View Full Version : Radio's Tornado Tutorial - Read This

02-06-2008, 12:11 PM
I make this post on all the forums I am a member of just about every spring...finally we are getting some weather rough and wet enough to remind me to finally post it for ORR.net members. This is newer and contains more info than previous editions.


Preparedness, that is knowing what is going on as far as severe weather is concerned, and then having a plan, is the key. While this post addresses tornado events, the same measures should be considered for severe thunderstorm activity where high winds, hail and lightning pose a significant hazard.



1. Be prepared. Know where the closest shelter is, even if that is only a ditch. When checking in to a camp ground, ask where the storm shelter is located. Try to get somewhere under ground, like in a basement. Know where you would go, just as you learn the exits in a hotel or airplane. When you head for the shelter take your shoes and a pillow to cover your head. Get in the center of a substantial building, away from windows. (If I ran a campground, I'd have a shelter area, which would also be the laundry/game room/vending area. Most tornado deaths are from impact with flying debris, like lumber, so a structure with substantial, thick walls is what you need to hide in. This is why you move to the center of the house when at home. Put as much wall as you can between you and flying debris.

2. Be informed.

Major storm systems are predicted days in advance, although specific damage events are predicted only minutes ahead. Get a Weather Radio. Get the kind with SAME technology.

3. In the event of a tornado abandon your trailer AND your tow vehicle. I saw the reports where tornados blew a freight train off its tracks. (My physics major son reports to me that it only takes a sudden 10% pressure differntial to tip over a railroad car.) If parked in the campground, run to a shelter. If riding down the road, stop, abandon the rig and get in a ditch, well away from the RV. Your rig/tow will become airborn and get smashed. Your job is to survive and call the insurance company.

On edit: Somebody always wants to argue that a Class A is safer in a storm than a ditch. "Why trade something for nothing" they say. Well, I have never seen a ditch rolled over and wrapped around a tree.

A note here: Cars and trucks are good in earthquakes and lightning. But not tornados.

4. DO NOT seek shelter under a highway overpass.There is a famous video where a family and a TV crew get trapped under a bridge. They were lucky, not smart, in that the bridge had exposed girders to hide between, however most modern bridges do not. Also, the bridge creates a venturi effect such that the wind under the bridge is faster than the wind going over it. A bridge might offer protection from hail, but not tornados. GO GET IN A DITCH AND JUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE FACT THE RIG IS TOAST!

If you watch this video closely you will see a tiny black dot bouncing around in the background, a ways down the road. The 'dot' is a minivan and its occupant does not survive being repeatedly dropped from altitude by the tornado.

Out in the flatlands they chase storms because with unobstructed visibility they can see them coming for miles. Here in Georgia and most other places we have hills and tall trees that obscure the tornado until it's on top of you. We don't chase storms here. Don't expect to see it (or hear it) coming. If you can hear it, it's too late. Seek shelter once you have the warning.

Entire cities have been wiped out in the last few weeks, but some had warning before the tornado hit, allowing people to seek shelter.

Weather Alert Radio

From time to time there is discussion on the forum about receiving National Weather Service information via radio.(Weather Alert) The SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) technology was developed to give the public A FEW MINUTES warning, just enough time to run for cover. A prudent RVer will keep an ear out for bad weather while it is still several hours away, giving time to pack up and move out of harms way.

Weather Radios can be programmed with a State/County area identifier. (See NOAA web site listed below for your area identifier.) Most SAME radios can be left unprogrammed, and this will cause the radio to alarm on every alert message it receives whether it is for your area or not. The only requirement is to be tuned to the proper frequencies for the area you are in. Frequencies also available at NOAA web site.(The constant alarms given by an unprogrammed radio can either be interesting or annoying depending on how much of a waether buff you are. You can track the progress of the storm system by finding the counties on a map.)

Here are the 7 frequencies used by the NWS. (and Canada!) They can be programmed into any VHF scanner. The receiver in most scanners is superior to those in CB/WX radios and some cheaper WX radios. And better antennas are available for scanners as well. Also note these frequencies can be recieved by your VHF TV antenna that came with your rig.

1. 162.400
2. 162.425
3. 162.450
4. 162.475
5. 162.500
6. 162.525
7. 162.550

A regular scanner will not support SAME signaling. However, it will still receive the broadcasts allowing you to check the local forecast each day. Weather alert radios are available stand alone, or built into AM/FM radios, CBs, FRS and other devices. I recommend Radio Shack simply because there's one on every corner and they keep weather radios in stock. One feature I look for is a radio that runs on 12VDC and comes with a 120 VAC wall wart power supply. Such a radio can be used with or without shore power.

More Weather Radio Info here:


and in Canada


Note that US and Canada use the exact same SAME radios and codes. Your WX receiver works in both countries.

Watches and Warnings

A watch means conditions are right for severe weather events to occur and you should be paying attention to events as they happen. (Gather the lawn chairs, fold up the awning, plan indoor meals)Know where the shelter is if you need it.

A warning means there is severe weather event in progress, a tornado sighted or other event is happening NOW and you should seek shelter NOW.

Also note the NWS alert system will be used to warn of other environmental problems such as evacuations due to chemical spills, terrorist attack or what ever.

Emergency Equipment

Your usual emergency equipment, flashlights, raincoats and shoes will suffice, but having them available quickly is the most important. I would not buy anything special to prepare for a tornado event. A first aid kit and some other emergency supplies could be kept in a small backpack and grabbed on your way out of the RV and taken to the shelter. In any case, a pillow to cover your head and shoes to protect your feet from broken glass and such is a bare minimum.

Additional On-line Resources


From this site all the weather watches and warnings of any type, including snow and even fire, are available with just a few mouse clicks.

The National Weather Service provides realtime radar, satellite and warning information. You can find a feild office near you for local forecast information. The SAME area identifiers are available here. Also river and flooding information.


The Weather Channel of cable TV fame. Remember, only the NWS can issue official warning statements.


Hurricane Watch Net, for those in hurricane prone areas. The all in one source for hurricane data. Real Time Reporting.

I gained this little bit of knowledge from working net control on the Georgia Skywarn Net, a group of amateur radio operators (and others) who report observations to the National Weather Service during severe weather events. I have the privilege of relaying field reports to the meteorologists on the forecast floor in real time. This is a volunteer effort on my part as one of about 20 operators at WX4PTC, NWS Peachtree City, GA.

02-06-2008, 01:53 PM
Radio that is a very good article. Thanks for posting it.

I want to stress the importance that everyone needs a S.A.M.E. capable Weather Alert Radio! Put one in your house within hearing of the bedrooms, in the RV, cars, at work, everywhere you spend time. Request that your employer put one in the office. Demand that your schools have one in their offices. They need to be wherever people gather. They remain quiet until the alert is activated by the NWS and they will wake you up from sleep. No other system in the world will get your attention and warn you 24 hours a day, yet not bug you during normal weather.

Many newer mobile ham radios have the capabilty to scan the weather frequencies and will activate (open the squelch) only if the alert tone is sounded. However these do not have SAME capability, so they may alarm for areas close to you that you dont really want to know about. You cant program them to be county specific like you can a SAME radio. They are however very good while traveling.

I have been a trained spotter and a police officer for over twenty years. One of these weather radios is the best thing you can do to help yourself and your family.

This time of year the NWS goes into the communities and presents weather awareness and storm spotter training. All ages benefit from the weather awareness seminars. They usually are 4 hours long or less. Contact your local NWS or local Emergency Management (EOC) and ask when the next seminar is in your area. They are free and very educational.

03-30-2009, 11:01 AM
In light of the recent weather we have had here for the last few weeks and that tornado season is upon us, I thought I'd bump this back up for discussion and review by new members who may not have yet read it.

In another thread, it was mentioned that Trailer Life and Woodalls should note the shelter capacity of each campground they review. And I am wondering how we should go about lobbying them to do so?

03-30-2009, 12:18 PM

Great article. I participate in Skywarn here as well and do take a 2 meter with me where ever I go so that I can participate, at my destination or where ever I go, if needed.

We had a local drill yesterday,Sunday at 9:00 am, The turn out was tremendous. With some of the wicked tornadoes we have had in the past one of the kids that played victim said she was suprised to see how serious the adults took the drill. They are too young to remember the bad ones.

Mind if I copy this so that it could be posted in our local club's newsletter?

One Country Boy
03-31-2009, 11:31 AM
Great job Wade, very good info and rules to live by. Having lived along the Gulf Coast all my life, I've witnessed a lot of devastation and sometimes the loss of life due to tornados and hurricanes. Have been involved in some major evacuations. Improvement of severe wx notification through the use of these wx radios has made a huge difference. Knowing what to do when the alarm goes off is the key. You laid it out very well. Good job.

My wife and I like our little Midland WX Radio. Just under $30 at WalMarts. I noticed she got it out for me yesterday to hook up in the RV at this new stop. We also have a little handheld Marine Radio I haul around when RV'ing. Interesting to listen to when camped near lakes and other waterways. It has a weather alert system in it as well. I think it's also a Midland. Not expensive at all and allows emergency communications if ever needed.

Thanks for posting.


04-03-2009, 10:34 AM

Thanks again, it will be in this months club newsletter and can be found at; http://w8lap.com/waveguide-08.htm . :bounce:

73, Dan, KC1BUD

04-08-2009, 01:52 PM
Speaking of windy days, it was a bit frisky in FDR state park this past weekend, 4-5-09. After a nice Saturday of wandering around Pine Mountain and so forth, Sunday started with rain and ended with rain and tornady warnin's. The park rangers came round with the loud speakers and freaked a bunch of tent campers and others (like us) into 'runnin' fer th' hills' with a warning that a tornado in Alabama was a heddin' our way. If it 'hit' we were to run for the outhouse and hunker down. We figured (oops) that since the storm was supposed to be an hour west of our location, we'll head for the house, an hour away and come back in the morning for the TT. Well, we got about 5 miles north of Pine Mountain and the rain was so bad we had to turn around and retreat back to the campground. By the time we got back, the worst appeared to be over, a couple roads in the park flooded but no damages. The warnings on the TV faded out about midnight, so we went to bed. :bag:

04-09-2009, 10:39 AM
Well. Then there is THIS photo I found on another forum:


Now all I can say is if I were the photographer in that photo.....

I'd likely be needing clean underwear

There is close, there is too close and there is HOLY SH!!!!!!!! BATMAN

05-06-2009, 05:02 PM
It occurred to me as I listened to my brother recount his adventures with a severe thunderstorm in a state park recently, that if this occurs at night, as his did, when we leave the RV we should turn on all available outside lights (scare, patio, etc) to help people navigate to and from the storm shelter. This would likely assist any rescue personnel dispatched to the scene as well. And it will assist you in locating your rig in the event it's not where you left it. If you can operate your vehicles headlights with one of those remote key fobs then you might want to take that with you as well for the same reasons.

02-01-2013, 09:31 PM
This is why you do not stay in your car in a tornado. Notice the door, not just the window, is pierced through with a large stick of lumber.

Not just the idea that the car will be hurled into oblivion, but the fact is what kills people is the flying debris.

The photo is from NWS taken after the storms of Jan 30, 2013 in Adairsville, GA.

02-02-2013, 11:16 AM
One change in those recommendations.. You said if on the road abandon the vehicle and get in a ditch.. Ditches can rapidly fill with water causing you to drown.. Avoid ditches. Not a good choice, Find other shelter.

Looking at one of the photos above....

Pilot/owner to insurance agent: "A telephone pole hit my heilocopter"
Agent: Uh, say again.
Pilot/owner: A telephone pole hit my 'copter"

The facts of the case: Copter was grounded, tied down INSIDE a hanger, Not occupied at the time... Telephone pole had been used to add support to the roof while workmen were re-roofing due to leaks. It was basically just "Jammed" in prop style (I've done a few things like that)

Whind gust caused the roof to "lift" just a little, Just enough to release the pole,, When fell down.. Right on top of Pat's 'copter.

The pole really DID hit the 'copter.

True story. Pat is,, Well, a bit crazy (Ex Nam 'copter pilot) but a very nice guy, I've met him a few times.

He dropped in to my office one day and cleaned all the debris off our patio by blowing it away with that big fan he sits under (Think about how close to a 21 story office building he had to be to do that and you will know what I mean by crazy).

06-03-2015, 07:20 PM

Thought I'd dig up this old thread after watching the national weather reports on tornado watch/warnings across the entire country going on now.

And the last few weeks, actually.

Sorry I'm late. :bag: