According to the The Outdoor Foundations 2015 American Camper Report. 40.5 million Americans (14% of our population) took 572.4 million outings last year alone. That is a lot of camping and I am sure with warmer weather campers are finding their way out of winter hibernation and back to the great outdoors.
However, here in the Midwest, spring camping goes hand-in-hand with the potential for severe weather. Severe weather can come up on us at any time and often it can be very swift. A few years ago, we set out on a Mother’s Day camping weekend. The forecast for the area was for some storms but radar looked like it was going to miss us. Instead, the winds shifted and we found ourselves right in the line of the storms. That system ended up producing a tornado that hit a small town a few hours south of where we were camping. Having a plan in place, along with some weather tools can really offer some peace of mind as well as some strategies for keeping one eye on the weather and one eye on the fun!
- Know the local weather
Before you head out to go camping, you should know the weather for the area you are visiting. Weather dot.com can help give you a weekend forecast or even a five day forecast as part of your pre-planning. Once at the camp site, maybe you will have television signal (assuming you travel with a TV) or at a minimum I look for a local radio station to tune into while camping. If I have neither of those things, the local campground host are a wealth of information and can advise you on the days forecast. One thing is certain, this is not a time to get caught looking the other way. Do some advance research on the weather!
2. Ask the Campground host about emergency storm shelters
A few weeks ago we camped at a new place that was unfamiliar to us. Maybe it was because the wind was strong and rain was threatening as we set up, but the first question out of my mouth when the camp host stopped by to check on us was, “Where are the tornado shelters?” We immediately made a plan with the kids about what to do should sirens go off during our stay that included where we would go and how we would get there. we even went so far as to visually find the location and notice how far it was from our campsite.
Experts tell us that staying inside our tents, RV’s or campers is not what we should do in case of a severe storm. The designated storm shelters may not be fancy but they are there for a purpose.
3. . Buy and travel with a Weather Radio
Weather Radio’s receive reports directly from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, who by the way covers 93% of the US, meaning you are not relaying on cell service to deliver emergency advisories for tornadoes, floods, severe thunderstorms, and even civil danger warnings. You can program your location into the radio so it will filter out information you don’t need and focus on those areas you do need. I also like that the weather radio has a battery back up so it keeps me informed even in a power outage.
4. Smart Phone App’s
If you are camping in a location that you have cell service in, there are app’s for your smart phone that you will find very helpful. My favorite weather app is called STORM by Weather Underground and is available for free in the iTunes store. Using your phones location settings, this app provides high definition radar , advanced storm cell tracking, severe weather outlooks, and real time weather alerts. It even provides you with lightening strike warnings when lightening strikes within a 10 mile radius of you.
NOAA also has a app, NOAA Weather Radio, that allows you to rewind and replay all NOAA alerts. If you use the push notifications, it can also alert you when to important weather changes wherever you are. This app cost $3.99
5.. Have an Emergency Bag Ready
Doomsday Preppers are always talking about their “bug-out” bags and I think we could learn a few lessons from them. Have a bag ready to go should you have to leave your camp and seek shelter. Think about items that you might need if you had to shelter down in a storm shelter: water, flashlights, batteries, chargers, jackets, snacks, money, identification, keys, your cell phone, ways to entertain children, or even your weather radio.
Spring time is wonderful camping time; the trees are budding, the grass is growing, and the animals are stirring. The temperatures are unpredictable and can change quickly, so it is important to keep an eye out on the ever changing weather system around you. With a little advanced planning and a system in place to monitor, you can be out there enjoying spring camping.