When our family first started planning our road trip along Route 66 last year, one thing we had not counted on was the extreme range of weather conditions we would be facing. We knew that we’d probably be facing a little bit of rain in some of the more northern states. What we had not counted on how extreme the weather might be.
It was in Missouri where we founds roads that had been closed due to mudslides or standing water on the roadway. And in Oklahoma, Route 66 took us through tornado alley where we spent a terrifying few hours on a Monday afternoon trying to drive out of the path of thunderous weather and tornadoes.
Both the mudslides and tornado warnings meant that we had to detour around sections of Route 66 which was quite disappointing. We especially regretted have to race through western Oklahoma where we missed out on several old alignments. The experience did teach us some valuable lessons that we’ll be able to apply to the next road trip our family takes.
Check the weather report each morning
We learned that checking the local weather conditions each morning was a must. The local weather report gave us a good heads up as to what we might be running into that day, such as areas of possible flooding or thunderclouds that could develop into tornadoes.
Talk to the desk clerk
We also discovered that motel desk clerks keep a pretty close eye on the weather too. We got in the habit of checking in with the front desk clerks each morning who were very helpful in keeping us informed about travel hazards and could suggest alternate routes.
Signed up for cell phone weather alerts
It was a motel clerk that encouraged us to sign up for text alerts from the Weather Channel. All we had to do was key in the zip codes of the areas we would be traveling that day to receive weather warnings as they developed.
Know the counties you are traveling through
Since severe weather warnings are often listed by county, knowing where you are is important too. We panicked the first time we got a text warning because we had no idea what county we were in. After that, we plotted our route on a state map each morning and highlighted the county names through which we would be traveling that day.
Map out alternate routes
These fold up maps also let us change routes as weather reports came. We were caught in rural west Oklahoma when we received the tornado warning; having a state map helped us get us to a major crossroads where we could find shelter (and get advice) until the danger had passed.
Keep the gas tank full
As a rule, my husband and I never let the gas tank drop below the halfway mark; a driving strategy that saved us in Oklahoma and again in New Mexico when a truck rollover forced us to make a 100 mile detour before we could pick up the road again. Keeping the gas tank full when traveling through remote areas means that you won’t run out of gas when a tornado, mudslide, or other emergency has you backtracking or driving in another direction.
Taking a road trip vacation through 15 states like we did last summer taught us that it’s not enough to plan the route and figure out what attractions to see along the way. Planning for bad weather is equally as important and could make the difference in averting a vacation disaster.
More by this contributor:
Tips for driving through tornado alley on Route 66
5 essentials to pack in your vintage VW Beetle for winter driving
How we projected costs for a month long road trip