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Hurricane safety for mobile home residents

12:28 PM, Aug 23, 2012   |    comments
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There are a lot of mobile homes in Florida and Georgia, folks. I'm not sure "a lot" really does this whole idea justice. Florida and Georgia combine for more than 14% of the nation's total number of mobile homes.

According to 2011 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Florida has more mobile homes than any other state -- nearly 850,000.

It makes sense -- it's a more affordable way to enjoy the most beautiful parts of our country. And more and more retirees are choosing beachside living in trailer-type modular homes.

Heck, my in-laws just bought a home like this near New Smyrna Beach. It's a great escape for them. But they know darn well when a storm is on the way, they should be escaping the vacation home.

Yes, I'm a concerned son-in-law.

Here's the deal though: These homes are never safe during any sort of tropical weather.

We talk all the time about having a safe place to go during non-tropical severe weather. Even strong, gusty winds associated with thunderstorms can damage or destroy a mobile home.

And don't get me started on what a tornado can do.

But with hurricanes and other tropical systems, you're getting a triple punch:

1.    Winds, including sustained and gusts: A tropical storm can produce winds up to 73 miles per hour (mph). That's strong enough to tip a mobile home, or send debris through the walls and windows, both of which can cause injury to anyone inside. Now think about hurricane-strength winds: A Category 2 storm can produce 110 mph winds. The winds alone could tear the home apart. And Category 2 storms aren't even classified as "major." Well, trust me, they're plenty "major."

2.    Tornadoes: Tropical depressions, storms and hurricanes can all produce tornadoes. In general, these are EF-0 or EF-1 tornadoes that are created due to the spin hurricanes can generate. But even these small tornadoes are capable of flattening your home and causing serious injury.

3.    Flooding and storm surge: The deadliest factor in a tropical system is the storm surge and flooding that follows. No one is safe from this -- it's the great equalizer. Neither the fancy $10 million beachfront home on stilts nor the modest mobile home is safe. A prolonged flooding event will eat at the stilted home's foundation, causing it to crumble, while the mobile home will float away, even if it's tied down.

Bottom line: if you live in a mobile home full-time or vacation in one during hurricane season, you must be extra vigilant in your preparation. Here are some tips to follow:

1. Evacuate as early as possible, even if it seems like a "weaker" system. Even tropical depressions can do major damage and cause injury.

2. Plan an evacuation spot now. Call some relatives ahead of time or find a shelter nearby. You need to plan ahead to avoid confusion and fear as the storm approaches. It'll make leaving much easier.

3. Tie your home down. Many mobile home owners already do this, but it's not for your own safety. You must evacuate, even if your home is anchored or tied down. However, tying the home down will prevent it from becoming a projectile and destroying other property. It may also ensure you have something to come home to when it's time to return.

4. Don't come back until you receive the all clear. Even after the storm has passed, emergency crews need all the space possible in order to ensure everyone is safe. Returning early puts you in danger, since a number of hazards may still exist, such as roads that are damaged due to flooding or downed power lines.

First Coast News

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