Camping In Thunderstorms, Hail, Tornados/Are You Ready? Pt 2 Of The Weather Series

Part 2 Of The Severe Weather Series

This is part 2 of my 3 part series on dealing with serious weather. Last week I covered flash floods/flooding. This week I will cover Thunderstorms, Hail, and Tornados. The reason I grouped these together is that serious thunder and lightning storms can easily lead to hail, high winds, or even a tornado. None of these are good if you are RV’ing/camping…lol.

The definition of a thunderstorm as defined by The National Severe Storms Laboratory is “A thunderstorm is a rain shower during which you hear thunder. Since thunder comes from lightning, all thunderstorms have lightning.”

We Can See The Lightning For Many Miles

No doubt everyone has been caught camping in a thunderstorm. You get a few boomers, a few bolts of lightning and then some rain. Most times they are not severe and people just kind of shrug them off. As I write this blog, we are camping in the panhandle of Texas. Since the area is so flat we can see lightning for many miles. We have even sat outside and watched storms go by. Of course, we had our apps on and confirmed the storms were many miles away…lol.

As I stated in the first part of this series and the paragraph above, I highly recommend a couple of good weather and radar apps. I listed a few of my favorites in the first part of this series

Click Here If You Have Not Read Part One Of This Series

Knowledge Is Your Best Defense

Your best defense against any type of serious weather is knowledge. I will start off by giving you some facts about each of the weather systems above.

Some facts you should know about thunderstorms are:

  • They are most likely to form in warm and humid conditions
  • All Thunderstorms are dangerous
  • Thunderstorms can potentially bring heavy rains and flash flooding
  • Thunderstorms can potentially bring extremely high straightline winds
  • Thunderstorms can potentially produce hail which can get large enough in size to total RV’s, cars and even kill animals left outside
  • Thunderstorms can potentially lead to Tornados

Of course, these are the most severe types of thunderstorms. Make sure you always have your weather apps updated to your current area. I would also recommend a good weather radio with battery back up.

Watch Out For Hail!!!

One of the things I mentioned above that can come with severe thunderstorms is hail. Hail should not be taken lightly either. At best it can be an annoyance while at worst it can seriously hurt you. Hail can be minute in size but varies all the way up to sizes as big as baseballs. Since they come from a high altitude the speed of a baseball size hail can easily hurt or even kill you. Deaths from hail are extremely rare. Millions of dollars in damage is caused by hail each year.

Here are some facts about hail:

  • Hail forms in thunderstorms
  • Hail measuring 1” in diameter is considered severe
  • According to NOAA’s Severe storm database records, the states with the highest hail risks are Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming
  • Because hailstorms are usually located within an area of thunderstorms, if you are experiencing a hail storm it’s a good possibility a tornado could form.


I bet you didn’t think something like little balls of ice could be so dangerous. I have mentioned it a few times above already but last but certainly not least is a tornado. I already mentioned that a severe thunder and lightning storm can bring on hail but probably the scariest thing that can form from it is a tornado. Here are some facts on tornados:

Here are some facts on tornados:

  • According to Wikipedia the definition of a tornado is “ a rapidly rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud.”
  • Approximately 1200 tornados hit the US every year
  • No state is exempt from tornados but most occurrences happen in the central and southern plains, the Gulf Coast, and Florida.
  • Although a tornado can happen at any time they are most common in the spring and summer months
  • Tornados can strike with little or no warning

Pretty scary stuff. Especially if you are in an RV or tent. What should you do? Never camp? Don’t live in an RV? Of course not. You can’t put your life on hold for what “might” happen. As I have said before, your best defense is knowledge.

Now that you have some facts, let’s talk about some precautions and preventive measure you can take.

As in my first series, the first thing you can do comes before you even leave your house or campground. That is knowing the forecast for your route and destination. If you will be traveling or arriving in a severe storm area, postpone your trip. Better to arrive late than not at all.

We were in Arkansas one time and were heading to Missouri to see a friend. When we looked at the weather for our next day of traveling, we saw a severe storm was going to be blowing through right in the path of our travels. We walked right over to the front desk and reserved one more night at the campground we were in. That extra night was enough to let the storm pass through and we continued our trip the next day with no weather incidences.

Other precautions you can take are:

  • Make sure your locations are updated to your current location on your phone apps.
  • When you check in to a campground, find out all the emergency information. This would include emergency phone numbers specific to your area, your exact address, the county you are located in, any storm shelters in the campground, storm shelters in the local area.
  • Make sure you have good batteries in your weather radio.
  • Make sure you have a go bag in case you must exit the RV quickly
  • Make sure any outside furniture, signs, or bbq’s are tied down or put away if a storm is approaching. Don’t forget to bring your awning in.
  • Lock all outside storage doors.
  • During thunderstorms avoid any contact with electrical devices. It is a good idea to unplug devices such as Tv’s, computers, and air conditioners. A surge could mean destruction for these devices.
  • It is not a good idea to work with water. That means no dishwashing, showers, or laundry
  • Stay away from windows and doors.
  • Avoid contact with anything metal
  • If severe warnings are issued, get out of your RV or tent and take shelter in a sturdy building or storm shelter.
  • If you are driving, try and pull off the road into a safe place until the storm passes.
  • Do not seek shelter under a tree
  • If it’s hailing, stay inside.
  • If you are caught driving in a hailstorm, stay in your vehicle. Try and find a safe place to pull over until the hail stops. Angle your RV so the windshield is facing the hailstorm. Try and lie down and possibly cover yourself with a blanket. If you are in a motorhome, move towards the back away from the windows.
  • If a tornado has been broadcast to hit your area, get out of your RV and into a storm shelter or sturdy building.

Sticks & Bricks or RV-It Don’t Matter

Whether you are in sticks and bricks or in an RV, you eventually encounter some type of serious weather. Being prepared is the number 1 thing you can do to ensure your safety.

Have a plan of action if severe weather hits. Have a “go bag” ready. A “go bag” should include things like a couple of days worth of any medication you are on, a few bottles of water, protein bars, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, spare phone charger, 2 or 3 days worth of clothes, and at night before you go to sleep you can drop your wallet in the bag. Another thing that we do is scan all our important documents and pictures to cloud-based apps. That way we have copies of anything we need if disaster strikes the RV.

These simple steps can save your life and make the after-disaster rebuilding much easier.

If you have any other advice I may have left out or questions/comments on this blog post, feel free to submit a comment below.

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