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The Worst Tornado Shelter

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The recent story of a family of five dying in New Pekin, IN after a tornado struck the mobile home they were taking shelter in prompted me to write this blog. The heartbreaking story includes the death of 14-month-old Angel Babcock; a toddler who was initially found alive in a field after the tornado had passed. One of the most disturbing parts of this tragedy for me was a story I read about how a neighbor invited the Babcocks to seek shelter with him in his larger double wide mobile home. Please understand that my intent with this article is to educate, not to place blame or find fault.

Mobile homes are consistently and unquestionably one of the absolute worst places to be in a tornado. From 2000-2011, approximately 37% (426 out of 1155), of all tornado related fatalities occurred in mobile homes. This represents more than 1 out of 3. Now, that number might not seem as significant to you until you dig a little deeper into the statistics. A 1994 essay that was updated in 1997 and written by Harold Brooks, a research meteorologist specializing in statistics at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, OK, illustrates why the 33%-37% number is significant. Dr. Brooks points out that according to the US Census Bureau, 6.1% of the U.S. population lived in mobile homes. Remember, this paper was last updated in 1997. The percentage grew to 7.6% based on the 2000 Census. You can read Dr. Brook's essay and the US Census Bureau data here:

http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/users/brooks/public_html/essays/mobilehome.html

http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/housing/census/historic/units.html

Okay, so what do all of those statistics mean? The bottom line is that your chances of dying in a tornado are anywhere from 10 to 22 times higher, (and possibly even higher based on the new census data) if you seek shelter in a mobile home! Keep in mind that this doesn't even include the number of mobile home fatalities that have occurred in straight-line wind events.

Am I trying to wage war on the manufactured home industry or belittle people who can't afford more than a mobile home? My answer to that is absolutely not. However, I want everyone to understand that you are rolling the dice if you and/or your family try to ride out a tornado in a mobile home. I encourage you to take the time now to make a plan that will increase your odds of surviving the strongest winds on Earth.

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