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.
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
camper's worst enemy can sometimes be nature itself.
Be particularly wary of approaching storms that look like this squall line. Violent winds are very likely.
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.
Move to a pre-designated shelter if available.
Go to the lowest floor and stay away from windows.
no strong shelter is available,
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.
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.
flash flooding is caused by slow-
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.
camping or hiking along streams, in gullies or ravines,
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.
Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
and campers may be exposed to hazardous weather -lightning,
flooding, and violent thunderstorms -
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.
the nearest medical resources.
Know your outing's county and nearby towns.
Storm warnings reference counties and towns.
Know the climatology of the area.
how you'll get weather forecasts and warnings during your trip.
Start checking the weather forecast several days in advance of your trip.
is a good, national Internet resource.
for the worst weather you may encounter,
On the trail . . .
Monitor NOAA Weather Radio.
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.
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.
Weather Radios come in shirt-pocket size models such as the two
shown here as well as desk top models.
What to Listen For
watch is issued when conditions become favorable for severe weather
A warning is issued when severe weather is occurring or is imminent. Immediate action is required!
the thunderstorm ball game,
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.
shallow caves and overhangs.
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.
the lightning position:
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
can produce violent downburst winds exceeding 100 mph and tornadoes
with winds exceeding 200 mph.
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