Trailer parks are often the butt of jokes in American culture, and not the least among them is the idea that they seemingly "attract" tornadoes. A study by scientists at Indiana's Purdue University recently found that tornadoes really are more likely to hit trailer parks simply due to where they're located.
WBBM Newsradio's Veronica Carter reports researchers looked at 60 years worth of climatological data from the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center, and found tornadoes touch down most often in "transition zones" – areas where a dramatic change in landscape takes place. In other words, where tall buildings end and farmlands begin, or where a forest stops and the plains start.
Trailer parks are commonly located in these "transition zones," on the outskirts of cities where you start seeing more open fields than houses.
As the researchers found, the thought that trailer parks are tornado magnets is partially true, but the real reason for this perception lies behind these homes' poor construction.
While most trailer parks are located in areas that traditionally see more tornadoes (and, subsequently, a higher risk to get hit by one), the idea that trailer parks are tornado magnets stems from the fact that mobile homes are extremely susceptible to damage in a severe thunderstorm.
Trailers/mobile homes are not built very well. The materials used are usually pretty cheap, and the entire home is prefabricated and anchored to a lot once someone buys it. Trailer parks suffer heavy damage in even weak tornadoes because the homes are just not able to withstand the wind and flying debris. It's for this reason why the National Weather Service explicitly tells people to flee mobile homes when they issue a tornado warning.
The next time tornadoes touch down in your area, listen to the local news and see how often you hear reports of damage to a trailer park compared to other homes nearby. Odds are, the single-family homes will have significantly less damage than the mobile homes.
[Image by FEMA via Wikimedia Commons | h/t Sarah Hedgecock, thanks!]