NEW PEKIN, Ind. (AP) — Nearly two-thirds of the 13 people killed by
tornadoes that raked southern Indiana on March 2 were riding out the storms
in mobile homes at the time, a report Sunday said. Even though mobile homes
make up only 6 percent of the housing in Indiana, 93 percent of the tornado
deaths in the state from 1996 to 2007 were in mobile homes, The Courier
Journal reported Sunday, citing a study published in scientific journal
The National Weather Service and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention say there is no safe place in a mobile home during a tornado and
that the best advice is to plan in advance where to go to take cover.
"There is no credible organization that would recommend taking shelter in a
mobile home during a tornado,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president of
the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, a Tallahassee, Fla.-based nonprofit.
But, she added, it becomes a question of where to go.
The Manufactured Housing Institute, an industry group, contends that mobile
homes built after 1976 are as safe as conventional housing when more
stringent federal regulations went into effect. However, in Indiana, newly
built mobile homes must withstand winds only up to 90 mph, far lower than
the 175 mph winds of a tornado that covered 49 miles and killed a family of
five in a mobile home in New Pekin.
Elsewhere in southern Indiana, a Scott County man was killed when his mobile
home was blown about 80 feet across a highway and into adjacent Clark
County. Two other men died separately in mobile homes in the Ripley County
town of Holton.
Scott County Sheriff Dan McClain noted wood-frame homes also were flattened
by the storm, but added, “I’m sure anything would have been better than
being in a mobile home.”
Authorities say mobile homes can be made safer with the addition of tie-down
straps. After a tornado killed 20 people in 2005 in a mobile home park in
Evansville, local government enacted an ordinance requiring eight straps on
every unit. It won a $315,000 federal grant that allowed about 700 of 3,000
mobile homes in the county to be retrofitted, retired building commissioner
Roger Layman said.
Vanderburgh and Evansville officials asked Gov. Mitch Daniels to issue an
executive order requiring stricter anchoring statewide, but their call was
not heeded, Layman said. Daniels press secretary Jane Jankowski confirmed
that no statewide action was taken.
The Indiana General Assembly did enact a law in the wake of those deaths
requiring new mobile homes to be equipped with weather radios.
Safety and weather organizations recommend that mobile-home dwellers take
refuge in storm shelters, and that trailer parks be required to provide
them. But Minnesota is the only state to mandate that, and none of the
victims of the March 2 tornadoes in Indiana lived in such a park. They
resided in stand-alone units on individual lots.