Chickery's Travel's Hurricane Irma Evacuation Story

By:  Julie Chickery

18th Sep, 17


When we made the decision to travel around southern Florida in our RV during hurricane season, we knew we had to be prepared to evacuate. Sure enough, only five days into our 2-week stay at Jonathan Dickinson State Park we made the decision to evacuate and get out of danger. We're now safely back in Florida, and wanted to share our lessons learned.

Maintain Situational Awareness

It is very easy to simply enjoy your daily activities and lose track of the news when you are traveling. However, it is important to maintain some situational awareness of local events and, more importantly the weather. The National Hurricane Center has the most up-to-date information on tropical cyclone developments, forecasts and weather alerts, discussions analyzing the data and more. This is especially true if you are traveling to an area prone to specific events, like hurricanes, but it can apply to any other disasters as well. For example, if you head inland to avoid a hurricane, it is important to be aware that tornadoes and flash floods are frequently spawned by hurricanes. That is why we have a NOAA weather radio that provides flood, tornado, thunderstorm, and other similar warnings.

Have a Plan and the Means to Execute It

We created a plan prior to the start of hurricane season. Evacuation is key to surviving a hurricane in an RV. We'd been tracking Hurricane Irma, and had already discussed evacuation options. Once the mandatory evacuation began for visitors in the Keys, we knew traffic would start getting pretty bad. That is when we decided it was time to go.

The night before we left, we fueled up our truck and our generator. At this point, there were long lines at the gas stations, but no shortages yet.

Don't wait too long and get stuck in heavy traffic with last minute, mandatory evacuees. As soon as you know a hurricane is likely to come your way, load up your RV and head out.

Another key to the plan, is having the means to execute it. When budgeting for RV living or travel, it is always important to have an emergency fund. Evacuation brings extra costs like additional fuel and campground fees with it. We've already spent double our fuel budget for the month and its only the 15th! Two of our 7 Ways to Save Money While Traveling include staying longer periods of time and traveling shorter distances, but that is not an option in an evacuation situation. Therefore, it is important to have an emergency fund set aside.

Be Flexible

It may actually take days to reach a safe destination. In addition, the path of the storm may change requiring you to change directions. We left early and went to Georgia. After only one night, we realized that this storm was going to continue up Florida and into Georgia. At this point it still was not clear if the hurricane was going to turn east or west, so we looked for an option far inland and out of any projected path. We settled on Memphis, TN, made reservations for that, as well an an overnighter in Auburn, AL, and headed out.

We enjoyed 5 days in Memphis and only got a little bit of rain from the lingering storm. During this time, we discussed our fall and winter plans. We had originally planned to travel though the Keys, around Miami, then head over to the southern Gulf Coast side of the state. However, we knew that many places in southeast Florida would need time to mend, so we looked for other options. We ultimately decided to return to the Patrick Air Force Base campground near Cocoa Beach, Florida. It is in a great location to take take day trips, and from what we've heard they have a lot of activities for winter residents.

*A version of this article was originally published on chickerystravels.com. It is published here with permission. All opinions expressed are solely those of the author.*