Having spent two summers in central Florida workamping, we have been fortunate to avoid a major weather event. We have come close a number of times with severe thunderstorms, tornado warnings and even a few tropical storms and hurricanes coming awfully close. The summer of 2016, we have a few tropical storms position themselves close enough that we needed to have a plan in place just in case there was a need to evacuate. This task seemed daunting at first mainly because we have been parked much longer than we intended. This meant we had a lot of stuff out of place and our site had a lived in look and feel about it. We basically had to look at it from the standpoint that we were preparing for a seasonal move and not just for a few days.
Generally, when we plan a seasonal move, we begin to find homes for everything and purge the excess. We had been moving every 5-6 months with workamping jobs but now we had been in place at the Orlando/Kissimmee KOA for 2 years only moving for site work. Another thing we consider is our dogs. We have a Pekingese and a Mini Schnauzer who are very much in tune with certain procedures and processes that indicate we will be hitching up soon. Both react quite differently and we know that if we need to move quickly, we need to do so with a bit of stealth so that we don’t disrupt their routine too much.
We had a number of severe thunderstorms throughout the summer that prompted us to have a bug out bag ready at all times in case of damaging winds or tornados. A few times, the bug out bag made it to the main building that we would use as shelter if the need came up. We were fortunate that need never came to pass, but we were ready.
Our first encounter with potential damaging tropical weather was in August. After careful consideration and watching the weather closely, we stayed put and it turned out to be no worse than a severe thunderstorm. But the process was a good dry run for us. Just a few weeks later and the end of September, another system had been brewing that looked to be much more likely a threat, even to central Florida. Hurricane Matthew had been plodding through the Atlantic without a clear path, but with Florida on the radar. By October 2, we had all but confirmed that if it would been a Cat 2 or lower on the coast, we would stay put, since the winds were forecasted to be fairly light for our location. It became a bit of a joke among the other workampers because at the time, we were the only ones talking about pulling out. Our theory is that this is our home and we are not going to risk riding out a major storm if we don’t need to. We are, after all, on wheels.
On October 4, Hurricane Matthew had shaped up to be quite the storm and we decided that we would in fact pull out since it would now be a Cat 4 barreling up the eastern coast of Florida with sustained tropical force winds or higher throughout central Florida. With offers from two other campgrounds for workampers to evacuate to, both us and another couple decided were would pull out and head to the west coast and stay in St. Petersburg at the KOA for a few days. As we were finishing packing and ready to hitch up, our phones went off with a hurricane warnings for our location and with that we hooked up and pulled west.
We had the most gracious of hosts with workampers taking care of workampers. We also were able to see a part of Florida we had not yet explored much and truthfully fell in love with the area. After a few days and the storm moving out we headed back to Kissimmee. Upon our return, it was obvious that with the exception of some gusty winds, it really wasn’t too bad and we probably could have stayed. But for us, it just wasn’t worth the risk. It was a great experience and we met some fantastic people.
We are blessed to live the life that we do and even as Mother Nature and life have other plans for us, the important thing is to stay safe and have fun.