Campers Forced to Evacuate and Leave RVs Behind in Flooding

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Photo Courtesy of Facebook/LauraHolly

RVing requires constantly having a plan. However, very few RVers plan to leave their RV and most of their belongings behind. 

Unfortunately, that happened to a group of RVers staying at a Thousand Trails campground during a weather emergency. These travelers are experiencing a nightmarish situation and have no idea when it will improve.

Today, we’re sharing how Mother Nature shows no mercy to RVers. Let’s learn more about what happened.

There Is Massive Flooding in Santa Barbara, CA

California has recently experienced significant heavy rains and flooding. At one point, 90% of the population was under a flood watch. Many areas experienced flash flooding, mudslides, and wind damage from the slow-moving storm. 

Officials have closed roads, and firefighters must rescue people from vehicles as residents attempt to evacuate the area.

While the flooding impacts many individuals, a group of RVers is in a tough spot because of it. 

Video Courtesy of Debbie Cockrell, an RVer that was forced to evacuate Rancho Oso RV Resort

Where Is Thousand Trails Rancho Oso RV Resort? 

Thousand Trails Rancho Oso RV Resort lies 30 minutes north of Santa Barbara, California, which is ground zero for this torrential storm. It is a 310-acre campground with 190 sites available year-round.

The campground offers everything you need, including horseback riding, to live your Western dreams. If you’re a Thousand Trails member, it’s in the Southwest Zone.

Guests enjoy the nice scenery, barnyard animals, and friendly staff. Personally, this was the first RV resort we ever stayed in back in 2017, and we loved it.

However, what will remain once this storm passes is uncertain. The storm has tremendously impacted those staying at the resort.

How Has Rancho Oso RV Resort Been Impacted?

Rancho Oso RV Resort had to evacuate the campground. We spoke with a fellow RVer, Bill Klaben, who was, unfortunately, staying at the campground during the storm. 

He stated that from what they could see, the RV spots were unaffected when he and his wife left and checked into a hotel.

While the campground may not have had substantial damage when Bill and his wife left, the roads leading to the campground are now impassable, especially in an RV.

One road has collapsed and makes it impossible for campers to drive out.

Guests had to leave their RVs behind and have emergency crews escort them out. They then had to check into hotels or make other temporary living arrangements.

Road leading out of Rancho Oso RV Resort with a portion completely covered in flood water.
Photo full-time RVer, Bill Klaben, took while evacuating Rancho Oso RV Resort.

RVers Were Forced to Evacuate and Leave RVs Behind 

Those staying at the resort received explicit instructions to grab their things and get out of the area. They wouldn’t have time, and it would be too dangerous to risk towing an RV considering the circumstances.

Luckily, as Bill mentioned, the RV section appeared safe from potential dangers. However, while their rigs may be safe, owners don’t know when they’ll get to return to them.

Sheriff instructs RVers on what the evacuation process will look like. Video Courtesy of Debbie Cockrell.

No Word Yet on When Campers Can Return

Bill and the other campers have yet to hear anything from Thousand Trails. Bill and his wife immediately booked a hotel room in the nearby city of Santa Barbara and then a cottage at Thousand Trails Palm Springs, but as you can imagine, this doesn’t come cheap.

The couple, along with many other RVers, is anxiously waiting for when they can return to their camper. 

However, officials have no timeline, and it’ll take some time for someone to evaluate the road, especially considering the large rigs it needs to handle.

What Thousand Trails Is Doing to Help

To Bill’s knowledge, Thousand Trails has yet to offer anyone help or assistance with their temporary living arrangements. Nor do they have any information about when they can return to their RVs. However, he continues to call their customer service line for updates.

The official Thousand Trails page updated that the Pacific Dunes Ranch and San Benito were evacuating and that portions of Rancho Oso were closed.

Thousand Trails posted the contact information for its Member Services department. They stated their employees were available to assist members with changing their reservations. 

Thousand Trails also stated, “Our teams are working diligently to address the flooding and weather issues, and we look forward to welcoming you back soon.”

While we were hoping to hear a more actionable response from Thousand Trails, we still have hope they will come through for their members.

When the pandemic hit us all hard in 2020, Thousand Trails stepped up and gave full-time RVers sanctuary in their parks. We personally were able to hunker down in the Thousand Trails Pio Pico RV Resort for over a month with no additional costs.

Bill agrees with us and stated he also was taken care of by Thousand Trails during the pandemic. He’s not upset about the circumstances and told us, “I think the issue is they never expected something like this to happen, and are trying to figure it all out. This was an unprecedented storm, and the damage in Santa Barbara was widespread. Communication will be key.”

Road leading into Rancho Oso RV Resort with debris and water rushing off the edge.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Klaben

What to Do in Case of Flooding in Your RV

Like many types of weather phenomena, flash flooding can be extremely dangerous. You must know what to do if you’re in your RV during a flood.

Here are some tips that can help keep you and your RV safe.

Have an Emergency Kit on Hand

We learn from this situation that RVing can be incredibly unpredictable. Having an emergency kit on hand can help you to have essential supplies during those unexpected moments.

You never know; it could make the difference between life and death during an emergency.

However, having an emergency kit isn’t enough. You need to know how to use the medical supplies and the other emergency items in your kit. 

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the items in your kit and ensure you have a full stock of supplies before each trip. You don’t want to discover you used your last bandage on a previous trip when you need one.

Pro Tip: Speaking of emergencies, This Is Why You Should Test Your RV Emergency Exit Window before you need to use it!

Have a Waterproof Bag for Important Documents

If an area is experiencing a flash flood, you might not have time to hitch up and move your RV. If that’s the case, anything inside your rig will be in danger of getting wet and damaged. 

We suggest placing important documents in a waterproof bag and a fireproof safe.

While there’s no guarantee, this helps give your essential documents a fighting chance against the extreme elements. 

Depending on the situation, these might be the only things you can recover from your rig.

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Pay Attention to Local Alerts for Evacuation Orders

You must stay aware of the evacuation orders for a particular area and ensure you follow them. You’ll likely be on your own if you stay in place during an evacuation order. 

Rescue workers won’t have the ability, and officials won’t allow rescuers to put themselves in danger for individuals ignoring the orders.

If you’re in a campground, chat with the campground management or camp hosts. They’ll likely advise you about how you should proceed, and you can stay in the know regarding the situation. 

Typically, evacuation orders are recommended before they’re required. So pay attention and stay aware of any changes.

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Don’t Attempt to Drive Your RV Through Flooded Roads

You should never attempt to drive your RV through a flooded road. 

You don’t know how deep or how fast the water is moving, and you could put yourself, your RV, and any passengers in danger by doing so. If you come across a flooded road, look for an alternate route.

When in doubt, call 911 and report the situation. They can send rescue workers to your location as soon as possible. The rescuers would rather deal with helping you safely cross the flooded road than rescue you from the waters after.

Washed out roads with caution tape in Rancho Oso RV Park
Photo Courtesy of Bill Klaben

Don’t Hesitate to Leave the RV Behind in an Emergency

If you happen to be in your RV during an emergency, there’s a good chance you’ll have to leave it behind. Like Bill and the other RVers in our story, you may not know when you can return to your camper again. 

So grab any items of value or that you might need until you can return to your RV as quickly as possible. Grab laptops, chargers, and any important documents that you can access.

It’s better to be safe and leave your RV behind than to be sorry. Have you ever had to evacuate while RVing?

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1 comment
  1. We had to evacuate from Thousand Trails San Benito. They knocked on the door mid-morning and told us that we had to evacuate, that one of the two bridges was already ‘lost’ and they were told the other bridge might be impassable in 30 minutes. No emergency services if we did not make it out or chose to stay due to official evacuation orders. We made it to the bridge in 28 minutes on the nose and water was already rushing over the bridge. We have a Class A and a Jeep and we both made it over the bridge. The road out had some flooded portions and most of the roads around Hollister were already blocked due to flooding. Took us a huge detour and flooding in Salinas on 101 to get out. The staff was fantastic trying to alert everybody and get everybody out. Many people were still packing up when we pulled out and we saw quite a few cars racing in on our way out, so we do not know if everybody made it out.

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