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Old 02-23-2024, 05:55 PM   #1
ontheroad10
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Is there a way to avoid tornados?

Hello all:

So we are making our 3rd attempt at experiencing the Kentucky Derby. Covid prevented other efforts. We have our tickets and campground. Seems like there is supposed to be a solar eclipse along the way too. This is not my first time traveling across country. We live in southern California and have visited all 50 states. It occurs to me that I will have to leave home at the beginning of April to make this work at the height of tornado season. What do you seasoned travelers do about navigating around tornados as they loom. I have never engaged and am not looking forward to my first time
 
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Old 02-23-2024, 06:36 PM   #2
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I have a friend in Kansas. I told him my wife was worried about traveling through tornado alley Kansas. He laughed rolling in the floor laughing and said they happened almost daily. Then after he quit laughing he said he had never been in a tornado in his 70 years or even been close.
Think about it what are your chances of being in a tornado in the few days or weeks you will be in Kentucky? Not zero but close. We have tornadoes here in southwest Virginia now. Tornadoes can happen almost anywhere you have warm moist air especially in the spring but should you let threat worry you or control what you do? A meteor might fall on you but should you worry about that? I don’t think so.
Go enjoy your trip.
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Old 02-23-2024, 07:05 PM   #3
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I have lived in north TX for all my 78 years, the southern end of “tornado alley”. The last time a tornado hit our town was 1948! During those years tornados have hit various other nearby towns and rural areas. But the frequency any of those individual areas getting hit are about the same as our town. Meaning very rare. But when/if it does happen it can be devastating. Or minor. Most tornados in general affect a very small area. And then there are the outliers that are large and long lived.

But tornados occur from the gulf coast to the far northern states to the eastern states. There is simply no way to avoid that when traveling cross country. Best you can do is keep up with forecast of the immediate area you are in or traveling toward. Some campgrounds and RV parks have tornado shelters or designated safe areas. Always ask if that is available, and if not where the closest place is. Have a weather app or weather radio that will alarm if a tornado warning has been issued for your immediate area. Then seek shelter. A tornado watch means conditions are such that a tornado could form. A tornado warning means a tornado has been visually confirmed or radar has detected a circular rotation.

Spring tornados often occur within storms associated with cold fronts. Maybe by watching weather you can trail along behind a cold front instead of being out front in its path. Otherwise try not to focus on it and just enjoy your trip.

Some good reading about tornados.

https://www.weather.gov/lmk/tornadoesfaq
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Old 02-23-2024, 07:06 PM   #4
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No tornadoes here in my 70 years.
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Old 02-23-2024, 07:37 PM   #5
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I grew up.in Missouri with tornadoes, and I've lived in Alabama for 20+ years with tornadoes. I lived through the tornado outbreak of April 27, 2011 in Alabama which killed hundreds of people--so I think the possibility that there will be a tornado during your trip is absolutely something to be considered, and something to be taken seriously.

Having said that, I pretty much agree with Lynwood--don't worry about it too much, and enjoy your trip! I would add, however, that you should prepare before you leave home, so that you'll be able to act quickly if you need to. I recommend doing this:

1) Print out maps of the states you'll be traveling in--maps which specifically have counties outlined and labeled clearly on them--and keep those maps within reach while you're driving. When tornado watches and warnings are issued, they're issued for counties. You'll want to always be able to know what county you're in, and what counties are around you.

2) Every day while traveling, check the local weather forecast in the morning for everywhere you'll be that day and the next day. Potentially dangerous weather is usually warned about well in advance now. (Over-warned, in my opinion.)

3) If you're on the road and driving through potentially dangerous weather, listen to local radio stations. They will break in with warnings. If there's a tornado warning, there will probably even be a station or two broadcasting live, wall-to-wall TV weather coverage of the tornado warning and the storm's path. Or if you can watch live local TV coverage on your phone, do that.

Also, if you Google the name of whatever city you're near or county you're in, plus "weather," watches and warnings will come up, too.

If you're on the road and there's a tornado headed toward you, keep an eye out for exits you can take and buildings you can duck into, and get off the road and into a building ASAP. If you're traveling with pets, make sure they're on leashes/in carriers before you get on the road to begin with, and make sure they have lots of ID on them.


4) If you think there will be bad weather while you're at a particular campground, ask the campground where you and your pets can go to take shelter in case of emergency. They probably already have a designated place, like a laundry room or an office. If they don't, look around the area and make a plan of your own. (Like you'll go to a gas station or a grocery store or someplace like that.)

Once you're prepared and have plans in place, don't think about it any more unless you have to!
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Old 02-23-2024, 07:57 PM   #6
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I posted before I saw BB_TX's comment--I agree with him, too! Tornadoes are serious business, but probably won't be a problem for you. Just be prepared; have a plan.

I don't know about weather apps, but I don't think a regular weather radio will do you any good while traveling, though, because I think they have to be programmed for specific counties individually.

I want to clarify what I said about wall-to-wall TV weather coverage: For many years now, several TV stations in Alabama have had the policy that they pre-empt regular TV programming when there's a tornado warning issued anywhere in the viewing area--and then they stay on the air without commercial breaks, just tracking the storm, until the tornado warning is cancelled or expires. I think it's that way in other states now, too. And in Alabama, when there's a tornado warning issued, radio stations in that market area will often replace their own regular, radio programming with audio of a TV station's live coverage.
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Old 02-23-2024, 07:59 PM   #7
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Tornado

We have been across the states so many times in the last 20 years I can’t count. It was a concern of mine also for a while. I start watching the weather a week ahead of leaving and see when and where the cold fronts are and going. Then we speed up or slow down accordingly. If you’re going from southern Calf. Stay low and then run north. Or go way north and run over to Indiana and then down. Just have to be vigilant.
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Old 02-23-2024, 08:21 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by newowneroldmontana View Post
…….

I don't know about weather apps, but I don't think a regular weather radio will do you any good while traveling, though, because I think they have to be programmed for specific counties individually.
…. …...
NOAA weather radios are pretty easy to program for the specific county of whatever state you are in, or for that plus the surrounding counties. We have one at home that we can set for our home county. And we carried it with us when RVing and programmed for that location if severe storms were in the forecast.

But honestly the late night alarms got to be annoying and the radio has been unplugged for years. Now if there are storms predicted for after my bedtime I just tell the wife to wake me if we get blown away.

I agree with watching local TV weather whether home or traveling. They give more and better minute to minute storm status than apps if severe storms are in the area. There may be a severe storm warning in affect but watching the TV might show it several miles away and moving away from you and little to worry about. Alternately it may be moving directly toward you and might affect how you respond.

In summary, be as well prepared as you feel comfortable. Then put it out of your mind and don’t fret over it.
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Old 02-24-2024, 06:20 AM   #9
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Personally I worry about idiot drivers WAY more than tornadoes. With that said, we keep up with local weather wherever we go to keep ourselves dutifully informed. Since we prefer COE campgrounds, we find the nearest bathhouse in each campground as they are substantial structures to utilize during inclimate weather.
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Old 02-24-2024, 08:14 AM   #10
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Personally I worry about idiot drivers WAY more than tornadoes. .............
To put that in proper perspective, on average there are about 80 annual tornado deaths and over 40,000 highway vehicle deaths. And yet we hit the highway without even worrying about that.
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Old 02-24-2024, 02:39 PM   #11
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All good stuff. I appreciate your responses and feel a bit more prepared. I live in earthquake country, yet have only lived through 2 major ones in my lifetime. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, not much helps because they occur so suddenly. As far as tornados go, I will pay close attention to the local media
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Old 02-24-2024, 06:23 PM   #12
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Move to Alaska. I do not think they have ever had a tornado
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Old 02-24-2024, 07:11 PM   #13
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Move to Alaska. I do not think they have ever had a tornado
Au contraire, mon ami! I was curious, so I looked it up. The internet says they have one once every 20 years or so. Little ones, I think--F0s. Who knew!? (Not me. I didn't know.)
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Old 02-25-2024, 07:13 AM   #14
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I was born and raised in Central Indiana and been around tornado threat country all my life. I'm 68 years old, soon to be 69.

The firs tornado I saw was when I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old. Looked to the North of my parents property and a tornado was high in the sky, not on the ground. It was impressive.

There were several tornado that came by my parents house over the years. I remember laying in bed one night when one passed near by. It sounded like a freight train rumbling down the tracks. It was close, but no one seemed concerned. I actually was in bed at night. Never got up.

And there were more.

Camping, we experienced 2 tornados. One in Ohio another in Indiana. The first, we were in a pop-up camper. We just stayed in the pop-up. The tornado passed about a half mile away. No one panicked at the campground, in fact it was kind of a gala party that night.

Several years later a tornado passed through, much closer. Everyone ran to the concrete block bath houses. We grabbed our dog and cat and ran also. The wind was blowing so hard, find sand particles hitting our skin felt like bullet shots. It stung, really bad.

We made it to the restrooms where everyone was gathered. People were out of their mind in fear. I'd never seen a bunch of psyched out people together in all my life.

My wife and I were thinking .... eh! this is no big deal. At most, the trailer get's blown away. We're insured! It's an opportunity to purchase a new camper! That's not so bad!

We started joking with each other, teasing, and getting "fresh" and "romantic" .... right there with everyone freeking-out-of-their-minds. That's people were nuts!

Well, before it was all over, we had them all singing Kumbaya and they realized there really was nothing to be fearful over.

Tornados are a fact of nature. Even if one gets close, the experience is just as exciting as doing a roller coaster at an amusement park. It's a ride you'll be talking about for the rest of your life!

If you are in a tornado alley zone, there is really nothing you can do to escape it, except pack your bags and leave. They start out as "Tornado Watches." That means, the weather conditions are such that a tornado is possible. Usually, these "conditions" extend several hundreds of miles. Where does one go to get out of that?

Once a tornado is actually spotted, it becomes a "Tornado warning". And then the local news will have a projected path the tornado is taking. If you (or me) are in that path, you really don't have much time to pack your bags and get! You find secure shelter.

I'll not go into what you need to do to protect yourself in the event of an actual tornado. The internet is full of "what to do" articles. Read them. You can't escape the path. Time is just too short.

The best you can do is just go about your normal business, but be prepared to run to adequate shelter when those skies turn, the wind pick up like you've never seen it before, and the freight train sound starts roaring. Forget the camper! It's insured. Don't honker down in it. Get to the tornado shelter. If that tornado is truly in your direct path, you'll know! Then is the time to run to that shelter and FORGET the camper!

As with any wind, IF the wind gets too excessive and you do not feel safe inside the camper, then get out! Seek shelter else ware. You cannot do anything to save the camper anyway if it's a direct hit!
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Old 02-25-2024, 07:34 AM   #15
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Dutchman +1; been there, done that; all.
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Old 02-28-2024, 02:33 PM   #16
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All good stuff. I appreciate your responses and feel a bit more prepared. I live in earthquake country, yet have only lived through 2 major ones in my lifetime. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, not much helps because they occur so suddenly. As far as tornados go, I will pay close attention to the local media
Download a weather app that can provide severe weather alerts. During a potential severe weather event, be aware of your surroundings and where you may be able to take shelter, such as under an overpass or a truck. Stop if you're staying in a campground. Usually the bath house or some other sturdy building where you can take shelter.
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Old 02-28-2024, 02:57 PM   #17
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Been there. When at a family camp when I was a kid - several thousand people there. We were in an open pole barn (youth groups) and a tornado came through. One side of the building collapsed while we were in it. Thankfully nobody was hurt but it gave us stories. Quite a few RV's were heavily damaged.
Every year, multiple times usually, I have to go chase or film tornadoes. The Emergency Management in our county has me on call for aerial footage to send to them and the NWS.
I wouldn't worry about it. When it's your time to go you don't have much say in it.
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Old 03-01-2024, 08:38 AM   #18
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all good advice. I will add one other. Learn about and understand what goes into the various elements of the weather. Relying solely on TV and radio or internet updates is simply not enough. Learn how to spot supercell storms live not from source provided radar imagery which is generally 5-10 minutes delayed from the time the radar image was captured to the time you see it on your phone ot TV, interpret weather maps, conditions that cause derechos(massive straight line wind events(even more dangerous to RVers than tornados due to widespread and generally unavoidable conditions including wind, hail and heavy rain for usually 20-30 minutes as a weather event passes your location. Since tornados general travel southwest to northeast (in North America) choose campsites that face along that axis. Reject campsites with "widowmaker" trees near your RV especially on the windward side of a campsite. You'll never be able to accuratly predict the weather or what direction the wind will come from if a tornado passes nearby but if it is that close all bets are off and you should already be in a designated shelter anyway. Be prepared with knowledge and do not let fear guide your actions. Khowledge is power.
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Old 03-01-2024, 08:56 AM   #19
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Hiding out under an overpass or bridge is one the worst places to stop during tornadic events. The phenomenon is called the venturi effect in which wind is squeezed and accelerated through a narrow passageway such as you find under bridges. IN more moderate thunderstorm events it may be okay but if no hail is involved then just get off the road for the 30 minutes or so to sit out the results from that type of weather event. Don't forget there are too many panicky drivers out there all vying to get to that bridge first and that most assuredly will end up badly because nobody wants their vehicle to get pounded by hail. If travelling into a known approaching frontal weather event locate rest areas or other place to safely get off the road and wait out the event. Preferable find one that has a sturdy building nearby to seek shelter in if necessary.

Understanding weather will guide your choices. For instance warm front storm conditions are far different than cold front conditions. Warm fronts tend to be slow gradual things but cold fronts are the fast moving atmospheric equivalent of bulldozers.
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