Sitting out a wind storm while parked in a campground makes you wonder just how much force it takes to flip a RV. As your rig bounces around you’ll feel like a tornado magnet. But can high winds flip RVs?
There’s no need to panic. High winds can flip RVs driving on the highway but it takes a perfect storm to toss your rig when you’re parked. Here’s why.
Can high winds flip RVs?
Each time you drive down the highway your RV is battered by high winds. As that moving air meets the front of your RV, it creates a high pressure that turns it into a force. The intensity of that force is known as “wind load” and all RVs can withstand a certain amount of it.
You need to do the math to calculate wind load on RVs, but you can drive in a straight line knowing that RV bodies can withstand head winds at highway speeds. Wind is more of a problem when it blows sideways against a vehicle in motion, which causes trailer sway.
When RVs are stationary, cross-winds also wreak havoc but for a different reason. Sideways winds can destroy awnings, ruin slide-out toppers and toss patio furniture. But unfortunately it’s difficult to be specific about how high winds flip RVs that are stationary.
The good news is that it rarely happens. Few studies about high winds flipping cars and RVs are actually available. However, a group of scientists did examine this concern in a report called titled: wind speeds required to upset vehicles. According to the report, whether a severe wind will upset a RV depends on:
- The vehicle weight and shape
- Progressive damage
- Impacts of debris
- Wind gusts
- Direction and duration of wind
Is the wind over 180 miles-per-hour?
In the remainder of this study, the scientists go on to share good news for RVers worried about heavy winds. They conclude that:
“The few instrumented vehicles exposed to severe winds indicate that stationary vehicles in open terrain are not upset by winds of about 45 m/s (100 mi/hr). . . Thus, it appears unlikely that a stationary vehicle will be upset by winds on the vehicle of less than 52 m/s (115 mi/hr). The probability of upset, and thus the percentage of vehicles upset, will increase as wind speed increases above 52 ms (115 mi/hr). At some wind speed, perhaps greater than 81 m/s (180 mi/hr), most vehicles in the wind field will be upset.”
How to feel safer in heavy winds
Many RVers who endured heavy wind storms verify what the scientists discovered. The weather is rarely so bad that high winds flip RVs. You can minimize the impact sideways winds have on your rig by doing the following:
- Point the front of the RV into the oncoming wind (just as you do when driving down the highway). Do all you can to avoid letting the wind hit you broadside.
- Retract patio awnings.
- Stay hitched up if you haul a trailer or fifth-wheel. Extra contact with a heavy object will help you feel more stable inside the RV.
- If your RV has air bags, release the air to create more contact with your tow vehicle or chassis.
- Bring in slide outs. You’ll minimize the surface area battered by wind.
- Keep your stabilizing jacks down.
The last step to feel more comfortable during heavy winds is to move your RV out from under any overhanging trees. Ultimately, your RV is at greater risk of wind damage from falling tree limbs than from the wind itself.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
It doesn’t take extremely high winds to flip RV’s. We once had a storm with wind gusts just over 100 mph, along the Pacific Ocean, that flipped relatively large 5th wheels that weren’t tied down.
I think it use to be more common for people to use tie downs for RVs and mobile homes.
Today I guess many people just don’t worry about tie downs until it’s too late.
Guess you do not own a travel trailer. Not an informed statement. As a matter of fact mobile homes are “tied down” , and have provisions for that as they do not move often if at all.
I once lived in a 44 foot ABC coach. Manufactured in 1956 it was considered to be travel trailer. However it was never traveled in and stayed on the same piece of property for decades. Had it own240 electrical service, water and septic.
Legally the state and feds considered it to be a RV as it was sat on cement blocks since the 50s and 60s. To classify it as a mobile home I was told it would need to be mounted to a permanent foundation.
Came from the factory with double pane windows, underfloor duct-ed heating, all aluminum exterior, porcelain sinks, bathtub, shower, and toilet. Large counter top range and fairly large wall mounted oven with porcelain exterior.
Heavy duty mahogany closet, cupboards and wall paneling. Good quality metal door with wooden screen.
I currently own a motor home I’ve been living in year around for approx. 10 years in an RV Park and lived in the 44 foot travel trailer for approx. 15 years. So I have approx. 25 years experience both living and and traveling in RVs, However technically I never have lived in a mobile home.
I’m around RV 24 / 7 and see them come and go year around, daily, weekly and monthly.
However I preferred my old 44 foot ABC coach on it’s own piece of property. Living in a RV park has it’s pros and cons as theirs no garage, workshop, no personal laundry, etc.
Great article. Right on point to what we needed to know! “My wife” will sleep better tonight knowing that the rig isn’t going to tip over while we sleep 😉
And I have heard that filling up your tanks black gray and water will reduce your chances of flipping in high winds it causes bottom weight thank you for the opportunity to leave my comment
I often read the advise to point the RV into the wind, but wouldn’t it be better to point the RV away from the wind? I’d much rather have wind-driven debris hit the back of the motorhome and scratch my paint than hit the front and break my windshield or pass through the flimsy grill and puncture my radiator.
Some areas your unable to point your RV. In RV Parks your pretty much limited how your RV can be parked. I have been areas surrounded by trees, the high winds would swirl around in all directions attacking the RV.
Basically unless your RV is fairly heavy such as a large motorhome, 5th wheel or trailer. you going to need tie downs unless the area is not prone to storms with high winds. Which you probably can temporarily get away without tie downs. If you live in the area year round with the RV I would recommend installing tie downs.
Possibly if your in one area year a round you can take a look at the weather history the past 100 yeas or so and note any bad storms and their windage.
Different areas have different weather. Some areas may have a bad storm every 5 – 7 years while other areas may be every 10 – 15 years and so on.
dug fan says
Anything you say is a best guess scenario. I have been fulltime for 4 years and experienced a few bouts of severe weather. Best advice I know is fill your water tanks and stay hooked if possible. I have a 42′ 5th wheel and never really scared. We are facing a tropical depression tomorrow so I thinkbi might bring in my slides also.
Mark Rasmussen says
Either way is OK as long an you’re not parked with side facing the wind.
Thomas Seim says
The wind force on your RV is:
wind force = Lenght x Height x F
where F is:
20 at 90 mph
29.8 at 110 mph
41.8 at 130 mph
For example, a 30 ft RV 8 ft high (the sheeting only) will have a 7154 lb force pushing on it in a 110 mph wind (gust, not average). If this is more than the weight of the RV it will likely flip over. You should have, at least, a 50% safety factor, so the RV should weigh at least 10731 lb to be safe. These forces go up as the square of wind speed, so a 130 mph wind will produce a 10000 lb force. This is the worst case scenario with the wind hitting the RV square on; if the wind is at a 45 degree angle reduce the force by 30% (cosine of the angle).
Hello my travel trailer is 25 foot long with tongue and all it comes to 29 feet long. It weighs 7600 pounds. I’m worried about tropical storm winds coming into my area when Irma moves up the east coast. Will my camper be ok in strong tropical storm winds sitting in a campground
Kimberly Gershowitz says
I’m wondering the same.
No. Make sure you have RV insurance. I am an evacuee from the Texas coast. Google Port Aransas, Pioneer RV Resort or the town of a Rockport, Texas for pictures of hundreds of over turned and demolished RV’s. My trailer stayed upright but was picked up by wind and slammed back down. Skylights, slides, tongue stabilizer have tremendous damage.
Gary Huttleston says
What us f at 70mph?
So based on this, I have a 20ft x 8ft x 20(90mph)= 2560. The camper weight approx 3800. So with sustained winds between 55-75 with some higher gusts, I should be good? Can’t park directly into the wind at the park, but I’m at approx 45* to the south. Stayed by in a park in Alabama trying to stay away from Irma and it just seems to be following!
Rick T says
If a hurricane is expected….how about fill all your water and holding tanks to add ballast?
Another thing to do is fill the waste and water tanks. That will add a lot of extra weight to the RV and lower the center of gravity.
Bill Grant says
I’m curious how the rounding of an Airstream trailer would reduce these forces and by how much?
Thomas Seim says
While drag forces will be reduced, another factor comes into play: lift. The trailer could behave as a wing and generate lift which effectively reduces the weight of the trailer. NASCAR has added spoiler flaps to their race cars that deploy when they start going sideways. These spoilers eliminate the lift created by the fast moving car without the benefit of the front air dam to keep high speed air from going underneath the car. You seldom see roll over accidents in NASCAR races now.
One thing I do is fill up the tanks of the wind is real bad (like it is right now). That does help stabilize it a bit by getting thecweigjt down lower on the RV.
One thing I do is fill up the tanks of the wind is real bad (like it is right now). That does help stabilize it a bit by getting the weight down lower on the RV.
Jody blinn says
Hi everyone I am in the middle of Florida and Irma is set to hit here on Sunday. I Googled wind speed for a fifth wheel because I have no idea how much wind my fifth wheel can take before the roof rips off or it falls over. The last forecast had the hurricane coming straight up through the middle of the state. I live in an RV home in a park in the middle of Florida. I’m not planning on staying in the RV during the storm, but I sure would like to know it’s still going to be here when I get back. I got some good information from this blog that helps me feel a little bit better. I’m hoping by the time it gets up here I’m about 50 miles north of Orlando that the winds will have drop to around 80 miles per hour. I don’t know what’s going to happen. This RV is stationary now and I’ve built the deck around it and storage in the front. I don’t think my slides can go in at this point. If anyone sees this and have something positive to say I’d love to hear it. I really don’t want to lose my home. God bless you all for your wisdom and information. Jody
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Jody I’m glad this helped, and I hope your RV is safe from harm, and more importantly that you are too. You can always post in the iRV2 Discussion Forums if you’d like to talk with others who have gone through serious weather like this OK? Best wishes and be safe.
Is it ok to ride out Irma in a r.v. my job won’t close due to the storm( I work at waffle House) I have a 32 foot tracer and want to know if I should seek shelter
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Jane, please do not take any chances, go seek shelter and be safe.
Mike & Cathi Stark says
Make your rig as safe as possible, bring in slides, fill tanks and then take yourself off to a safer place. Best Wishes.
Kimberly Gershowitz says
We’re in Perry GA at an RV park with a popup camper. We evacuated southeast ga. Now it says we will be hit by a tropical storm here. Are we safe to ride out a tropical storm in a popup or should we pack up and more farther West tomorrow?
ANDREW FRAGOLA says
just bought 2018 fifth wheel and set it up in zephyphills Florida labor day weekend. it inst anchored down but its closed up. front is facing north. i flew back to NY. Wednesday as was planned before Irma. how wind can it take not anchored down?
I have ridden out some terrifying storms in our RV’s over the years, I think that has had a lot to do with my choice to upgrade to an old used Class A motor home. This is our second, the first had no slides but was very stable in storms. This one is heavier due to the 3 slides and they do bounce a bit in the high winds but I have never considered pulling them in when a storm approches. I think I will from now on though. When we are just in a campground and traveling, I like to unhook from power, water and sewer if a bad storm is approaching so I can get out of Dodge if things go South, but in the past few years I haven’t even gone that far. I have only fled once, and that was due to a tornado warning for the campground we were in. Thankfully it was close to home so we simply pulled up and went home. While the high winds and hail did a lot of damage, the tornado lifted back into the clouds before getting to the campgrounds. I did not regret leaving though since that damn hail will tear up your roof if it is large, I know we had a bad one last year so all my air conditioner covers, and roof vents are new as of last year thanks to ping-pong ball size hail with 75 mph wind gusts.
Cynthia Fortescue says
I live in a 5th wheel will I be okay at 65mph gust winds
Alan Wheeles says
To prevent a lot of worries just get out of your rig during a wind storm and have it insured.
Kristin Reed says
Question for anyone: we are in Reno/Verdi NV currently. We are on out 5th day of being Full time Rv’ers. And have never stayed in one before now. We are having back to back to back storms…. there are wind gusts up to 70 mph, we have a 42’ Montana High Country 5th wheel. Is there any chance that it can tip over? We are currently parked with our six stabilizers down. Any advice… it feels like the worst of the worst airplane turbulence In here, we are rocking and rolling for sure. Thank you.
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Kristin, I’m sorry to hear about the storm. I’m in SoCal currently and have been watching that storm. I wouldn’t worry about being toppled over, your rig is pretty huge and heavy. By now I’m guessing the worst of the storm has passed and you of course made it through. In the future, I recommend watching the weather and staying hitched up when you know that major winds are coming. It helps tremendously with my own rig. Good luck!
Kristin Reed says
First, thank you for taking the time to reply! Much appreciated! So we got a break for the morning and mid afternoon today. We now have THREE storms all back to back to back now! Starting in a couple hours. We are hooked up at an amazing park! Seriously couldn’t have started this journey at a more beautiful place!
So we are hooked up, but the wind comes off the hill on the side of our rig. Which is why we are feeling it so much! So far so good. The past two days we have had 70+ gusts 💨 and it has lasted for hours… so those come back tonight. We will see! So far so good! It’s just truly unsettling…. thanks again!
I have heard if you smoke a joint during a high windstorm it will actually soothe you. Is this true???
Leo Schmidt says
The information shared is very informative. Owning a36′ beast, it’s a constant concern and stressor when traveling. I feel more able to understand what’s actually happening when she won’t stay still. Thanks
I live in a 31’ 5th wheel. It is not attached to a vehicle. Wind storms coming up to 50mph. Am I safe?