April 25, 2009

Family Tents - Be Prepared For Bad Weather

Family tent campers are vulnerable to severe weather, so they should be particularly alert for any developing storms. The first line of defense is to be aware of weather forecasts as well as severe weather watches or warnings for your area. If you are camping in a developed campground, there might be weather information available at the office or recreation building. Also some campgrounds will try to alert campers if they hear of a severe weather forecast. However, the absolute best way to stay informed is with a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio.

These radios are available at various electronics stores for around $50. There are many excellent compact units (not much bigger than a deck of cards) that easily stow in a backpack. You can listen to the forecast, as well as program the radio to alert you to watches and warnings for your location. Generally it is a good idea to check the forecast at least once a day, and to leave the radio in the alert mode at all other times. I have camped all over the US and have always been able to receive NOAA weather broadcasts, so is a very reliable and effective service. I would never go camping without a weather radio.

With most severe weather, you can take refuge in your vehicle or your tent. But that is definitely not the case with tornadoes. According to the FAQ's posted by NOAA at their website shown below, tornadoes can occur at any time of the year at any elevation. The likelihood of a tornado might be remote, but you should have a tornado plan for your campsite in case one does occur. NOAA advises that vehicles are not a safe haven, but if you have time you might be able to move out of the tornado's path by driving at right angles to it. If that is not possible, you should park the car and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If no buildings are available, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can, as they may be blown onto you in a tornado. NOAA further advises that, despite popular myth, a highway overpass is definitely not a safe location. Check the NOAA website for more detailed information.

In all my years of camping, I have had to take refuge from tornadoes only twice. But each was a fairly unnerving experience, because all you can do is wait to see what will happen. In both cases, suitable shelter buildings were within easy distance, which will typically be the case unless you are back-country camping. That doesn't mean you should not go back-country camping, but it does mean you need a plan for your specific camping location.

Vacations in Family Tents are wonderful adventures that will give you memories for a lifetime. By all means, go out and enjoy our beautiful country. But, be safe and be aware of the weather.

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