CULLMAN COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - Last month, our On Your Side investigation showed the state’s high number of mobile homes could be one of the reasons why Alabama tornadoes are the deadliest in the nation. Now we’re looking into how mobile homes are built. A Cullman County woman who rode out a tornado in her mobile home has questions about how it was installed.
A year ago, a tornado picked up LaShane Haynes’ mobile home in Cullman County and tossed it in the air over her car. It landed on top of a chicken house and exploded on impact. LaShane, her 14-year-old daughter and 8-week-old son were inside at the time.
"I still remember the whole thing and remember the flipping with my son, just praying, praying to God that he would protect us,” Haynes said.
A year later, LaShane is still counting her blessings.
"God still has a plan for me and my kids. We’ve been through a lot this year with family situations, but as you see we are standing tall. It’s going to take more than this storm to get us down,” Haynes said.
What’s left of her mobile home still sits on the property. A tie down strap is sticking out of the ground. The storm ripped the three other straps out. LaShane believes her home wasn’t properly tied down.
“I’ve done some research that they used to be tied down every so many feet, but my trailer only had a tie down on each corner,” Haynes said.
In April, after surveying damage left behind by a tornado in Troy, the National Weather Service said all of the mobile homes that flipped over had one thing in common - that the straps were either broken or just ripped up out of the ground.
Tommy Colley with the Alabama Manufactured Housing Commission says if the mobile homes are up to code, this shouldn’t happen.
"If these homes were put in prior to the standards and the inspection process which is in place now, which has been in place since 2001, then they may not have very well been inspected, they may not have very well been done correctly or installed correctly,” Colley said.
Colley says if a mobile home is anchored down properly, it should sustain winds up to 70 miles per hour. You can read more about the AMHC’s rules and regulations for manufactured homes at this link.
LaShane’s mobile home was installed just a month before the Cullman County storm.
The Wall Street Journal reports Alabama didn’t routinely enforce installation codes for new mobile homes until 15 years ago. The Journal says it’s unclear how many of the state’s mobile homes are securely anchored to the ground. Efforts to strengthen the safety of mobile homes after the April 2011 tornadoes failed due to lack of money and politics, according to the Journal.
Even if mobile homes are tied down, they can still be shattered by a tornado. While LaShane understands that risk, she feels building codes need to be stronger.
"I would have paid more money for better tie downs, if I had known that was an option. I don’t see why it would be an option. I don’t see why it’s not required,” Haynes said.
In a recent interview after the Lee County tornadoes, Congressman Mike Rogers told reporters he opposes increased federal or state regulation that could require costly upgrades, like hiring more code officials who would make sure homes are attached properly by anchoring systems.
We’ve reached out to his office multiple times for a comment. We’re still waiting to hear back.