Misconception: Mobile Homes are Hit By Tornadoes More Often

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
April 15, 2012; 10:05 AM ET
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In the wake of a tornado, it's not uncommon to see images of devastating damage in mobile home communities while surrounding site-built homes appear relatively unscathed. Is it possible that tornadoes are more attracted to mobile homes than site-built homes?

Though many have heard this at some point, it is merely a misconception.

"The perception that mobile homes are struck disproportionately is due to the fact that media is attracted to photos of serious damage and/or serious injuries," Senior Vice President of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions Mike Smith said.

"Both are more common with mobile homes in tornadoes, especially if they are not tied down. So, people see reporters doing "standups" in front of mobile homes and it creates a perception that mobile homes are struck more often. "

It is important, however, to consider where most mobile homes are located geographically and how susceptible that landscape is to severe weather.

According to U.S. Census Bureau, many states in the infamous "Tornado Alley," the area in the central and southwest United States struck most by tornadoes, have high percentages of mobile homes.

As of 2004, Wyoming, Kentucky, Arkansas, South Dakota and Louisiana were each within the top 15 states in terms of number of mobile homes. Because these areas are frequented by severe weather, we often hear of the excessive damage caused to mobile homes.

However, while this may make it seem as though tornadoes are attracted to this type of structure, the truth is they are no more likely to be hit than a site-built home in the same location.

The difference is their vulnerability. Mobile homes are less stable structurally and are more likely to be destroyed when hit.

Because the structures are built at a factory and transported to their locations, they are often lighter in weight than site-built homes and, therefore, less secure.

If a mobile home is not tied down, it can tip with winds as low as 55 miles per hour, Smith said.

According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), almost half of all tornado fatalities in the U.S. occur in mobile homes.

Should you find yourself caught in tornado conditions, the best place to take shelter is in the lowest interior room of a house or building.

Residents of mobile homes should have weather radios and be prepared to evacuate and find shelter immediately upon receiving a tornado warning or a warning of winds greater than 60 miles per hour, Smith said.

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