelter and find Scoopy demolished:
* Money, credit cards, and ID’s.
* Computer information, including all of our important logins/passwords. These are saved on a password protected flash drive that we can plug into any computer, should ours be damaged or lost (another plug here for Roboform and Roboform2Go, the programs we use to manage our passwords and personal information).
* A small, old-fashioned AM/FM, AA powered transistor radio – if a tornado comes though, this might be the easiest (or only way to get information.
* An AA powered flashlight.
* Cell phones chargers, both 110 v and 12 v., and cell phones - either in the bag or our pockets.
* Important prescription drugs.
* One laptop – the one with the longest battery life – and a power cord. I also backup both computers to a small, lightweight external hard drive which goes into the bag.
* A couple of energy bars and a bottle of water.
* Extra AA batteries.
* UPDATE: Oops, one thing I forgot to mention when I originally posted this – insurance cards, both for our health insurance (in our wallets) and for our rig (our Jeep is insured with the same company)! Be sure you have the number for your insurer on the insurance card/information.
This fits in 2 bags, one for each of us, and they go on the seat by the door.
If the weather at night seems okay, we put the bags by the door, put sturdy shoes and another flashlight nearby, and go to sleep (if we can) in comfortable clothes. If the NOAA radio awakens us with a tornado warning, we can flip on the TV to a local station while we put on our shoes.
If the weather is too iffy, we don’t go to bed, but stay awake monitoring the local TV reports and radar on the computer. If lightening is striking in the area, we sometimes unplug and roll up our power cord so a nearby strike won’t fry our appliances (we should do this all the time, but tend not to if rain is already pouring down). We DON’T have the computers plugged in during lightening storms – we run off the computer batteries. In heavy winds, we retract the large, more vulnerable, front slide, and have all the awnings stowed.
By watching local TV and the internet, we’ve been able to stay “home” while tornados passed within a couple of miles… but with clothes and shoes on and our emergency bags ready to go should we need to evacuate, which we HAVE done several times. Grab the bags, grab the NOAA radio, and off to the shelter.
IF the worst happens, we want to come out alive and uninjured, with those things that will help us get back to "normal": our cell phones and the ability to charge them, a radio to hear the news, money, and access to the internet.
The more we travel in tornado country, the more we realize that our chances of being injured by a tornado are very slim – and we work to keep them that way. Still, my adrenaline runs very high when the weather radio names “towns in the path” of a possible or suspected tornado and we hear a name we recognize!