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									                                             Tornado Magnets? Maybe Not, But...
                                                 Some folks still say manufactured              not fallen over the last 25 years.3               have ended any such plans.
                                            homes are “tornado magnets.” While this                  In 1992 Hurricane Andrew slammed                  In fact, the wind standards for
                                            is unlikely, it is true that a disproportion-       into Florida, destroyed over 10,000               manufactured homes in most of the
                                            ately high number of tornado deaths occur manufactured homes in its 25 billion                        country (HUD’s “Wind Zone I”), including
                                            in manufactured                                                                dollar rampage.4       Texas’ “tornado alley” and all non-coastal
                                            (or mobile)                                                                    This widespread        Texas counties, are lower than model
                                            homes. Of the                                                                  destruction led to     code provisions for conventional site built
                                            348 tornado                                                                    revisions of the       housing for the same areas. For homes in
                                            deaths across                                                                  wind-resistance        Wind Zone I, HUD recognized in 1996
                                            the US since                                                                   standards for          that “the wind standards were signifi-
                                            1998, almost half                                                              manufactured           cantly below those specified for site-built
                                            (172) occurred in                                                              homes in coastal       and modular housing in moderate wind
                                            mobile homes.                                                                  and high-wind          areas.”8
                                            Site built housing                                                             prone areas.                The Federal Emergency Manage-
                                            accounted for                                                                  Today, these           ment Agency (FEMA) estimates the
                                            only a third (106)                                  Photo by Jody James        improved stan-         minimum HUD code standard for Wind
                                            over that time            In Happy, Texas, a tornado this year picked up a     dards are cited        Zone I is equivalent to about a 65 mph
                                                                      mobile home and dropped it fifty feet away killing
                                            period, although                                                               by manufacturers       fastest wind speed.9 The Uniform
                                                                      two people.
                                            most people live                                    Photo by Justin Weaver     and retailers in       Building Code minimum wind speed (for
                                            in site built                                                                  promotional            site built homes) varies in the non-coastal
                                            housing. Vehicles                                                              materials as           areas of Texas from 70 to 90 mph.10 The
                                            and other                                                                      certification of the   Castillios’ 1980 14 x 66 manufactured
Page 16

                                            locations ac-                                                                  safety of manu-        home was built to the basic standard
                                            counted for the                                                                factured homes.        (Wind Zone I).11
                                            rest.1 These                                                                   However, parts of           Thus, while the new code provisions
                                            statistics became                                                              the industry           increase protection for hurricane prone
                                            real here in Texas                                                             fought the             coastal areas, there is little reason to
                                            last May when                                                                  standards,             expect improvement in the wide swaths
                                            Eduardo Joven                                                                  unsuccessfully         of middle America in HUDs “Wind Zone I”
Paper Tiger Missing Dragon, November 2002

                                            Castillo, 37, and his wife, Yolanda Castillo, suing to block implementation in 1994.                  which are also prone to high winds.
                                            35, were killed in their mobile home when                The lawsuit was won by HUD, partially             Meanwhile, the aging stock of
                                            a twister struck Happy, Texas.2                     on the grounds that the primary purpose           existing homes are becoming even more
                                                 Manufactured home occupants die as             of the HUD code was to reduce the                 susceptible to damage. FEMA did find
                                            a result of tornados at 20 times the rate of        injuries and deaths associated with               that multi-section manufactured homes
                                            people in of site built homes, according to         manufactured housing.5 In 2000 Con-               performed better in high winds, and that
                                            a study from National Severe Storms                 gress revised the preface to the federal          double-wide manufactured homes on
                                            Laboratory researchers. The study ex-               statute to make affordability an equal goal       permanent foundations seemed to
                                            presses concern that the growing popula-            of the standards along with safety.6 HUD          perform similarly to site construction.12
                                            tion of mobile home residents will lead to a stated at the time of the 1994 changes                        This is promising, as multi-wide
                                            reversal of years of decline in the national        they would also consider raising wind             shipments are up, and permanent
                                            tornado death rate. More disturbingly,              standards for manufactured homes in the           foundations are increasingly popular. In
                                            despite revisions of the HUD building code rest of the country as well.7 The political                fact, as of this year in Texas, all new
                                            to increase wind resistance of the struc-           climate leading to the 2000 rewrite               homes not in parks are required to have a
                                            tures, the death rate from tornadoes has            favoring cheap construction appears to            permanent foundation system. (The
Consumers Union Southwest Regional Office

                                             There are several theories to explain the high wind related death toll for manufactured homes. According to the industry,
                                             tornados appear more often in the suburbs and rural areas where more manufactured homes are located. Wind experts focus
                                             on other factors. Photographic evidence from Texas (above) points to failed tie down systems--straps break, anchors pull out,
                                             blocks tip. A Florida survey of tie downs in existing homes found that more than 80 percent were inadequate. Texas does not
implementation of that bill may change                 Recommendations
the definition of “permanent,” however).        !    Consumers in tornado prone
But 33 percent of new sales are still           areas should consider upgrading to
single-wide units, many of which are            a higher windzone home.
placed in rental communities.13                 ! Consumers should get their
     Orange County, Florida was galva-          anchoring systems periodically
nized to action when 34 manufactured            inspected.
home dwellers were killed in a single night
of tornadoes in 1998. Concerned that the
                                                ! Texas and other high wind
deaths were related to the tie-downs of         prone states should develop pro-
the homes, officials began an inspection        grams to assist low-income and
program offering free inspections to            elderly residents inspect and replace
elderly and low-income residents. The           degrading straps. Not only will this
program kicked off with 550 inspections –       help protect from wind, but will help
which turned up over 450 homes with             maintain these homes.
problems. These problems ranged from            ! Tornado shelters should be
loose, rusty or missing steel straps to         available in high density manufac-
unstable foundation piers.14                    tured home areas such as parks.
     This is consistent with research from
the International Hurricane Center, which
                                                       National Weather Service Storm                                              Photo by John Taylor
found that manufactured housing anchor-         Prediction Center,“Killer Tornado              Wind picked up this home but left the porch.
                                                Statistics,” 1998-2002, Internet Source:
ing capacity degrades over a period of
                                                http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo                     Manufactured Housing Program,” 1996, p. II-6
months or years. Unlike the permanent                2
                                                       Blaney, Betsy, “Residents of Texas town    - II - 8.
foundations of site built housing, manu-        begin cleanup after tornado kills two, injures           8
factured housing tiedowns, straps, and          four,” Associated Press, 5/6/2002.                       9
                                                                                                           FEMA, “Building Performance Assess-

                                                                                                                                                          Page 17
anchors may become loose and are                     3
                                                       Brooks, Harold E and Doswell, Charles      ment: Oklahoma and Kansas Tornadoes,
subject to corrosion.15                         A. “A Brief History of Deaths from Tornadoes in Preliminary Report,” Chp. 7, p 6-9.
     John Taylor, a citizen activist who        the United States” NOAA/National Severe                  10
                                                                                                             ANSI/ASCE 7-93 UBC windspeed
advocates through the American Internet         Storms Laboratory, January 2001. Internet         map, Simpson Strong-Tie Co.
Society of Manufactured Home Owners             source: http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/~brooks/                11
                                                                                                             Swisher County Apprasial District, Title
                                                deathtrivia/                                      Detail and Commentary, via fax from Denise
(TAISMHO) has focused his energy on the              4
                                                       Rappaport, Ed, “Preliminary Report,        Nolan, 7/8/2002.

                                                                                                                                                          Paper Tiger Missing Dragon, November 2002
failure of manufactured home soil auger         Hurricane Andrew,” 12/10/1993 Internet                   12
                                                                                                             “Recommendations to Better Protect
anchors in high stress events. His              Source: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/                  from Tornado Damage” FEMA. Internet
research has led him to conclude most           1992andrew.html; Opinion, United Circuit          Source: http://www.fema.gov/hazards/
manufactured homes anchored with this           Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, No. 94-2307       tornadoes/presskit3.sht
type of anchoring system don’t meet the         “Florida Manufactured Housing Assciation vs.             13
                                                                                                            “2001 New Manufactured Homes
federal windstorm protection standards.         Henry G. Cisneros. 6/12/1995. Internet            Placed by Size of Home, By State,” U.S Dept.
He cites studies by both the government         Source: http://www.law.emory.edu/11circuit/       of Commerce’s Census Bureau.
and industry, which Taylor says show the        june95/94-2307.opa.html                                  14
                                                                                                            Schultheis, Kurt D. “Anchors will help
                                                       Opinion, United Circuit Court of           secure mobile homes,” The Orlando Sentinel,
current performance design loads used
                                                Appeals, 11th Circuit, No. 94-2307 “Florida       June 2, 2002.
by the manufacturers of this product are        Manufactured Housing Assciation vs. Henry                15
                                                                                                             The International Hurricane Center,
significantly higher than the actual field      G. Cisneros. 6/12/1995. Internet Source:          “Hurricane Loss Reduction for Residences
performance for this type of anchoring          http://www.law.emory.edu/11circuit/june95/94- and Mobile Homes in Florida,” June 29, 2001.
system, despite their approval by HUD.          2307.opa.html                                            16
                                                                                                             Taylor, John, email 7/18/2002. See also
He calls for elected officials to protect the        6
                                                       42 USC Sec. 5401 as of 1/16/1996;          Internet Source: http://www.geocities.com/
public by ensuring proper standards are         Public Law 106-569 effective 12/27/2000.          taismho/
                                                       HUD, “Ninth Report to Congress on the
                                                                                                                                                          Consumers Union Southwest Regional Office

  systematically inspect all home tie downs, and inspects no anchoring systems after initial installation.      Photos by John Taylor
      Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms lab in Norman, Ok. believes manufactured homes collapse due to designs that
  create weak interior walls. When one wall gives way, the whole structure can collapse. “Whereas one section of a site-built home
  can be wiped out but internal framing holds the rest together,” Brooks told an Illinois reporter.

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