National Weather Service offers 3-step safety plan for East Texans living in mobile homes

If you live in a mobile home or an RV, what should you do when severe storms hit? The NWS has created an easy three-step guide.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 6:50 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - East Texans are no strangers to severe storms, and many grew up hearing Mark Scirto’s classic line to find your “small, windowless interior room.” But, what if your home doesn’t have one? What if you live in a mobile home or RV? KLTV’s Andrew Tate spoke with the National Weather Service for answers.

Data from the US Census Bureau and Texas A&M University show around 6% of Americans live in mobile homes, but that number is even higher in the Lone Star State, where it’s closer to 7.5%. This is important because from 1995 to 2018 nearly 40% of all tornado fatalities in the US occurred in mobile homes.

That is 40% of deaths from a form of housing that makes up only 6% of residences in the US.

Charlie Woodrum, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said it doesn’t take a strong or violent tornado to do damage.

“You got to remember, only an EF-1 tornado can completely lift a mobile home, throw it and destroy it,” Woodrum said.

But, it’s not just tornadoes that can lead to damage and fatalities in mobile homes and RVs. In March of 2018, strong wind downed trees at Brushy Creek Campground at Lake O’ the Pines, and one of those trees split an RV in half.

So, if you live in a mobile home or an RV, what should you do? The NWS has created an easy three-step guide. Step one is easy enough you can do it today.

“You need to identify family or a friend’s place, a community building, something that’s more sturdy than a mobile home would be,” Woodrum said.

Step two is to make sure that location will be available when you need it.

“The day before you want to verify that the safe place is still available for you,” Woodrum said.

Then, step three happens on the day of the event, when a tornado watch is issued for your area and you take action. If you wait until storms hit or tornado warnings are issued, there might not be enough time to get to a safe place.

If a warning is issued before you’ve been able to leave for a safer location, the advice from the NWS is to get into a ditch near your home or get into your vehicle and turn it on, so the airbags can deploy if it is moved by the storm.

“The biggest thing is we want everybody to remember a mobile home is not a safe place to be when tornadoes threaten,” Woodrum said.

Woodrum also addresssed manufacturers’ claims that some mobile homes are safe during storms. He said those claims are based off of a national requirement for hurricane standards, not the winds produced by severe storms and tornadoes.