Why are mobile homes so dangerous?

Reporter: Chad Sewich
New Media Producer: Nick Storm

The three people who died in the tornado two weeks ago in Muhlenberg County were taking cover in their mobile home. The two others killed this year in a tornado in Posey County were also in their mobile home at the time.

It seems strange to be reading about severe weather on a cold winter night, but as we've already seen this year, tornado safety is something we need to keep talking about, so other deaths can hopefully be prevented.

When skies turn threatening, many residents at Westbrook Mobile Home Park seek shelter in the parks community room. "I go over to the shelter across the street, it's a stone building,"says Kathryn Todisco, a Westbrook resident.

Managers are quick to point out the building is not designed to be a shelter. "It's not approved by FEMA to be a tornado shelter," says Joe Whitehead, Westbrook owner. However the building is a better alternative than staying in a mobile or manufactured home.

All five deaths this year, and all 25 people who died in the November 6, 2005 tornado also lived in mobile homes. One of the reasons they're so dangerous during storms, is that the homes do not have foundations, leaving little to anchor them to the ground.

The actual frames are also more like vehicles, leaving the homes susceptible to being blown around or crushed. Another problem is that most mobile home parks do not have designated shelters.

Westbrook managers continue to look for ways to build a permanent storm shelter, one where residents could go and feel safe during storms. But that will take time and a lot of money.

Sturdy shelters that are big enough for all the residents are very expensive, but managers at Westbrook and Eastbrook continue to hope the county will get grant money to help pay for them. "If we can get those, we'd have one at each place," says Joe whitehead.

Just what residents like to hear. "I think it's good. They need them in all the trailer parks. My son lived out at Eastbrook and I seen what it done to those trailers," says Kathryn Todisco.

Vanderburgh County building inspector Roger Lehman is out of town, so 14 News could not get an update on the possible grants for the storm shelters.

Of course, other grant money has been secured to continue buying straps to help tie down mobile homes, but residents should not rely on those straps during storms.