No one wants to be jarred awake by the warning sound of the Emergency Broadcast System on their cellphone. Normally, it’s to alert us of an Amber or Silver Alert. I say a prayer and go back to sleep. But when it’s followed by “Take shelter immediately” and you live in an RV, it’s pretty sobering … especially at 1:30 in the morning.
Having experienced a hailstorm earlier in the day and knowing another storm would be passing through after midnight, we took down our cellphone antenna (which gives us internet) and closed our slideouts before going to bed. So when I first heard the warning to take shelter, I didn’t think much of it. We had checked the weather and knew the predicted storm was supposed to pass over by 2 a.m.
But then we received a text from my cousin, Debbie, across the street offering for us to come there to ride out the storm. That gave me pause. Maybe the storm was worse than I thought. And then Bob read the National Weather Service warning to me, including “Mobile homes will be damaged or destroyed.”
That was all I needed to hear. “OK, let’s go,” I said. We grabbed some warm clothes and our jackets and trudged through standing rainwater to climb into Gulliver and drive across the street. Sleep was out of the question.
Listening for the Train
Debbie said, “If we hear the train, we can go down to the basement,” referring to the unmistakable sound that precedes a tornado. I had never experienced a tornado before, so my ears perked on alert. Any noise out of the ordinary made me wonder, “Is that the train?” Nope, just the air conditioner kicking on.
Bob tracked the rapidly moving storm on his phone and kept me abreast of its direction. It developed two twisters but, thankfully, took a turn and missed us. By 2 a.m., just as predicted, the winds died down. We decided to head home to sleep in our own bed and evaluate the aftermath in the morning.
Assessing the Damage
The hailstorm had a greater impact than the tornado-producing storm. Golf ball-sized, spiky hail broke zucchini plants and marred it and other produce, making it unsellable. The accompanying wind toppled trees and flung branches.
I climbed to the roof of our trailer to see what it looked like. Our shower skylight and three vent covers showed no signs of hail. Our Renogy solar panels, equipped with tempered glass on top, withstood the beating too. It turns out they, like most solar panels, are rated to handle 1-inch hail at 50 mph and up to 140 mph wind. Now we know ours can tolerate hailstones larger than 1 inch.
Although Tagalong’s roof fared well, he did get some cosmetic damage. In our haste to close our slides the day before, we forgot we had stashed our bikes under one of the slides. Closing it with them there wedged one under the passenger side fender, the same area damaged by the cattle guard when we first ventured out.
Other than that, Gulliver and Tagalong came through unscathed. We did find a few small dents in our truck bed cover as a result of the hailstorm, but that was it. The damage could have been much worse. Although some of the area farm crops are unsalvageable, others received some much-needed rain. We thank God for keeping us safe.
This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.