Factoid of the Day: Tornado Edition

Mobile homes account for nearly half of all tornado deaths in the United States.

From a WSJ piece titled “Mobile-Home Deaths Raise Issue of Safety” we get this factoid:

In 2010, according to the weather service, 45 people died in tornadoes: 20 were in mobile homes; 11 in houses; seven in vehicles; six were outside; and one was in a building.

We’d need to see a multi-year analysis to make sure this wasn’t a fluke–maybe a single tornado wreaked devastation through a single trailer park–but it’s a scary stat. Or, I guess, a comforting one for those of us who living in permanent structures.

via Alan Murray


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    You’re generally safer getting out of the mobile home and taking your chances in the open (as you are with a car), though this is no doubt counterintuitive and scary. So the really troubling thing is whether these were preventable deaths.

  2. JKB says:

    Well, a lot more information is required. How did the people die, by mobile home displacement or by flying object penetration. Were the homes properly installed. Were they strapped down and did they have continuous underpinnings to avoid wind lift.

    There are a lot of variables and some are just due to not considering the threat. We continue to permit wood frame construction in hurricane prone areas. I had knew a guy from Guam who couldn’t believe all the wooden houses down on the Gulf. In Guam, only poor people live in wood frame houses, everyone else has block or shipping container. But then they get real typhoons (hurricanes) there with far higher and sustained for far longer winds.

  3. Grewgills says:

    What do an Alabama divorce, a tornado, and a hurricane have in common?

  4. tom p says:

    Grewgills, you are the closest to the truth.

    JJ, I am surprised that this a subject for a post…. don’t you know? Trailer parks have a great big red bulls-eye on them so that God can’t miss them. (seriously, old joke amongst us trailer trash)

  5. Jay Murphy says:

    Living in Alabama there is truth to, and wisdom in, all the above statements. However there is a real reason why Trailer homes are more likely likely to be devastated by tornadoes than is a “permanent” structure. If I remember correctly from my physics classes 13 years ago, in which we Alabamians learned about physics and trailers, The overhanging roofs and empty space often found underneath the trailers offers lift points for the high winds. Those things along with the less than preferable construction/upkeep of most trailers make them easy to rip right off the cinder blocks they depend on. It can also make trailer parks seem like “tornado magnets” due to the lesser amount of wind needed to achieve lift off.

    / Insert no liability disclaimer here/… I have always heard that it is safer to put yourself in a deep ditch during an imminent serious tornado threat than to stay in a mobile home or car.:

  6. matt says:

    It’s possible to anchor mobile homes but most people don’t bother. Generally they just jack them up level them with blocks and call it a day..

    I lived in a trailer as a child. Living in a camper was the worst though 🙁