(NEW PEKIN) - Nearly two-thirds of the 13 people killed by tornadoes that raked southern Indiana on March 2 were riding out the storms in mobile homes at the time, a report Sunday said.
And even though mobile homes make up only 6 percent of the housing in Indiana, 93 percent of the tornado deaths in the state from 1996 to 2007 were in mobile homes, The Courier Journal reported Sunday, citing a study published in scientific journal Natural Hazards.
The National Weather Service and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is no safe place in a mobile home during a tornado and that the best advice is to plan in advance where to go to take cover.
"There is no credible organization that would recommend taking shelter in a mobile home during a tornado," said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, a Tallahassee, Fla.-based nonprofit.
But, she added, it becomes a question of where to go.
The Manufactured Housing Institute, an industry group, contends that mobile homes built after 1976 are as safe as conventional housing when more stringent federal regulations went into effect.
However, in Indiana, newly built mobile homes must withstand winds only up to 90 mph, far lower than the 175 mph winds of a tornado that covered 49 miles and killed a family of five in a mobile home in New Pekin.
Elsewhere in southern Indiana, a Scott County man was killed when his mobile home was blown about 80 feet across a highway and into adjacent Clark County. Two other men died separately in mobile homes in the Ripley County town of Holton.
Scott County Sheriff Dan McClain noted wood-frame homes also were flattened by the storm, but added, "I'm sure anything would have been better than being in a mobile home."
Authorities said mobile homes can be made safer with the addition of tie-down straps. After a tornado killed 20 people in 2005 in a mobile home park in Evansville, local government enacted an ordinance requiring eight straps on every unit. It won a $315,000 federal grant that allowed about 700 of 3,000 mobile homes in the county to be retrofitted, retired building commissioner Roger Layman said.
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