20 April 2009

The Mobile Home Problem- It's Getting Worse

Posted by Dan Satterfield

There have been 16 deaths from tornadoes in the USA this year. 9 of them in mobile homes. 2 more outdoors. One in a vehicle, and 4 in homes and buildings. Think about that for a second. Mobile homes make up only a small portion of the housing in this country, but in most years, at least half of the tornado deaths are in them.

An EF2 tornado will destroy a mobile home park, but someone in a wooden, or brick home, will likely not even be injured. EF2 tornadoes are a lot more common than the big killer EF4, or EF5 twisters. Those are actually very rare.

I’ve been involved for awhile in supporting legislation that would require mobile home manufacturers to include a NOAA weather radio in all mobile homes. This legislation has little chance of passing. Mobile home manufacturers do not want buyers to be reminded that they are getting a home that is tornado bait.

Image from NWS Huntsville Office

Image from NWS Huntsville Office

Still, if everyone who lived in a mobile home, were to go to a safer structure when a Tornado Watch was issued, the death toll would be cut in half! We forecasters are getting pretty good. Tornadoes rarely happen outside of a Severe Thunderstorm, or Tornado Watch now.

Two people died Sunday night in North Alabama. I was on my way back from a Climate Seminar in Chicago, but Meteorologist Spencer Denton interrupted programming, and tracked the storms. He repeated, several times, our usual warning to those who live in mobile homes, to go to a safer place. What did he get for his trouble?

Over two dozen emails, complaining about missing the Amazing Race on CBS.

If your life is so boring that missing a TV show requires an email, with all caps and a bunch of exclamation points, then you have my sympathy, but not my understanding. Those emails are always outnumbered by those thanking us for breaking in, and warning them anyhow.

Classic "Comma Head" hook Echo on Nexrad Radar Sunday Evening. This storm killed one person.

Classic "Comma Head" hook Echo on Nexrad Radar Sunday Evening. This storm killed one person.

My favorite complaints, are the ones that warn us they are writing the FCC. Do they they not know, that as holders of a public broadcast license, we are required to serve the community. I can assure you that running the Amazing Race instead of a Tornado Warning is not what the the FCC considers as serving the public. So good luck getting a response to that complaint!

I suspect, the FCC is as thick skinned about this type of email, as I am.

Mobile homes are a good option for many people who cannot afford a typical frame home. Just one thing to remember though, a few hours a year, you need to get to a safer place, until the storms pass.

Mobile Home Destroyed by EF2 Tornado Friday 10 April 2009- Viewer Pic.

Mobile Home Destroyed by EF2 Tornado Friday 10 April 2009- Viewer Pic.

The NWS in Huntsville has finished a preliminary storm survey. all of the Sunday night tornadoes were EF0 and EF1. The only deaths, and injuries, were in mobile homes.

One forecast that could have been much better, was the Sunday before last. The Gravity Wave/Wake Low event was not forecasted. It now looks as if this was primarily a wake low, that formed on the back side of a complex of non severe thunderstorms. They are getting more attention, and study now.  Meteorologists like myself, along with others at the NWS, and university researchers, are  working on learning more about them. Hopefully next time, we can give you some warning that one may occur.

My previous post has a lot of info on this.

More on the Climate Seminar in Chicago soon. It was fascinating.