Thanksgiving Travel, 2019 Storm

Sadly, the 2019 Thanksgiving travel days were nothing like that here in eastern Washington State. Phone alerts were going off advising...

As I write this we survived the storm which impacted Thanksgiving travel around here. Watching closely on the news, the awful weather was recking havoc all across the United States.  My mind began to wander. I was thinking about all of our fellow RVer’s who were moving to their next destination, as well as the large mass of holiday travelers.  

We are parked for the winter, so we would not be on the road with our 5th-wheel, 320RS Bayhill. That was actually a huge relief when our phones began to give us alerts of high winds expected in the area. The alerts did not stop there. We received them for possible lightning snow as well as single-digit wind-chill temperatures.

It was a snow squall that popped up on Tuesday (Nov 26th) around 2 pm that created the first Thanksgiving travel turmoil. Over 127 cars were involved in accidents along I-90, west of Spokane, WA. Both directions of the interstate were closed for several hours. Those of you not familiar with I-90 west of Spokane, it is miles upon miles of open farmland. There are very few exits to get off the freeway and little to no fuel opportunities for miles.

Whiteout Condition Driving Memory

This reminded me of my first time towing Bailey our 32’ 5th wheel. It was through southern Idaho, in the dark, through farmland when a couple of snow squalls popped up. Luckily, they were small and we passed through the blinding snow without any issues. However, I was on high alert for ice, my speed on curves and any sudden gusts of wind. 

Being in an accident in freezing temps, for several hours, in the middle of nowhere is not something I like to think about. I am sure most of you are the same way. So, why can’t the issue of being stuck someplace be on an 80*F sunny day with a restroom and ice cream shop within walking distance? 

Thanksgiving Travel, 2019

Sadly, the 2019 Thanksgiving travel days were nothing like that here in eastern Washington State. Phone alerts were going off with warnings of low 20*F temps at night and day time highs at the freezing mark. Add on the high winds, and you’ve got possible 0*F temperatures when you are exposed to the elements. 

Reading about a bomb cyclone coming ashore in southwest Oregon and Northern California, I started to think about fellow RVer’s, travelers and residents. I can not fathom what 102 mph winds feel like and would prefer to never do so.

Higher elevations in Southern California were being hammered with snow, like, Sequoa National Park and Kings NPS. Roads were closed in these locations and with expected lows around 15*F, I don’t think I would have wanted to stay around to snowshoe.  

Inland of the Pacific Coast, I read about 500 planes being grounded in Denver due to a snowstorm. This impacted parts of I-70 with closures as well. Some reports came in showing up to 3-feet of snow being dumped in Colorado. Just in time to make the busiest Thanksgiving travel days even more chaotic.  

Southern Arizona and New Mexico, were not spared either. There were reports of flash flooding from the heavy and quick rainfall. This is an area that a lot of our RV Snowbird friends like to head, so we hope you are all safe and your RVs are dry on the inside!

Seek Shelter or Not?

We are bundled up through our 2019 winter prep we did a few weeks ago. This process involves a skirt around Bailey, plastic on the windows, and a space heater to keep the plumbing warm. For further warmth, we are connected to power and maintain five propane tanks for the furnace.

That is all fine, but with steady winds around 25 mph and gusts in the 55 mph range, will the styrofoam boards, held by tape, stay around the 5th wheel?  More importantly, since we are solely onshore power, will we be among the unlucky in a power outage? If so, what can we do about it?  Maybe rush out to buy a now overpriced generator at a local store, if they have any? Should we attempt to pull the foam skirting and risk the high winds to find power for the RV? Or perhaps get an over-priced hotel reservation set up and hope for the best?

Unfortunately, these are all questions you must ask yourself as you access any unexpected storm headed your way. Only you can work through the answers when the situation comes up.

Did the foam blow away?

We made it through the winter storm that impacted Thanksgiving travel around us in the Inland NW of Washington State. The direction the wind came from was perfect, since the RV is sheltered on that side. So, the gusts did blow away the foam skirting. Our home only jiggled, rather than the constant shutter we’ve been through before with high winds. And we were among the lucky, for maintaining power.

Of course winter travel, no matter what part of the country, can be dangerous with unexpected storms. And yes, Thanksgiving travel has always brought chaos. Knowing that, I am wondering how prepared are you. Do you always have a backup plan in the event an unexpected storm comes in? Or do you cross that bridge when the time comes?

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Melissa McElfresh

Melissa McElfresh

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis (stomach paralysis), which made me realize life is too short and not to take simple things for granted. As an avid indoor-girl with allergies, I did not go on hikes of any sort. But, one day my Marine husband, Don, asked if I would go on a 'nature walk' with him. It was on the paved Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park. I went and was hooked, eager for our next adventure! The desire to see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures, has aided me to share with you my new adventure.

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