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One aspect of this gypsy life that we didn’t consider until it snuck up and bit us, was how crazy the weather can be. We have had bad weather living in North Carolina, but nothing like we have experienced while being on the road, especially in a camper.
Toronto – Our First Wind Storm
While we were up in Toronto, we experienced 60 mph winds that took down trees and power lines. After the girls started getting upset, we pulled in the slides and left. Where you ask? Thankfully there was an outlet mall not far, not a good outlet mall by any means, but at least we were safe from the winds and could be distracted. In Hershey, we were under Tornado Watches for more than a day but honestly the weather wasn’t even that bad. Both of these were small in comparison to what was to come in the near future.
Cape Charles Hurricane Evacuation
We learned a much bigger lesson when we stayed in Cape Charles, VA on the Chesapeake Bay. We arrived late Sunday evening after a very long drive, and much to our surprise, Tropical Storm Michael had become Hurricane Michael by the following morning. Now the Chesapeake Bay is nowhere near the Panhandle of Florida, but as we looked at the projected paths, we had a pretty good chance of the eye of the storm coming straight over us. We spoke with many locals, who said we would be fine, but after realizing that if and when the winds reached 40mph, we wouldn’t be allowed to cross the bridge we would be stuck. Stranded in a campground that was in Evacuation Zone A, which is most likely to flood and have a storm surge than other parts of the island. Nope. We are not about that life. So, by Wednesday afternoon, we packed up and hauled ass off the island. Which brings to me to Part II of this story and yet another lesson learned.
We arrived at Pocahontas State Park, one of our favorite campgrounds right outside of Richmond, VA late Wednesday evening. Not only do we love this park, but this also meant we would be able to see some of our best friends. However, it wasn’t until the next day when I was catching up with Liz, that I understood the effects Hurricane Florence had on this area. On September 17, 2018, 7 confirmed tornadoes touched down in the Richmond area, two of which were very close to our friend’s home and where we were currently setup. Yeah, didn’t think that one through.
The storm intensified by Thursday evening, of course when it started to get dark. We had numerous flash flood warnings, tornado watches, high wind advisories, and I’m sure one or two others that I can’t think of at the moment. Since our campsite was surrounded by large trees and with wind gusts up to 50mph that sounded like a freight train, we opted to hang out at our friend’s house until the storm had passed. Thank God for great friends that are willing to take you into their home, feed you, and entertain you for hours. On our drive back home, the roads were littered with sticks, leaves, and pine needles and only a few large limbs were down at the campground. Big Willie had made it through one heck of a storm!
Friday morning we had to pack up and head back to Cape Charles. Typically we would have to went onto our next destination, but I had Amazon packages arriving. I couldn’t miss out and getting them. Once we arrived back to our site, we were greeted by some significant damge: the pool fence was ripped out of concrete, signs were strewn about, half the beach was missing, along with the roofs to the tiki bar tables. We spoke with one guy, who said he left his pop-up camper nearby when he evacuated only to come back to it flipped upside down. Hmmm… and the storm wasn’t supposed to be that bad.
Branson – Midwest Tornadoes
After enjoying our Thanksgiving holiday with my sister and her family, we traveled south to Branson, Missouri. This was a destination that Joseph seemed really jazzed about. If you have never heard of or been to Branson, a friend of mine explained it as the “Las Vegas ran by Ned Flanders.” Totally accurate. We all fell in love with Branson. As you travel to different parts of the country, you know you are far from home when the campground map includes the closest “storm shelter.” The night before we were headed out, our weather apps alerted us to a possible strong thunderstorm. As Joseph and I went to bed, we could hear thunder in the distance and approaching rather quickly. We checked the Weather Channel numerous times to make sure there wasn’t a Tornado Warning in effect, especially since we were in the Midwest. Nothing. All it said was “Severe Thunderstorm.” I shook it off and tried to lay back down, but my instinct said to get my ass out of bed and get ready to rock and roll. Trusting my gut, I got out of bed and went to the couch to wait out the storm. Thunder got louder and closer. And louder and closer. And then the wind hit.
This was the scariest moment we have been through, even as I am typing this from being on the road for nine months. Joseph was up and out of bed as our rig shook violently. Our Christmas tree was actually swaying back and forth from the wind hitting us so forcefully. Thankfully instead of panicking, we grabbed the girls out bed and told them to get dressed as quickly as possible. Everything in the rig was pushed out of the way in order to bring in the three slides from the driver’s side, where the wind was hitting us. Again we checked our phones, and at the very bottom of the warning was a “60-70 mph gust possible.” Well, damn. We were hit with a 70mph+ straight-line wind. Then, as quickly as it approached, it was gone. From the moment I got up to the moment the storm had passed, it was at the most ten minutes. The longest ten minutes of our lives.
We were lucky. We had no damage to our rig or truck and we were unscathed. Our neighbors weren’t as lucky since they didn’t bring in their slides. They lost their entire slide topper, which was bent in a U-shape and had torn up the roof of their Class A. As we drove out of Branson, we were made aware of how much damage had occurred from the winds that we had experienced, and of the tornadoes that touched down not even ten minutes down the road. We were lucky. Stupid, but lucky.
Be Prepared For Severe Weather
Monitoring the weather is always a challenge. It changes daily and even hourly. Since Branson, we have experienced what was suppose to be a snowstorm, which turned into an ice storm, ran from flooding and tornadoes throughout Alabama, and most recently experienced our first high wind advisory / dust storm in Western Texas. So, what did we learn? Weather is going to happen no matter where you are. It’s how you prepare and handle each and every situation, which will not always be the same. Set your phone to alert you if there is severe weather in your area. Get a NOAA weather radio. Have a plan! Where do you go? Have a “bug out” bag packed and ready in case you have to leave. Ours has an outfit for everyone, toiletries, important documents, and an emergency credit card. Make sure your rig is picked up and ready to close up during severe weather in case you need to evacuate. And most importantly, if you are aware of severe weather approaching, LEAVE! If you can’t bring your rig with you LEAVE IT!