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Good Question: Do Tornadoes Hit Mobile Homes More Often?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Prairie Lakes Estate mobile home park in Chetek, Wisconsin was hit by a EF-2 tornado Tuesday night.

Winds of up to 130 miles per hour killed one person and injured 25 others.

The images of the devastation has WCCO viewers Courtenay from Maple Grove and Gabriel from Oakdale wanting to know: Do tornadoes hit mobile homes more often?

It feels as though it could be true. According to the National Weather Service, 8 percent of Americans live in mobile home, but they make up 44 percent of the deaths from tornadoes.

Tom Hultiquist, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says it is all a myth.

(credit: CBS)

"There's certainly no attraction to a mobile home park," Hultiquist said. "I think it's simply because people are inundated with those news stories when the mobile home parks are hit because the damage is much more significant."

Tornadoes are rated on a six-point scale, from the weakest (EF-0) to the strongest (EF-5). The Chetek tornado was an EF-2, with wind speeds between 120 and 130 miles per hour.

"Once you get between 90 and 120 miles per hour, that's enough to destroy a mobile home," Hultiquist said. "What often happens is that it can cause the mobile home to roll over."

In a well-constructed home, an EF-2 tornado might cause roof damage or partial loss of a roof.

It would take wind speeds between 150 and 200 miles per hour to destroy a well-constructed home. Tornadoes with those types of wind speeds are rare.

Hultquist says there are several myths about tornadoes. Some people believe they cannot cross rivers or bodies of water, which is not true.

Others think tornadoes will not affect hilly areas -- also not true.

And it is also a common belief tornadoes do not make it to cities. Anyone who lived in south Minneapolis in 2009 or north Minneapolis in 2011 can attest that is not true. The 2011 tornado led to the deaths of two people and millions of dollars in damages.

Hultquist says tornadoes are more likely to touch down in less populated areas, but attributes that to a function of population density. Given people are more concentrated in cities, much of the landscape across the Midwest is sparsely populated.

He says he has seen some mobile home parks with tornado shelters, but they tend to be rare.

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