People ask us all the time, “What’s the scariest thing that has happened to you while driving your RV?”
In our nearly 10 years of RVing, We’ve been nearly run off the road by other drivers, had a tire blowout, been hit by roadside debris, driven in blizzards, and had a high voltage power line come down across the road just ahead of us.
Scary moments, all.
Caught in an RV in High Winds
But one of the scariest was the time when I was caught in a sudden, violent windstorm. It served as a great example of how fast the weather can change. Whether you’re driving a motorhome or towing a travel trailer, high winds are an RVers enemy.
You Do Not Want to Be in an RV in High Winds!
This incident happened very early in our RV Lifestyle, way back in 2012, on I-75 in Ohio.
The only warning I had was some dark clouds to the west, It looked like rain so I decided to get off at the next exit and fill up under a gas station roof so I wouldn’t get wet at the pump. I was in our RV, which at that time was a Class B Roadtrek, in a Pilot Travel Center just off the freeway near Findlay, Ohio. Suddenly, a fierce storm, first thought to be a tornado, turned into straight-line winds rolled in with full force.
Part of the gas station’s roof was torn off. Part of it landed on my RV.
I whipped out my iPhone and recorded it all. For about five minutes, I was trapped at the pump, blocked by a vehicle behind me, whose driver ran into the Pilot building for shelter. I didn’t want to move forward as that’s where the flying debris was whipping the strongest. Damage to my RV from the high winds was minor, all things considered. But it made for some pretty scary moments.
The storm uprooted trees, flipped a half-dozen semi-tractor trucks on I-75, destroyed buildings, and knocked power out in the area. The city of Findlay and adjacent Hancock County declared a state of emergency in the wake of the storm. The Toledo Blade said it packed hurricane-force winds. We thought it was a tornado at first. Here’s the video I took:
I’m very fortunate that I wasn’t hurt, or the damage to the RV wasn’t worse. I credit several of the Pilot employees that stood right out in the middle of the storm trying to keep the roof parts from doing more damage. Manager Ken Rader said Pilot would take care of the repairs. which consisted of a couple of dents and scratches and a broken part of my side mirror. And they did, reimbursing me promptly for the repairs. The incident may have been many years ago now but it has had a profound impact on my awareness of the weather,
The fact is, that even though there was some damage by debris from the gas station, had I been on the interstate when the storm hit, those hurricane-force winds would have slammed broadside into the RV. I don’t know if it would have knocked me off the road, or worse, flipped the RV. A lot of vehicles that were out there that day were flipped or knocked over. I’m glad I didn’t have to find that out. I think being on the road would have been worse for me than being at the gas station.
So my lesson from all this is when the skies really start to darken, get off the road, and try and find shelter.
And hope the winds don’t take off a gas station’s roof.
RV Driving Tips During High Winds
We’ve driven our RV in high winds lots of times since that incident in Ohio. From our experiences I have 11 tips I can offer about what to do if you encounter heavy winds in your RV:
- Keep both hands on the wheel.
The wind really does want to push you to the next lane. A firm, not too tight grip, lets you easily overcome that.
- Keep the speed low.
I usually tool down the interstate a little over 70. When I am driving my RV in high winds, I keep it between 55 and 60 on the freeways. If I’m on a two-lane road, I’ll make it between 45-55. That seems to be the sweet spot of speed for keeping it under maximum control when in high winds. But, as always, drive at your comfort level. If the winds are really knocking you around, pull over on the shoulder and wait it out.
- Beware of sudden gusts
Wind gusts need to be anticipated, especially when moving from a protected area to an unprotected area, like overpasses, or when treelines along the wide of the road vanish, or when meeting large vehicles.
- Be very aware of traffic and the vehicles around you
High winds can blow any vehicle off course. Keep your distance from all other vehicles.
- Take breaks sooner than normal
When driving in windy conditions on the interstates, we stop at about every other rest area. There’s a lot of stress in driving while fighting the wheel. Spelling yourself for 10 to 15 minutes every hour or so really helps.
- Leave the interstate and take parallel routes on two-lane roads
In heavy winds, the interstates always will present more challenges when driving. There are more things to block the wind on two-lane roads. Plus more places to easily stop if it gets too challenging.
- Check the weather all along your route
Each day before you start out, check weather forecasts for the towns you’ll be passing every 100 miles or so. A weather radio that will sound an alert when dangerous weather is coming and keep it turned on as you drive.
- Choose your campsites with the wind in mind
When camping, try to find a place that has a natural windbreak (trees, rocks). And don’t park under a tree that has a lot of dead branches that could fall on your RV in high winds.
- Don’t leave the camp if the wind is really blowing
If the wind is super strong and you are camping, stay put. There is nowhere that is so important to get to that you cannot wait a day.
- In camp put away chairs and awnings each night.
The weather can change in a matter of minutes. If you’re asleep, you may not notice until you are awakened by your awning tearing off from strong winds. Over the years, we’ve seen this happen in several campgrounds. Yout camp chairs can be turned into projectiles in heavy wind, so fold them up and secure them before turning in for the night, no matter what the weather forecast.
- Know where and when to take shelter
If the worst is forecast, a tornado or hurricane, or other weather situations that can cause catastrophic damage, don’t hesitate to immediately leave the RV for shelter. When you check into a campground, always ask where you can find shelter in case of severe weather. There should be a building for emergency evacuation at every campground.
I hope these tips help. The bottom line is that strong winds will happen while you are in your RV. When they happen, always make safety a priority over your plans or property.