Hubby and I have a “rule” that we do not camp in our RV in the months of May and June unless we go fairly far from home to the mountains west of us where the weather is a bit more stable this time of year or unless we go when we feel there is some reasonable certainty that the weather will be fine. However, the weather this year is once again proving why we typically abide by that “rule.” The weather can just be totally unpredictable and often dangerous with little warning this time of year.
Our original plan had us breaking our “rule” this week to take the new RV to one of our favorite state parks about three hours away, and we were to depart yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon to drive there, staying until Sunday. Earlier this week, however, it became apparent that the weather was probably not going to allow us to travel this week.
Texas is pretty much one big lake right now, I think. That also includes our typically dry part of the state after a flash flood hit yesterday morning, and it hit with a vengeance right where we live.
Five inches of rain fell in just under than an hour, and I admit it was a bit scary as I watched water filling up our backyard and our street, unable to run-off quickly enough, even though our house sits on high ground. In the thirty years we’ve lived here, it has never rained that hard that fast.
Several places in our immediate area flooded yesterday, and I’m sad about that. Even with the expensive storm water drainage system, we still had flooding because the rain just fell too quickly. I don’t even want to think how bad the flooding would be today if that flood had come in the years prior to the installation of that drainage system, too.
The park we were to visit this week is now closed due to flooding for the first time in the five years we’ve been traveling by RV. The flooding gets even more critical even further downstate, and many places (including state parks) are closed due to flooding right now and people have died in floods.
My former boss reminded me yesterday in a Facebook comment that we never turn down rain where I live, and that is true. The incredible rain we had yesterday, though, fell so fast that most of it just ran off. Still, it was a good soaking for our yards and trees, even if it was pretty scary at the time.
I now know what it feels like to actually be in a flash flood, and I now have a very healthy respect for such conditions. I’m glad that I was not out in my car at time, as several friends got caught in those scary conditions and were stranded in various locations for quite a while. Thankfully, no one was hurt or killed. The motto, “Turn Around – Don’t Drown,” is very, very true!
The rains are subsiding today, and the majority of our roads are clear again this morning. Since the weather looks to be clear this weekend, we may try to take the new RV out to a different park that is not flooded, as long as the weather holds. We’ve worked hard on it over the past three weeks, and we are ready to take it out!
Update – 6/3/16: Our local news is now reporting that this flood in our immediate area was the equivalent of a 500 year flood, and I am even more grateful for our storm water drainage system that was built a few years ago. Without it in place this week, we might have standing water hanging around for weeks, even months.
Our trip home in the new RV was a nerve-wracking experience.
Happily, our recent trip to check out the prospective RV this past Friday turned out well, and we are once again happy RV owners.
Our new-to-us RV is an older 38′ GBM Cruise Air, and we are now the second owners. It was a special order coach from the factory by the first owners and has some nice extras that are not typical on many coaches made around this time. It is also low mileage and low hours on the big Onan generator, and it is quite possibly the best used RV we’ve ever seen in the price range we wanted. In fact, it is in much better condition than many newer RVs we’ve looked at over the past few months.
We were the first people to inquire about this RV after seeing the ad online, and the dealer was great to work with us, considering we were five hours away and Hubby was gone on an extended business trip. We agreed on a fair price at the beginning, and the dealer guaranteed that all of the systems would be in proper working order on delivery. That is pretty unheard of with used RVs these days in our experience, so we decided to play out the process to see what transpired.
I made a quick solo trip right away to see it in person, and I spent three hours inspecting it with the salesman that worked with us. The only issue I found was with the furnace not blowing through all of the vents, just those on one side, so he promised to have it fixed for us, which he promptly did the next day. Last Friday, after Hubby returned from his epic round-the-world trip, we finally made the trip for our final inspection. Everything was working properly, as promised, so we signed the papers, handed over the money, and began the drive home with our new RV.
It seems we have now established a tradition of having a notable complication on the drive home with a new-to-us RV. This drive home was no exception, although it was due to a very different reason.
When we bought our previous RV in 2011, we immediately had new tires put on before we started our drive home. We departed after lunch for the five hour drive home, but about an hour from home, one of the brand new rear tires went flat just as we pulled into a small town that Sunday evening. Of course, everything was closed, and we were not happy campers. But as usual, people in small towns seem to come to the rescue of those in need of help, and a kind man with a big truck jack came out to help us put the spare tire on. The next day when we took the flat tire to be inspected and fixed, we were told that the tire was fine but the valve was not put on securely and leaked the air. So, while it was very frustrating, especially for us as first time RV purchasers, we were relieved to find out the tire was actually fine.
On our drive home last Friday afternoon in the new RV, we once again has an issue. This time, however, it had nothing to do with our new coach. Instead, Mother Nature decided to throw a major temper tantrum in our home area around 6 pm as we were still a couple of hours away. The storm grew rapidly, producing large hail and a possible tornado on radar. My good friend alerted me by phone to the weather at home, so we stopped at a truck stop to see what would develop with the storm. Sure enough, the storm progressed southeast directly toward the town where we were and continued to increase in size and strength. When it was less than 30 minutes away, a possible tornado showed up right over the highway where we needed to go.
We were not thrilled by this development. At all. It was also Friday the 13th. I’m not a superstitious person, but somehow we both took note of the date as the storm continued to head right for us, and we just shook our heads almost simultaneously.
We discussed possible options, but by that time, none of them made sense. The storm was wide, so veering around it wasn’t going to happen. Backtracking would only put us in the path of the storm as it continued down the highway we had just driven. Besides, it is just not wise to be in a vehicle in a storm like this. Period. And we had both the car and the RV to deal with, as well as both dogs which came along on the trip.
Common sense finally told us that we needed to quickly find a sheltered area for the car and the RV, and it didn’t take long for us to find a small gas station / convenience store that was already closed for the night. We pulled both vehicles under the awning and made plans to vacate with the dogs to a nearby hotel if the storm looked to be really bad as it approached. The possible tornado was still showing up on the radar, so we turned on the built-in weather radio in the new RV to stay informed on the storm.
I alerted a group of friends to our situation and asked them to pray for our safety. Immediately, many responded and I kept in touch with them as the storm approached and hit. We never vacated the RV during the storm, as the worst of it literally veered to either side of where we were parked, with the worst part of the storm veering to the west. No more tornadoes were reported, and prayers were answered. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as the only damage inflicted was on my nerves.
After the storm passed, we set out in the dark for the last part of our drive. The radar was clear all the way home… for about fifteen minutes. Then, the storms began back-building once again. Fortunately, none were severe, but we did hit a few spots with very hard rain, and I hit one water puddle on the road at one point that completely engulfed my car for a few seconds and scared me terribly. We pulled the RV into our storage facility at 12:15 am, and I was exhausted. Dealing with storms this time of year is not my idea of a fun time.
We have already started working on the things inside the coach and under the hood that we want and need to do, and I will share more about our new RV soon as we make some progress on it, hopefully with a few “before” and “after” photos. We really don’t have that much to do, relatively speaking for an older coach, as the coach is in very good condition from being stored under a good cover all these years and seems to have been maintained fairly well, despite the fact that it was seldom used. We’ve already been down the road with an RV that sat for a long time, so we already know of many things to check out and watch for as we begin to use it soon. It’s nice that many of these issues have already been addressed with this one.
46 years ago tonight, we survived this monster with only minor damage at my parents’ house. Twenty-six fellow citizens lost their lives, though, and I knew one woman that died. I was in the sixth grade, and she made regular visits to my school as a volunteer.
My mother, father and I tried to get to a neighbor’s storm cellar across the street as the storm hit, but the fierce wind actually blew my father back into the house when he attempted to walk out the front door to the south. We took shelter in an interior closet and heard the trademark “train” sound outside as the storm roared over us and blew over our massive maple tree in the back yard, narrowly missing hitting our house. The wooden fence didn’t stand a chance either.
To this day, I have never been as scared as I was that night.
We had no advance warning until the local news folks broke into the Carol Burnett Show right before the storm hit, showing the simple black/white radar with a “hook echo” on it. Shortly afterward, the electricity went off, and we listened to a local radio station for news updates on our battery-powered radio from that point and over the next couple of days. We had no city services until later the next day, a first for me, and it was my first experience in living amid a truly chaotic situation for the first time.
I will never, ever, ever forget that night. Ever.
It’s still hard to think back on it and talk about it even today, and, like my mother, it’s why I am a fierce “weather bird” just about any time during severe weather season. I still miss her calls to make sure we are aware of impending weather, too.
If you do not own a NOAA weather radio, please get one and keep it on over the coming weeks. We nearly always have a weather radio on in our RV when camping, and we generally avoid camping during the months of May and June unless we feel that the weather forecast will work for us just prior to our departure day. That includes forecasted winds, since driving an RV in high winds is not a good plan. We have good friends that encountered high winds on their drive home from their RV trip last week, and it certainly played havoc with their plans, not to mention their nerves.
I’ve also found that following the NWS offices directly on Twitter is a fabulous idea, too. Following the NWS Norman Twitter feed may have saved my life, as well as my nephew’s life, a few years ago on a trip to Oklahoma City when we heeded a early predictive warning about what was likely to come just prior to the tragic El Reno tornado that struck the area where we were a short time later. We saw that massive storm in our rear view mirror after we departed the area earlier than planned, missing it my about an hour.
What are the chances that I would be in two separate locations where massive tornadoes struck in my lifetime anyway? I truly hope there are no more, but living in “Tornado Alley” means the chance is always there.
Please remain “weather aware” during storm season. I’m thankful that we have the opportunity to be informed so much more today than in years gone by.