Living through an Ice/Snowstorm in a Motorhome

The one thing you have to think about when living in an RV is the weather. We have survived 110 degrees in Vegas in August in our fifth wheel, heading to storm shelters during Tornado warnings, and now we can say we have survived an ice/snowstorm.

This lifestyle is great when the weather is perfect, but bad weather can cause panic and preparedness. In 105 degree heat in Vegas, our 3 AC units ran about 20 hours a day, cooling the RV to 80 degrees, and we had to change when we walked the dogs as we didn’t want them walking on the hot asphalt. We pull in our slides to protect our slide toppers during a tornado watch or warning and to streamline the RV and reduce drag; we fill the freshwater tank to add weight, put away anything we have outside, and unhook our water hose, sewer. Surprisingly we can do all these things in under 10 minutes.

We have been in snow before, but this recent ice/snow storm was very different. We were in Red Bay, AL at the Tiffin Service Center waiting for theater seats to be replaced. The RV park we are at informed us on Friday, Feb 12, that he would be shutting off our city water connection in preparation for the freezing temperatures heading our way. Before he did, we filled our 100-gallon freshwater tank. Unfortunately, I still had a load of laundry in the washing machine, so we used 10 gals right away. (normally, I avoid doing laundry when we rely solely on the freshwater tank.)

We chose not to pull in our slides because we figured we wouldn’t need to move the RV, and we have lived off our freshwater tank for a week before. We also didn’t anticipate we would have 2-4 inches of solid ice on our slide toppers. If you are wondering what slide toppers are, think of it as an awning over the slide to help prevent the elements from getting into your RV through the slides.

Saturday, Feb 13 – I ran to the grocery store not only to get some essentials but because we needed food. The stores were packed; people were prepping for the storm.

Sunday, Feb 14 – Valentine’s Day. Around 2 pm, Lee and I decided to have an early dinner to celebrate. We didn’t expect that every business in town would be closed or in the process of closing to prepare for the storm that was coming later that evening. So our Valentine’s Day dinner consisted of Subway. The girl behind the counter was nice enough to give Lee and little Valentine’s Day balloon to give me since this isn’t how I pictured the day.

Sunday night, we watched tv and waited for the storm, and the storm came! It sounded like hail on the RV; in a matter of hours, the ground was covered in ice. That night we recieved notification that Tiffin would be closed on Monday. We weren’t too surprised as we were in the south, the roads were looking icy, and no one would be able to get into work, let alone want to drive their motorhomes on icy roads.

Monday, Feb 15 -that morning, when I walked the dog, I was grateful Lee had remembered to pull in the stairs (they fold up under the coach). Had he not done that, they would have been iced over and very slippery. Since Tiffin was closed, everyone just stayed inside. It was too cold to be outside, and more ice was predicted.

It continued to snow/ice for the rest of the day and in a matter of hours everything was cover in ice/snow. That night around 7 pm, our water stopped working. When this happens, panic typically sets in; did it freeze, are our pipes going to freeze, do we have a leak? What caused the water to stop? At first, we had a trickle of water and instead of allowing good water to go straight down the drain, I quickly grabbed water bottles and started filling them. I didn’t know when we would be able to get water and knew we needed water to drink for us and the dogs and water to flush the toilet. When the water finally stopped, Lee and I went outside in the freezing temps and did some investigation. We pulled things out of the bay and put them in the jeep to check for leaks. Everything was dry. So the only thing we could think to do was take our heating pad and extra towels to try warming the wet bay where our water connections are.

That night we went to bed with the fear that we would have water damage due to a frozen pipe.

Tuesday, Feb 16 – that morning, we still had no water. Lee ran to the store to pick up bottled water, and we called our friend of our in-town who do RV repairs. They couldn’t get to the RV since the roads were horrible. They told us our rear furnace is what heats the wet bay. So we turned our floor heat off to allow the furnace to run more. Thankfully that worked, our freshwater tank thawed, and we finally had water.

We also attempted to close our slides; we quickly realized the ice of the slide toppers was too thick and bringing in our slides was only going to damage our slides. We didn’t have access to a ladder, so we had no choice but to leave them out.

Wednesday, Feb 17 – Tiffin opened at 8 am instead of 7. I walked over (the RV park we were staying at is across the street from the service center) to see if we could borrow a ladder to get the ice off our slide toppers. Thankfully they had one we could borrow. Lee climbed up the ladder, and a kind neighbor held the ladder steady since it was standing on ice. Lee used a hammer to chip away the ice; we were amazed at how thick it was. I measured, and it was 2-4inches thick. After we got all the ice off, we closed our slides and drove over to an available water pump, and filled our fresh water tank, knowing the fuller the tank was, the less likely it would freeze.

Tiffin closed at 12:30, because motorhomes were struggling on the ice and half their employees couldn’t come into work. That night we closed our slides, in preparation of the next storm coming. Our living space went from 450sqft to roughly 50sqft in a matter of minutes. Thankfully even with the slides pulled in we can access our kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. It was a cozy night with the family.

Wednesday night Storm Viola came through – more snow, sleet, and ice, there was another 2-3inchs of snow/ice accumulation. We felt good knowing everything in the RV was working, and we were safe and warm inside the RV.

Thursday, Feb 18 – it was cold, but the sun was out, so there was a little bit of a thaw. Over the next few days, things thawed more and on Sunday, Feb 21, the RV park was able to turn our water connection back on, and we could go back to running off of city water.

Thankfully, we never lost electricity and only lost water for two days and escaped without damage to the RV. People were willing to help one another and at the end of the day, it’s just another adventure Lee and I have experienced and can talk about for years to come.

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