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Old 03-08-2009, 03:59 PM   #1
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2008 25' Safari FB SE
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Tornado time

As I was preparing my lunch I was listening to reports of tornados in the midwest. Seems they come earlier each year and stay later, like an unwelcome house guest.

I'm curious whether anyone has towed through areas with tornado watches, warnings, severe thunderstorms (I suppose I could include hurricanes) and what happened? What does it take to turn an Airstream over—at a campground or on the road? Has it happened to you?

Last year, leaving Jackson Center and on our way home to Colorado with our SUV (no trailer) we drove on I-70 through watches and warnings for 2+ days. Staying overnight in eastern Indiana, there was a night of perpetual thunderstorms and a small tornado hit 20 miles away. In western Kansas, about 15 miles east of Wakeeny, I was listening to the weather radio and plotting the path of a tornado coming NE, it seemed we would intersect it in 10 miles at 60 mph and just beat it at 75. I told my wife to put the hammer down and we beat it. I think she actually exceeded the speed limit (to my great relief). Later we heard the town of Wakeeny had flooding and an elephant escaped from a circus that was in town as a result of the thunderstorms. Often the winds were wicked from Ohio to Colorado.

My wife has a strange antipathy to tornados. I've never seen one and would like to, but not with an Airstream. The obvious is to get out of the area ASAP, but sometimes the warnings and watches are over such a wide area, that may not be an option. Is digging a hole and covering the Airstream an option?

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Old 03-08-2009, 04:14 PM   #2
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Tornado time

Greetings Gene!

I travel in tornado territory frequently both with and without the Airstream. Particularly with the Airstream, I always have a weather radio handy and a Gazetteer. With watches, I keep a close eye on the weather, and if I feel uneasy take the next available exit and try to find a relatively safe place to park, and wait out the storm. With warnings, I take the next available exit and begin looking for a safe area to take shelter.

I once lived in Kansas not far from Wakeeney. During the time that I lived there, I witnessed a number of tornadoes and don't really want to witness any more. The closest call I had was in the Spring of 1987 when I was traveling between Hays and Natoma, Kansas -- at Plainville (the mid-way point), I encountered heavy hail -- didn't dent my car, but acted like sand as it blasted all of the paint off of the car (it was primer color by the time I got home -- Maroon to start off with) <they had to call out the plows to clear the hail stones as they accumulated to several inches deep> -- the weather wasn't finished -- I was only about ten miles from home when I looked in my rear view mirror to see a funnel cloud crossing the highway immediately behind me (near the Codell Road), and it was close enough that it sucked the top off the back of my convertible so that I had a sail of sorts the balance of the way home.

I happened to be traveling near Greensburg just a few months after their severe tornado -- I didn't see anything that I recognized despite having visited the community on a regular basis on my way between Illinois and Kansas -- the sight gave me a queasy feeling that I won't soon forget.

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC #7864
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
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Old 03-08-2009, 04:30 PM   #3
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Just be aware

If you travel, or live, in tornado areas....most of us have to stay aware. Listen up to weather radio if its threatening and make adjustments to the route. Its well worth the detour. Do not.... stop under an overpass and wait it out. If you escape the tornado your lucky and will probably have caused a traffic accident. Hail is the ever present buddy to a tornado. I use car washes if I get caught...or a gas station drive thru cover.....good to protect from hail...lousy if its a tornado.
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Old 03-08-2009, 04:58 PM   #4
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In my opinion, this is the clock radio any RVer should use. I wouldn't sleep in an RV or mobile home without one.

click image to see it at Amazon

It has a telescoping antenna, as well as a connection for an external one. Its 120VAC wall wart outputs 12VDC, so you can run it off 12VDC trailer power with a cord from Radio Shack. It also can operate off internal backup batteries. Not only does it have SAME (like our older version), but this one also lets you choose which alerts you get.
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Old 03-08-2009, 06:24 PM   #5
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In 1990 the mother of all hailstorms went through Denver and our SUV looked like a golf ball as far as dents went. I made money on that one since I didn't replace the roof. I wouldn't want that to happen to our Safari. I agree underpasses are the worst place to be in a tornado. I think it acts like a venturi tube, accelerating the wind.

Getting away can be a chore when the warnings are all over a couple of states—if traveling west or southwest, if you stop, it will come to you, keep going and there it is. Going east and it will catch you sooner or later. Go north or south and the front that is causing it is coming there too. I suppose when a bad storm is coming, it's best to park so the trailer isn't broadside to the wind, but if a storm comes close, the wind will keep shifting, so at some point the trailer will be broadside anyway. My theory is go as fast as possible to get through the front as quickly as possible if traveling toward it—we did that in Kansas and I had to do it in Kentucky once. I wonder if the trailer flips, will it take the truck with it?

We use the weather radio, though it can make you crazy. We were stopped at a motel in Hays the night Greenberg got hit. Hays is about 80 miles north and the weather was pretty awful and I was watching the storms on the internet and weather channel and then going outside where there was so much ozone in the air from the thunderstorms, I thought I was getting high from all the oxygen, or maybe I was just scared silly. The light shows from the lightning can be amazing though.

Every time I see pictures of what these storms do to a trailer park, I think of our Safari.

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Old 03-09-2009, 10:20 PM   #6
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Red face Tornado alley

I grew up in Central Oklahoma--Tornado Alley--and my family is all still there. We have been near many tornados over the years (not in the AS)--trailer parks are known there as "tornado magnets". The weather folks in that area are so good now compared to the past, they can tell you which blocks it's going to hit. The only time we ever had a near miss was traveling in the Oklahoma panhandle in mid-afternoon unable to get any weather on the radio. My best advice is to always have the weather channel on going through there, travel as early in the day as you can since the weather builds as the day goes on with mid-afternoon through evening as the worst times, and stay in places where you can get TV weather or where there is a local warning system (i.e.,- not out in the middle of nowhere). I have been very near an F3 tornado and afterwards saw semi-trailers thrown on top of buildings so it wouldn't take much of a tornado to take care of an AS. The good news is there's usually plenty of warning!
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