Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)


March 14, 2012

Will your mobile home be the death of you?

March 14, 2012 —     The deadly tornadoes earlier this month reinforced the grim statistics that weather experts and emergency planners have been sharing with us for years:

    A vast majority of the men, women and children who die in tornadoes are those who did not leave their mobile homes to seek shelter.

    In Kentucky, 16 of the 23 killed this month were mobile home occupants, almost 70 percent. In Morgan County, it was the case with five of the six who perished, more than 83 percent.

    A 10-year study of tornado fatalities from 2001 to 2010 showed that folks who live in mobile homes die at a rate 15 times higher than those in permanent homes.

    The best gambler in the world could not try to beat those odds. However, it happens in every tornado and the obituary columns always report the names of those who gambled with their lives and lost.

    The stark reality of those statistics came to light in Laurel County when one couple left their mobile home on a ridge when the weather warnings became severe.

    Next door, their neighbors opted to wait out the storm in their mobile home.

    The EF-3 tornado ripped both mobile homes to pieces, killing the couple that stayed behind.

    We are not criticizing those who choose to live in mobile homes. They generally are less expensive than conventional homes, simpler to relocate, easier to finance and often more energy efficient.

    In fact, we Kentuckians like mobile homes more than most states. In the 2010 census, these homes made up 12.6 percent of our state’s housing units, compared with the national average of 6.1 percent.

    Today’s mobile homes, fashionably called “manufactured housing”, are better built than ever before because of design upgrades in 1976 and 1994. 

    Kentucky requires that such homes must be built strong enough to withstand winds of 70 mph. For the record, that’s about half the speed of the tornado that hit Morgan County.

    In our view, you should leave your mobile home as soon as a tornado watch is posted. That comes before a tornado warning.

    If you cannot get to a sturdy building, preferably a basement, The National Weather Service and the Red Cross now say your safest option is a vehicle.

    If you can’t get away in time, you should park with your seat belt fastened, keep your head below window level and cover your head.

    Studies show that vehicles stay upright about 83 percent of the time. 

    That’s still not as safe as your neighbor’s basement or a storm cellar.

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