Site hosted by Build your free website today!


Campers and other outdoor enthusiasts know that weather plays a major role in their activities. In most instances, weather factors in to the enjoyment level of the given activity, not how safe it is. But severe weather events like flash floods and blizzards can put the camper in a life-threatening situation. Being aware of the weather and its potential dangers is a common sense approach to planning any outdoor activity, especially camping, and following a few basic precautions will help you avoid these potential dangers and better enjoy time spent outdoors.

Weather Information

Today people have more access to fast and accurate weather information than ever before through the Internet, cable television and radio. Watching or listening to these sources is the first step in planning a safe and enjoyable outdoor excursion. The ever-changing weather patterns should be monitored before the trip as well as intermittently during the trip.

Presetting your car's radio with the stations that provide regular weather broadcasts and periodically listening in will alert you to changing forecasts. As you approach your specific destination, look for highway signs that indicate weather stations in the area. This is especially important if that destination will be far away from areas that easily receive radio transmissions. Take along a portable, battery-powered radio or have one handy in the vehicle or boat. Listen to weather updates on AM stations particularly because AM signals travel farther than FM signals, especially at night.

Packing For The Weather

Another preplanning step is to pack for inclement weather. Be sure to take along plenty of extra clothing, rain gear, gloves, warming equipment, a flashlight, backup batteries, a first aid kit, blankets or sleeping bags and liquid refreshments, either hot or cold. If traveling in very cold weather, try to keep your gas tank level above half-full so the water in your tank does not freeze up the fuel lines.

Dangerous Weather Events

The camper's worst enemy can sometimes be nature itself. 
Be aware of the signs of extreme weather heading toward you and what to do in that event. Dangerous weather events include thunderstorms, lightning, severe thunder or hail storms, flash floods, high winds, tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards. In all of these situations, it's best to remain as calm as possible in order to think clearly and quickly secure safe surroundings.
In a state of panic, it's easy to make mistakes in judgment that can lead to worse outcomes than the weather event itself.


Be particularly wary of approaching storms that look like this squall line. Violent winds are very likely.

Vehicles rush to beat the storms approaching from the north. This is an example of a typical squall line with strong straight line winds, heavy rain and hail. The leading edge of the clouds brings a cold wind shift coming out of the storm. The cold air works like a shovel scooping up moisture and forming new convection and storms on the leading edge of the outflow.


When a severe storm approaches or a warning is issued . . .


Get off exposed ridges and hills, out of canyons and ravines, and away from streams.

Abandon campers, RVs, and tents.
They offer no protection from tornadoes and violent thunderstorm winds.

Move to a pre-designated shelter if available.

Go to the lowest floor and stay away from windows.

If no strong shelter is available,
get away from the largest trees, 
particularly dead or diseased trees.

The downwind side of a high rock outcrop may offer some protection from falling trees.

However, there is danger of falling rock and of lightning which can ricochet off the rocks and even enter caves causing injury or death.


NOAA Weather Radio will help you assess your risks.
Protection from both lightning and violent winds involves tough compromises.

Realize that you may minimize your exposure risk but not eliminate it. Given only the choice of field, lake, or woods during violent thunderstorm winds, the field and lake will likely present unacceptable lightning risks where as the woods present risk of injury from falling trees. To minimize the lightning and falling tree risk, your best bet may be a low area of small trees surrounded by larger trees. Position yourself within the small tree area beyond the fall radius of the surrounding large trees. Even so, be prepared for violent winds and wind-driven rain, hail, and branches.


If a tornado approaches and shelter is not available, lie flat in a nearby ditch.



Most flash flooding is caused by slow-
moving thunderstorms or storms repeatedly moving over the same area. 

Heavy rain anywhere in the drainage basin above you can quickly turn dry washes and small streams into raging rivers. Saturated soils and thin soils are more prone to flash flooding due to their lack of absorption.

Avoid camping or hiking along streams, in gullies or ravines, 
and in canyons if thunderstorms are forecast or occurring.


If flooding is occurring or a warning is issued . . .


Go to higher ground but beware of lightning.

Do not attempt to cross flowing streams.

Never drive through flooded roadways.
 Six inches of fast-flowing water can sweep you and your car away!

Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.


Go Prepared!

Hikers and campers may be exposed to hazardous weather -lightning, flooding, and violent thunderstorms -
without the preferred safety options available in urban areas. 

The safety procedures discussed in this brochure are intended to reduce, but will not eliminate, your hazardous weather risk.

Prepare for your trip before heading out. 

Know the nearest medical resources. 
Have an evacuation plan. 
Learn first aid and CPR. 

Know your outing's county and nearby towns.

Storm warnings reference counties and towns.

Know the climatology of the area.

Plan how you'll get weather forecasts and warnings during your trip. 
A portable NOAA Weather Radio may be your best bet. 

Start checking the weather forecast several days in advance of your trip.

Http:// is a good, national Internet resource.
Adjust your itinerary, equipment, and clothing as necessary.


Prepare for the worst weather you may encounter,
 and then recheck the forecast in detail the day your trip starts.


On the trail . . .


Monitor NOAA Weather Radio.
Adjust your route and timing for weather safety.

Note patterns of daily cloud buildup or developing fronts so you can learn to anticipate local storms.

Think weather safety as you hike and plan your camp.
Ridges, hilltops, open fields, ravines, canyons, streams, and dead trees present special hazards to the camper and hiker during severe weather.


How to Receive Weather Information

If you will be in reception range, NOAA Weather Radio is the best way to receive forecasts and warnings from the National Weather Service.

Weather radios are available at many electronics stores and in outing stores and catalogs.

NOAA Weather Radios come in shirt-pocket size models such as the two shown here as well as desk top models.
Make sure yours has the warning alarm feature.


What to Listen For

Weather Watch:

A watch is issued when conditions become favorable for severe weather to develop.
Watch the sky and stay tuned for later forecasts and possible warnings. Prepare for severe weather!

Weather Warning:

A warning is issued when severe weather is occurring or is imminent. Immediate action is required!


In the thunderstorm ball game,
 ONE STRIKE and you're out!
 Lightning can carry a current of 30,000 amps or more. 
By comparison, normal 15 amp household current is enough to kill you!

Most lightning fatalities result from cardiac arrest. 

Be prepared! Learn CPR!


When a thunderstorm approaches . . .

Move to a sturdy building if available.

Do not take shelter in small sheds, under solitary trees, or in convertible automobiles.

Get out of boats and away from water.

Get off high exposed terrain and away from any lone, tall object.


 If caught outdoors and no shelter is available . . .

Find a low spot away from fences, poles, and solitary trees.

If in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.

Avoid shallow caves and overhangs.
The ground current from lightning can jump the gap!


If you cannot escape exposure to lightning . . .

If thunderstorms are near and you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, you are at imminent risk of being struck by lightning.

Assume the lightning position: 
squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. 
Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. 
Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground.
DO NOT lie down.


Don't touch any metallic objects such as tent poles, wire fences, or metal canoe paddles.

Lightning can strike outside heavy rain and may occur as far as 15 miles beyond the rainfall the bolt out of the blue.

  If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. Take and maintain protective action until at least 30 minutes after hearing the last thunder.


Tornadoes and Severe Thunderstorms 

Thunderstorms can produce violent downburst winds exceeding 100 mph and tornadoes with winds exceeding 200 mph.
Thunderstorm winds can topple trees and overturn tents and campers.

Click here to go to The FUNdamentals of Camping Homepage
Click here to see EVERY TOPIC in this Website
Terms of This Website

Copyright © 2000 Jon's Images, Inc. All rights reserved

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ - By printing, downloading, or using  any info from this site, you agree to our full terms. Review the full terms by clicking here. Below is a summary of some of the terms. If you do not agree to the full terms, do not use the information. All information on this web site is provided as a free service. Under no conditions does it constitute professional advice. No representations are made as to the completeness, accuracy, comprehensiveness or otherwise of the information provided. This site is considered publishers of this material, not authors. Information may have errors or be outdated. Some information is from historical sources or represents opinions of the author. It is for research purposes only. The information is "AS  IS", "WITH ALL FAULTS". User assumes all risk of use, damage, or injury. You agree that we have no liability for any damages. We are not liable for any consequential, incidental, indirect, or special damages. You indemnify us for claims caused by you.