Every year, there are hundreds of tornadoes in the United States. Several dozen people in all kinds of housing die as a result of those storms annually. There are statistical indications that more die in ‘mobile and manufactured homes.’ But is there more to that claim then meets the eye? An on-the-record statement by a National Weather Service (NWS) expert to MHLivingNews reveals something that would surprise millions.
But let’s begin with the data on death tolls, and then lay out the facts and research we’ve compiled about the true risk – or not – of living in mobile or manufactured homes from third-parties and experts.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Fast Facts, which has published their research results for 2016:
All unintentional injury deaths
- Number of deaths: 161,374
Unintentional fall deaths
- Number of deaths: 34,673
Motor vehicle traffic deaths
- Number of deaths: 40,327
Unintentional poisoning deaths
- Number of deaths: 58,335
- Number of deaths: 19,362
- Number of deaths: 14,415
According to Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard, recreational boating injuries, damage, and death tolls were are as follows.
- In 2017, the Coast Guard counted 4,291 accidents that involved 658 deaths, 2,629 injuries and approximately $46 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
By contrast, 2018 PRELIMINARY KILLER TORNADOES National Weather Service (NWS) STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK 1153 AM CST TUE JAN 08 2019, stated that only 2 people died in a mobile or manufactured home all year.
Here is the composite data graphic from their website for 2018. Let’s note that every premature death is a tragedy. But that must be put in factual perspective.
So, in 2018, for every 11 million Americans living in a mobile or manufactured home, one died during a tornado or weather event. That’s extremely low risk.
It would put fatalities during a tornado for mobile/manufactured home residents near the bottom of all non-disease causes of death.
It would be factually accurate to say that more people have already died during 2019 tornadoes than in 2018 in twisters. But the total numbers are still in the low double digits, not in the hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands as in other forms of non-illness related fatalities. MHLivingNews has reported for years that the safest place during a windstorm is in an underground shelter.
But the above reveals that the odds of dying during a twister are tiny sliver of a single percent. Risk exists in other forms of construction – conventional housing or commercial buildings – as the NWS data above shows.
Next, we’ll pivot to some recent reports, and then close on some notes from a National Weather Service (NWS) expert.
Alabama Killer Storms
In Alabama, there were tornadoes that HUD Secretary Ben Carson recently drew attention to in his recent comments about the surprising durability of manufactured homes, found at this link here.
According to Weather Underground, “An analysis led by engineer David Roueche (Auburn University)” found that “All of these homes either lacked ground anchors entirely, had degraded anchors, or had anchorage systems that did not appear to meet state code, according to a March 27 report issued by the Auburn-led Structural Extreme Event Reconnaissance Network.”
For first time readers, note that MHLivingNews for some years has often turned quoted text bold and brown to make it ‘pop,’ but has otherwise not altered the statement quoted.
The Auburn University research findings included these bullets:
- “Lack of proper anchorage in both older site-built homes and manufactured homes of all ages appears to be a key contributor to the enhanced fatality rates.”
- “Significant material degradation due to corrosion and other natural processes is frequently being observed in the lateral and vertical wind load paths of manufactured homes.”
- “Newer site-built homes and engineered buildings provided adequate life-safety protection, even in the EF4 tornado, despite damage to the building structural system. In contrast, new manufactured homes were not able to protect life safety, due in large part to a lack of sufficient anchorage.”
Rephrased, as MHLivingNews have reported for years, improper add-ons and/or improper or missing anchoring systems account for the bulk of serious property damage, which may include some deaths. See our more detailed video, visual, and expert fact-packed report, linked here.
A video clip from a bank ATM camera in Iowa caught a tornado as it swept a conventional, ‘site built’ house away in seconds. Nothing is left.
Next, let’s turn to the recent deaths in El Reno, Oklahoma.
Still image from CBS News video, posted further below.
El Reno, OK
A closer look at news videos from the recent tornado in El Reno Oklahoma that has reportedly killed 2, suggests something similar to the facts noted above. Some mobile or manufactured homes are shown destroyed, but nearby in the same video clip, other manufactured homes are visible that appear to be substantially intact. Because mainstream media routinely fail to differentiate between a mobile or manufactured home, based on these early reports, the specific type of factory built structure is not know at this time. What is known is that manufactured homes are safer than mobile homes, and that there have been no mobile homes built in the U.S. for over 42 years.
Note that the CBS News video above doesn’t say that the tornado “leveled” the manufactured home community. While individual homes were smashed or rolled, but that occurred in nearby commercial buildings too.
The CBS News video is a much more accurate report than the ABC News video, which cropped the images and who’s narrator dramatically claimed that “A mobile home park, leveled.” While many homes were damaged or destroyed, the claim of “leveled” clearly was not accurate. That reporter wasn’t alone in using that kind of highly-charged language.
The stills on this page from the CBS News video posted above reflects that commercial construction, which is supposed to be far more durable, was severely damaged and/or destroyed. Other vides on this page show conventional houses, cars, trucks and more tossed about, several damaged, or demolished by a windstorm.
That said, there are reasons to believe that not all of the deaths reported during a twister or tornado are actually a result of some structural or other failure. The number of survival stories from owners of manufactured homes hurricane and tornado windstorms far outweighs the examples of deaths, as this video – which includes interviews with survivors and several news clips – makes clear.
A NWS expert told MHLivingNews, in a report linked below, that in any storm death – conventional housing, site built housing, or mobile/manufactured home – the actual location of the dead or the actual cause of death isn’t more specifically determined.
What that means is this. When weather watchers tell someone to flee a coming tornado, if they die outside of their home, that fatality is counted as a death in a mobile or manufactured home. Or if someone dies of a heart attack during a windstorm, that too is counted against mobile/manufactured home wind death tallies.
Rephrased, some may be needlessly dying outside of their homes, taking a weather man’s advice. The exact numbers are simply not reported in that fashion, per the NWS expert cited in the report linked above.
NWS Safety Tips
That said, let’s provide a safety tip, per the National Weather Service (NWS).
“For those of you without a basement at home, school or office, the safest place to take refuge is in a windowless room at the center of the building on the ground floor. Often, this turns out to be a bathroom. Another safe haven might be to shelter under a staircase, in a closet or even a hallway,” says NWS, per Weather.
“Once you arrive at your safe haven, crouch as low as possible to the ground, facing down, with your hands over your heads to protect yourself from flying debris,” said Weather. “You should refrain from seeking shelter next to any heavy objects that could fall on you. It’s always a good idea to wear shoes and try to put a bike or football helmet on if one is available.”
The reporting here or linked from this article should remind those who own a pre-HUD Code mobile home or post-HUD Code manufactured home to make sure that their home is properly anchored and installed, and that anchors be periodically checked to see if they need adjustments or replacement.
For those who want an extra measure of safety, and have the budget, there are miniature storm shelters that can be installed under your home, or by your back door, for a few thousand dollars.
A 2018 statement by a National Association of Realtors researcher of mobile and manufactured homes said the following.
Once more, in closing, we strongly suggest serious researchers to check out the fact and video linked here.
The video below makes points that likewise should spark confidence, not fear, in manufactured homes.
Not investing in a new manufactured home due to fear over safety is to give into overhyped media would be as foolish as not buying a conventional house for the same reason. Performer Kid Rock, a multimillionaire who owns a manufactured home, said that if his home happed to blow away, he’d just buy another. Insurance is for guarding against such risks.
There are more manufactured homes in rural areas, where tornadoes tend to strike. Weather people – while being well intentioned – routinely tell people to leave their home, instead of telling them to take appropriate shelter.
Leaving a home could result in an avoidable death.
Modern manufactured homes that are properly installed are strong, statistically safe, and durable.
But don’t listen to us, listen to the experts and research that we’ve quoted and linked from the above. Then, based upon facts – not misplaced fears – make an informed decision. “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Lifestyle news, commentary, and analysis.)
(Third-party images and citations are provided under fair use guidelines.)
Soheyla Kovach co-founder of MHLivingNews, on left,
with son Tamas (pronounced like Tah Mash), and publisher L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach, on the right.