At midnight on Saturday, February 1st, my mother woke me up and said, “Get up, a tornado is coming within 15 minutes.” I jumped out of bed and put my shoes on, gathered my five year old daughter, and equipped her with a walkie-talkie and bicycle helmet. I put her in a fetal position in the hallway of our house, where there weren’t any windows. My mom crouched in her bedroom closet, leaving the weather channel on the television.
While my daughter and I crouched in the hallway with a swelling sea of blankets, stuffed alligator pillows, and a pile of comforters around us, we could hear the weather man pointing out that the tornado was right over our area. A couple of minutes later, we heard the rain coming down harder. We braced ourselves. We waited. Soon, the rain died down, and we heard the weather man saying that the tornado had passed, but that another one was on the way. Then, we heard the loud buzz of the weather warning service. The second tornado was soon approaching. The weather man told us that if we heard heavy rain, not to look to see the tornado, or it might be too late. He said that mobile home residents needed to take cover now, and that it may even be safer for them to lay on the ground outside rather than staying in their homes. As he said this, the pitter-patter of rain that had previously been tapping and rapping at our window sills at a steady rhythm began pounding on our roof. It sounded as though a waterfall was dumping on our house. We braced ourselves, but nothing happened. Fortunately for us, they were funnel clouds that had not touched ground. They were there, right over us, but they weren’t tornadoes.
As that ominous red blob on the weather RADAR passed the geographical nomenclature describing our home town on a weather map, I finally felt a rush of wind: my uncontrollable sigh of relief. Looking at the weather maps, it seemd the worst of it was over. The next day; however, I found out that we were more than lucky. Houses in nearby areas to the south of where I lived were destroyed. People were injured, and sadly, people died. I felt a sense of guilt, knowing I was bracing for a storm that so many people were completely unaware was coming to their locations.
And then, it occured to me that had a tornado actually touched down in my area, it would have most definately destroyed our home, for it was a mobile home. Would I have sent my family-my five year old daughter to certain death by staying in that house? Surely, this house, with attached porches, additional rooms, wood siding, and all the works, didn’t fit into the descrition of a traditional “mobile home.” Those news people were talking about single-wides and travel trailors, right?
I decided to write to the Flagler County Emergency Operations Center to clarify whether such a home would be dangerous. Bob Pickering, an Emergency Management technician reminded me that “In the 1998 outbreak there were 42 people killed in tornados and every one was in a mobile home or vehicle.” As to whether or not the security of additional rooms and porches or size of the home matters in making it safer, he said, ” It matters not how they are secured in this type of event, the structure is just not made to withstand those types of conditions.”
Pickering’s advice for moblie home residents (in his own words):
- See if there are any neighbors nearby that they can go to during a tornado threat.
- Have a NOAA Weather Alert Radio to get warnings as quickly as possible. They alert and give the fastest warning for any sever weather event that warnings are issued.
- Do a survey of the local land area and see if there are any lower laying areas nearby that are not flooded. I know that can be a challenge.
- The only other thing I can think of is look into building some sort of small concrete building as a shelter. This is an expensive option but will offer a shelter.
- AGAIN with the above info develop an emergency plan.
I found this information to be particularly useful considering most tornado warnings only give about a 10-15 minute lead time, and the nearest shelter to where we live is a 15 minute drive from here.
I also want to suggest that if you live in a community that is at least 10 minutes from a shelter, consider working with your county or community officials to designate or build an appropriate shelter for mobile home residents.