How To Ride Out a Blizzard in a RV

snow-storm3Here’s the best advice I can think of: Either drive until you’re not in the path of one, or stay somewhere other than the RV for the duration. Right now I find myself not being able to take the former advice, and so I have taken the later. Still, even though I myself am currently quite safe behind 4 secure walls, there were some things I needed to do to keep my Casita as secure as possible to ride out the storm. If you ever find yourself in a similar unfortunate situation, I hope this will help you out.

  • If you have the time and space to maneuver, park your RV facing into the wind. You’ll get much less rocking and shaking front to back than you do side to side. If things get really bad, like 70 mph bad, I would think you’d be less like to tip over. Cas is pointed SE to NW, and the wind is coming from the NNW, so while my parking job isn’t perfect, it’s a lot better than the wind hitting the RV broadside.
  • Drain your gray and black tanks, then unplug and store your water and sewer hoses. Even if temperatures aren’t all that low or the storm isn’t expected to last long, strong winds will make hoses and tanks freeze up faster than calm winds will. I put my water hose and external water filter inside the RV to stay warm, a frozen water filter has a tendency to burst and be not so good at filtering water next time you need it to, I know from experience.
  • Seal up any holes that horizontally blowing snow could find it’s way into. I put a cover over my A/C grate, latched my stove and fantastic fans shut, and taped plastic around where my electric hose enters into the RV.
  • Secure everything outside that has even the slightest potential to blow away. Strap awnings closed, make sure wheel and propane bottle covers are securely buckled on, move all outdoor furniture into storage.
  • Remove snow from the roof as soon as the weather permits. Subfreezing temps outside combined with a heater running inside gives an ideal recipe for snow to turn to ice on the roof, and ice can work its way into seems on a RV roof and cause leaks down the road.

* * *

The wind is whistling howling screaming through the cracks in the door of the old motel room I have taken shelter in while the Black Hills and western plains of South Dakota sit under a blizzard warning. The whole thing built up pretty suddenly. On the first day of the government shutdown, a peek at the forecast brought up an advisory from the national weather service that a storm was brewing and the Black Hills would be receiving an indeterminate amount of snow, and the plains of Pennington county might get something as well, forecasters weren’t sure what or how much.

snow-storm2Later that evening, the forecast was calling for 2-4 inches of snow here in the Badlands. On Wednesday, the number jumped to 3-6 inches. Yesterday morning I awoke to a red banner parading across the top of my iphone’s weather app: Blizzard Warning, 7-15 inches of snow by tomorrow morning, winds at 35-55 mph with gusts up to 70 mph possible. Yikes.

Since congress has yet to come to a conclusion on the budget, Cedar Pass Lodge has shut down for the season, but that doesn’t mean that I’m out of work luckily (or perhaps unluckily right now, as that means I’m still here facing a blizzard instead of in more hospitable environs). All of the merchandise left in the gift shop needs to be inventoried and packed away for the winter, a job that will probably take until the 15th which was my last day of work anyway. So those of us left have been keeping an eye on the forecast while we go about securing the Lodge.

It’s been… odd, working inside a park that has been shut down. People still call the Lodge regularly and ask if we’re open and taking reservations (no.). A park ranger needs to hang around on site every day to clear out the people who try to park along the side of the road and walk in to the scenic overlooks and trail heads which have been blocked off by cones. Yesterday we had a bus load of tourists pull into the parking lot and get out to take pictures. A few came to peek in the doors but the signs are posted right there plain as day: “Due to the federal government shutdown, this National Park concession facility has been closed.” We slinked around behind the shuttered windows, hoping nobody from the bus would see us and start pounding on the doors to be let it. It’s been a complete 180 in our role: instead of welcoming people to the Badlands, we’re chasing them out. It feels so wrong.

Last night after work I made three trips from the Casita to room 18 of the Badlands Inn, the motel owned by my currently employer that my little RV has been parked behind for the past two weeks after Circle 10 shut down for the season. I had every intention of spending the rest of the season in Cas despite having access to a room at the Inn that I could be living in but have only been using for the shower up until now. But even though I could stand the cold and the snow in the RV, the strong winds worried me: all that rocking around would make it impossible to sleep as I wonder if the next strong gust will knock me over. Being in the Inn won’t keep the wind from knocking the Casita over, but at least I won’t be woken up worrying about the possibility with every boat-like roll. I’m happy to report that as of now, 5 pm, Cas is holding up fine in the wind and I have found no leaks associated with horizontally blowing rain and snow. I’ll only be in the motel room until the bad weather is past, then it’s back home.

snow-stormLet me say here that moving is the pits. Lugging stuff in and out of the truck, up and down stairs, trying to remember what all you need to spend a day in relative comfort, it’s a huge hassle. I think a lot of people would raise an eyebrow when I say I hate moving considering how much I travel, but the beauty of living in a RV is everything you need moves with you, no packing or unpacking required. I definitely don’t miss this staying in motels and carrying things around with you business.

But when you’re put in a less than ideal situation, make the best of it. Last night I had TV for the first time in years, and the novelty of television has kept me amused. I wrote some suggestions for things to do on a rainy day before, and that stuff still holds true even for blizzards it turns out. I’m taking things pretty easy today, taking care of a few things online and enjoying my mini vacation (we were told not to come in to work today). There’s just something cozy about watching a storm rage outside while you’re safe and warm inside. While there’s been plenty of rain, then ice pellets (with thunder) and now snow, there isn’t much accumulation yet, although the strong winds are a force to be reckoned with and the power has gone out twice so far but come back on both times.

The majority of the snow should be falling tonight, and continuing into tomorrow morning before warming temperatures turn it back to rain and I’m hoping to get some nice snow pictures before that happens. The next few days after tomorrow are going to be warmer, so it won’t be sticking around – which is good for me because while I actually kind of like snow, I don’t particularly like towing in it.

Here’s hoping your weekend looks drier, warmer, and less windy than mine does!

Note: The post after this one (Blizzard Weekend) concludes this interesting chapter.

* * *

First image courtesy of Micky**, others taken by me.

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  1. Allen Connell on January 19, 2015 at 5:41 am

    Here’s you gave the best advice I can think of: Either drive until you’re not in the path of one, or stay somewhere other than the RV for the duration. Thanks for sharing.

    • Becky on January 20, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Allen. Thank you for reading, and welcome to IO!

  2. Ramona on March 7, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Hi Becky,

    Just found your blog. It is awesome! May I suggest keeping a Big Buddy heater as a back up for power outages. They run off 1lb cans of propane or a larger container with the proper hookups. They work great and a lot of rvers use them when boondocking.

    • Becky on March 8, 2014 at 11:31 am

      Yes Ramona, boondocking is in my future and I’ll be picking up a propane heater of some sort before I start doing that for sure.

      Welcome to IO, enjoy your stay!

  3. John of Sinbad and I on the Loose on October 8, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    What a wonderful post to read from the warmth and comfort of my home. Seriously though, I wasn’t aware of any of this weather you were subjected to until returning home today and catching up on e-mails and blogs. Glad your safe. I would not have been. I think I would die in anything that cold. Be safe.
    John of Sinbad and I on the Loose recently posted..Flea Market – WeirdMy Profile

    • Becky on October 9, 2013 at 8:09 pm

      Luckily I have the benefit of a Wisconsin upbringing where snowy cold winters are par for the course. I hope you had a good trip.

  4. Kit on October 8, 2013 at 11:54 am

    And, I love making art. Recently I spent a rainy day in the camper, painting. Its a great way to spend quality time enjoying the safety and space in the camper. As a newbie to trailer life, I am thrilled to have so much space and comfort in place of my tent.
    Kit recently posted..Today’s Assignment: Photograph the Star of the ShowMy Profile

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      Hello Kit, thank you for posting and reading. 🙂 The snow is just about gone now, it’s amazing how quick it went.

  5. Kit on October 8, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Your blog is so informative, and you are so brave. I really like your posts about challenging weather, as I camp in an 18 footer and although I love rain on my roof, I don’t treasure those times in the mountains of Colorado when the strong winds blow.
    Kit recently posted..Today’s Assignment: Photograph the Star of the ShowMy Profile

  6. Reine on October 6, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Glad you’re safe. You’ve just reminded everyone why we prefer to take our Casita on trips. NO schlepping stuff into and back out of a room. Besides, when we have our Casita, we’re sleeping in OUR bed on OUR sheets and using OUR bathroom. I don’t have to worry about how well they were (or were not) cleaned. I KNOW cause I’m the one that cleaned/washed them. If they’re not clean, it’s my fault.

    I agree with Misty that the best orientation for Cas is attached to the tow with the two heading into the wind. If you think about it. Cas faces 50-70 mph winds every time you tow, depending on what speed you’re driving.

    • Becky on October 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm

      No more than 60 mph when towing, I drive like a granny. 😉

      The airport on the S side of Rapid did record a 71 mph wind gust, so the forecasts weren’t lying.

      • Reine on October 6, 2013 at 9:25 pm

        You may drive like a granny but we know some folks that don’t and they are in Casitas as old as Cas so he can handle the 70-80 mph winds as long as they aren’t broadside. He might be able to handle those too but who wants to test it? Hopefully you can get back to some semblance of normal soon.

        FYI, the weak spots in the plumbing are the valve on the back of the toilet, and the faucets. I can’t remember if you put a cut off valve on the water supply line to the toilet or not. Post on the forum if you encounter a problem and need some advice on how to handle it. Hopefully, all will be well.

  7. gene on October 5, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Better safe than sorry. You have a warm room available, and probably people in nearby rooms to keep company. Outrunning the storm is good in theory, but who knows… it could backfire. As a lot of other people try to get out and you don’t want to be on the road in strong winds and wet/slick roads.

    • Becky on October 6, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      Did not have a warm room Friday night as it turns out, but had a warm room last night and tonight, so that’s a definite improvement. 😛

  8. Julie on October 5, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    Just wanted to let people know that Becky is safe. They’ve been moved from the building they were in that lost power to where they have power and heat. This is a good thing as the low is in the 20s tonight. No internet though, so unfortunately there will be no updates until that returns!

  9. Jim Morgan on October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I don’t know about you staying in a plain old ordinary hotel/motel room when you could be enjoying the thrill of being in Cas! That rocking lulls me to sleep when I’m in my RV during a storm. I love big old storms…think you’re missing a grand experience. Not to mention getting experience with riding out a storm that will help you out when you’re in Kansas in Nov./Dec. and possibly early Jan. if you’re weathered in. Kansas gets winter storms too, doesn’t it? Go on out and keep Cas company, why don’t ya? Fun!
    Jim Morgan recently posted..Back in Mexico…My Profile

    • Becky on October 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm

      Nah Jim, Cas rocking does not lull me to sleep, quite the opposite, I know from experience from last fall in Kansas and from the storms I’ve been through in SD this summer. Plus the 12 hours we were stuck there without power (and thus heat) before getting rescued would have been worse in Cas I think, the motel room stayed warmer longer because the rooms on either side help hold the heat in, in Cas I would have been completely unsheltered from the elements. As it was things got close for one of my coworkers, but more about that later.

  10. Misty on October 5, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    This is where those of us with tiny trailers are at an unexpected advantage. You wouldn’t think so because they’re so much lighter, but I found when I was traveling that the smaller RV weathered wind /far/ better than most of the larger ones. My little trailer came through unscathed in storms that tipped a lot of the larger trailers in parks where I was staying. I would think that would be doubly true of Cas, since he has a more aerodynamic shape than my boxy Turtle Shack did. 😀

    I also found that how you park your tow vehicle can make all the difference in how your rig weathers the storm. I didn’t usually have the option to escape to a hotel (though if it was really bad, I usually had the option to “dodge”). After some experimenting in various storms, I found that if my tow vehicle was parked facing the wind in front of the trailer (as though I was going to tow the trailer), it made all the difference in how much rocking I experienced inside the trailer.

    Anyway, I’m really glad to hear that you weathered the storm all right! 🙂

    • Becky on October 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      It’ll still be days for things to get back to normal I think, who knows how long power at the Inn/Cas will be out. I90 opened as far as Wall today I heard, still no way to get to Rapid for more indepth grocery shopping. Was really quite crazy. Good tip for parking the tow vehicle too!

  11. cozygirl on October 5, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Oh Becky….What a storm in more ways than one. Great winter tips! Hopeful warm temps to follow and those in DC get it together SOON. We are still caregiving…not sure when we can get back on the road…life sure has its obstacles.

    • Becky on October 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm

      I hope it’s soon Carla! At least this way it was easy for you to get back to help, and just as easy for you to leave when the time comes.

      Last night’s low was 25 which couldn’t have been good for Cas with no electric heater to keep the pipes warm, I drained the tanks but I didn’t winterize so I’m a bit worried what’ll happen when I hook up water next. We’ll see. The next couple nights aren’t suppose to be as cold.

  12. Pismo Pauly on October 5, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Hang tough in that storm! Not to brag (code for bragging), 75 and clear in Pismo Beach, home of our Trilogy 3850D fiver…

    • Becky on October 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      Ttttbbbhhpptt (raspberry noise). You people and your reasonable fall temps. 😛

  13. Rob on October 5, 2013 at 9:17 am

    It’s too bad you couldn’t avoid the storm but a place out of the wind is a good thing,

    The worst part of your blog was the news that the government felt it was ‘essential’ to keep someone around to tell people that may not look at the views! It sounds like someone is saying “we closed the government so you have to feel it”, it’s not right.
    Rob recently posted..Time for something newMy Profile

    • Misty on October 5, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      I’m pretty sure the reason they have to keep people out is to make sure people don’t get hurt doing something stupid, for liability reasons. You’d be surprised what they have to contend with at these places from the public.

      I’ve heard that at Niagara Falls, for example, they have to keep a really careful watch because they have so many people who decide to try and sneak in to go over the falls in a barrel. 😛

      Personally, I kind of think that’s Darwin’s theory in action, but apparently someone out there thinks that these people should be protected from themselves. XD

    • Becky on October 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm

      Rob in this case I think it was more that people were parking alongside the road to walk in but there isn’t much shoulder so they were parking more on the road than off and it made it very hard and dangerous for the semis who drive through on business to get past!

  14. Randy Klegin on October 5, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Becky it is good to hear you are safe and warm. You were the first person we thought of when we saw pictures last night of the snow they got at the Hart Ranch just south of Rapid City. The front is reaching us now in SW Missouri. Looks as though you got pretty much all taken care of with Cas. I am sure you will be sharing pictures of the beauty of a snow in the badlands. Be careful on the roads with Bertha…take care

    • Becky on October 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      Haha, I couldn’t even get to Bertha until today, and as it turns out pictures during a blizzard are quite boring: It’s just white. I got after the snow fall started slowing down though, they’ll be up when I have WiFi again!

  15. Evelyn B on October 5, 2013 at 8:21 am

    I thought of you when I heard your forecast on the news. Glad you have a safe and warm place to ride out the storm. Hope to see you in Coffeyville soon. We’re starting Oct. 17th.

    • Becky on October 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      Was kinda rough Friday night at the Inn, the power going out meant the heat went out too. I’ll be starting at Coffeyville Oct 24th I believe.

  16. Lee on October 4, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Hi ya Becky

    Glad you got a place to hold out in. I’m really interested in how Cas holds up in a blizzard. I live in a area that gets a blizzard every once in a while and when I get my camper it will be outdoors, during the winter, with a cover.

    I’m doing everything I can, to prepare for torrential rain from Tropical Storm Karen. Knowing my luck, the wind from your storm will meet up with the rain from my storm and I’ll be in a pickle. In all reality, I’ll probably just get a good rain.

    • Becky on October 4, 2013 at 11:49 pm

      So far I’m holding out just fine indeed, although the satellite TV has gone out – I think from snow accumulating on the dish.

      I’m keeping an eye on Karen too. Julie (my best friend, whom I lived in Cas with for 3 months with her cat before taking to the road) is at a conference in New Orleans and for a while the storm was pointed right at it, eep. Here’s hoping you’ll stay dry. Well, dry-ish, as dry as you can in such a situation.

  17. David on October 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Glad you are safe and secure. Cas will come through just fine. Enjoy the mini vacation.
    David recently posted..2013-10-03 – LunchMy Profile

    • Becky on October 4, 2013 at 11:45 pm

      I sure hope so David. He’s the Little RV That Could, so I have high hopes. My biggest worry is that the power outages (we’ve had another short one since I posted this) will cause the electric heater to stop in which case busted water lines are a real possibility, I think he’s parked so that the wind won’t batter him around too much. Poor Cas.

  18. Norm on October 4, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Was glad to see your post after reading that Ellsworth AFB had recorded a 71 mph gust! So glad you have the option of a motel room. Hope your Casita comes through unscathed, too. Good suggestions all for storm preparedness, especially parking it so as to present the least resistance to the wind. Stay safe, stay warm. This is one of those moments my DW and I are glad to say, “We’re FROM South Dakota.” Yeah it was in the low 80s today near Chattanooga, TN. Hoping you can soon say the same.

    • Becky on October 4, 2013 at 11:42 pm

      Yeah, the wind is really something else. Trying to get doors to close is challenging.

      I’ll get about 3 months of winter this year by my calculations. I’ll still have some winter at Kansas when I work at Amazon until the end of December, but after that I’m looking at places much farther south that don’t get what I would call real winter.

      Speaking of which, had another interview today with a place I’d applied for nearly a month ago. I should be able to talk about post-Amazon plans soon.

  19. Tina on October 4, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Glad to hear you are in a safe place. That is crazy weather!


    • Becky on October 4, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      Record-breaking weather in fact, it’s only October 4th! Leave it to me to be visiting South Dakota during a once in a lifetime event like this.

  20. Todd on October 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Glad to hear you are doing O.K. Lots of rain in WI Thurs. night. 3″ by us which would have been one heck of a snow storm.

    • Becky on October 4, 2013 at 11:34 pm

      Yeah that would have Todd! We had something near 1.25″ here today before it switched over to snow. It’s going to be a real muddy slushy mess tomorrow when it all starts melting.

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