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Be Prepared with Road Trip Planner

By Samantha-Rae Tuthill, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
June 20, 2012; 9:30 AM ET

You and your family are packed into your car, heading out of town for a much-needed vacation to kick off the summer. The skies were clear when you left home, but a few hours in the skies over the interstate are turning dark and ominous. Suddenly, rain starts pouring down in buckets and you can hardly see. A flashing road sign instructs drivers to turn to the highway's emergency radio station. A severe thunderstorm warning, complete with quarter-sized hail and exceptionally high winds, is being issued for several counties in the area. But you're from out of town, you have no idea what county you're in. Is your family heading into the path of severe weather? Or is this cloud burst all that you'll see?

Heavy rain severely diminishes visibility on the road. Photo courtesy of RozSheffield (who was a passenger, not the driver when snapping this pic)

When planning for a summer vacation, people often think to check the weather at their destination so they know how to pack and what kind of activities to prepare for. Those traveling by plane will often keep an eye on the forecast and will follow a flight tracker to make sure they'll still be leaving on schedule. But how many people think to track the weather along their road trip? Many may look at a national summary forecast to get a gist of their route's weather, but they may not always now the specifics. Who knows what counties they'll be going through, what the weather will be like at what time or where they can stop if the weather gets too bad?

One way to help you plan ahead is the AccuWeather.com Road Trip Planner. Using directions by Google Maps, Road Trip Planner allows you to not only enter your start and end points to get detailed driving directions, you can also pick the time you are leaving to see hourly weather forecasts along your route.

Say you live in Burlington, Vt., and you are planning to take your family to a nice beach vacation at Cape Cod. You can go to the Road Trip Planner, select that you are leaving your address at 9 a.m. and heading to the rental house's address. A list of directions will be generated, as well as a map that shows your route and the weather you can expect along the way. It approximates where you should be in hourly intervals and predicts the weather and temperature for that area.

AccuWeather's Road Trip Planner provides the weather forecast for your route so you can plan ahead

So, if you were to see that Methuen, Mass., the area you should be near around 2 p.m., was expecting rain, you could research what counties you'll be passing through so you can understand emergency warnings. You'd know to keep your umbrella easily accessible and not buried under the bags in the trunk. You could also look for a place you can stop off at for a while in case the rain reduces your visibility so much you no longer feel safe on the road. You could look up the town on AccuWeather.com to see if a warning for flash flooding or severe weather is posted.

You can also monitor the weather in your region on your smartphone with an AccuWeather app. It's always important to keep some kind of cell phone on you when you travel. If you get stuck or stranded you need to be able to call for help. Having a phone can also connect you to 211, an emergency service number that can give you information about severe weather, fires and other natural disasters in your area. They'll be able to direct you to safety if you are stuck in severe weather in an unfamiliar location.

While you are on the road it is crucial that you pay attention to all lights and signs. Keep your radio on in case of an emergency broadcast. Heed all watches and warnings carefully. Your car is not a safe place to be if flash flooding or a tornado is coming through the area, so if the weather is turning severe find a secure place to stop and wait out the worst of it. You should also keep an emergency kit in your car so you don't end up stranded without the proper supplies. In poor visibility, drive slowly and put your hazard lights on. It's always better to be late to your destination than to get in an accident and not arrive at all.

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