Modular Homes Section

Mobile Homes 2500% More Deadly In Tornadoes

Abstract:
Using government research we have proven that people in mobile homes are almost 2500% more likely to die in a tornado than people who are in permanent homes. Since 2000 more than half of ALL tornado deaths occurred in mobile homes.

Mobile homes may not attract tornadoes but they are scientifically proven to be tornado deathtraps. This might be why we always see the tv crews reporting from a "former" mobile home park after tornadoes.

Question Raised
Several readers have inquired about mobile home parks and if they are truly more prone to deadly tornadoes. We decided to try to tackle this tough urban rumor and to find out if mobile home parks are truly more dangerous in tornados and in particular if they are more dangerous than modular home construction.

Methodology
We have reviewed Storm Data information depository that is maintained by NOAA/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory. This information details each tornado in the United States and includes where fatalities occurred in order to check if mobile homes are really more dangerous than other buildings. In addition we have also utilized newspaper archives and college research projects to verify the data.

Findings
Since 1985, fatalities in mobile homes have accounted for 42% of all tornado deaths in the United States (Table 1). Since 2000, the amount of people dying in mobiles homes during tornadoes has increased to 45%, with just under one quarter of people dying in permanent homes, and 8% in vehicles (Table 2). This research also has determined that tornado victims are more twice as likely to die in vehicles than outside.

To normalize the data for the risk by population in mobile homes and permanent homes, we've looked at residential fatalities since 2000. From 2000-2006 there have been 705 mobile home deaths and 352 in permanent homes caused by tornadoes. According to the 2000 US Census, only 7.4% of the United States population lives in mobile homes, this represents a much greater risk than for residents of permanent housing. From 2000 to March 31, 2007, the average number of annual deaths per million mobile home residents was 31.47, while it was only 1.26 in permanent housing, implying that mobile home residents die at a rate 24.98 times greater than non-mobile home residents.


Conclusion
Tornadoes are intense and violent storms. If you ever find yourself in the path of a tornado, you should locate yourself underground. Do not stay above ground. Since mobile homes do not have an underground basement they are deathtraps. Modular homes are safer than mobile homes since they are constructed with a better foundation and most have basements which can be used for shelter. You need to get below ground ASAP to avoid flying debris which is a common killer during tornadoes. Also avoid highway underpasses as they provide no protection from the tornado and do not stay in your vehicle which is statistically more dangerous than being outside. At the first warning of a tornado get underground or in dive into the nearest hole or ditch and you will minimize your chance of dying.

NOAA Tornado Data
Table 1: Annual mobile home tornado fatalities compared to non-mobile home fatalities (Non-MH), total tornado fatalities and percentage of fatalities in mobile homes for United States from 1985-2007. 2007 only contains data from January 1 to March 31.

YearMobile Home DeathsNon-MH DeathsTotal%Mobile
198528629031.1%
1986781546.7%
198724355940.7%
198821113265.6%
198912385024.0%
19907465313.2%
199123163959.0%
199221183953.8%
199313203339.4%
199424456934.8%
199511193036.7%
199612142646.2%
199713556819.1%
1998626813047.7%
199929659430.9%
200030114173.2%
200116244040.0%
200229265552.7%
200322325440.7%
200415203542.9%
20053263884.2%
200622456732.8%
200733154868.8%
2000-2007 Subtotal19917937852.6%
Complete Total506699120542.0%



Table 2: List of locations of tornado fatalities (from NOAA Storm Data) covering 1985-2007. Bottom row is percentage of total deaths for period. 2007 only contains data from January 1 to March 31.

Year# of TornadosMobile HomePermanent HomeVehicleOutsideOther/ UnknownTotal
19857732840721390
19868497330215
1987695247332259
198877321630232
19899211281601450
19901264725141653
1991120823349039
19921404211200639
199361613673433
19949462412312969
1995121811842530
1996123912931126
19971180137354068
19981529622414624130
199915192922862994
2000116930542041
20011351161132840
20021041295211855
20031534222112854
20041947151520335
2005134332411038
200612642216322467
2007281333001248
2000-2007 Subtotal993019980161073378
Complete Total26064506272108492701205
Total %  41.9922.578.964.0722.40100


Examples of the Event Reports
April 2, 2000 - Piedmont, Alabama - F2 Strength
...One elderly woman was killed and six people were injured in that area. The woman was one of three people in a mobile home whose frame was thrown approximately 130 feet by the force of the tornado...

April 11, 2001 - Cairo, Oklahoma - F2 Strength
...In Coal County, 1 fatality and injuries to another person occurred when a mobile home was thrown approximately 200 yards and disintegrated 4 miles east of Coalgate...

May 6, 2003 - Hillerman, Illinois - F4 Strength
...The only fatality in Massac County was a 65-year-old female who was killed when her mobile home disintegrated. The official cause of death was blunt trauma to the head. She was found in a water-filled ravine about 100 yards from the former site of her mobile home. The frame of the mobile home was wrapped around the trunks of two trees that were stripped of all their limbs...

May 24, 2004 - Winchester, Illinois - F1 Strength
...The tornado initially touched down 6 miles west southwest of Winchester then traveled to the northeast causing minor tree damage. Two miles southwest of Winchester it destroyed a mobile home causing 1 fatality. The two occupants of the mobile home were thrown from the home...

February 2, 2007 - Turpentine, Florida - F3 Strength
...The tornado produced a quarter mile wide track across the Lake Mack area destroying 86 residences and damaging 144. Many mobile homes were completely destroyed. Thirteen people died in mobile homes...


Examples of mobile home destruction by tornadoes.
Mobile Home Tornado Damage 1Mobile Home Tornado Damage 2Mobile Home Tornado Damage 3Mobile Home Tornado Damage 4