Structural forces: Perception and vulnerability factors for tornado sheltering within mobile and manufactured housing in Alabama and Mississippi

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Walker Ashley:

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Weather, Climate, and Society





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Southeastern U.S. mobile and manufactured housing (MH) residents are the most tornado-vulnerable subset of the population because of both physical and socioeconomic factors. This study builds upon prior MH resident tornado vulnerability research by statistically and geographically analyzing responses from a survey administered to these residents in the Southeast. Specifically, 257 Alabama and Mississippi MH residents were administered a survey with questions pertaining to their perceived tornado risk and vulnerability, protective action and decision-making, and beliefs about the structural integrity of their homes. Results indicate that, despite the weather and emergency management enterprises consistently suggesting that MH residents evacuate their homes for sturdier shelter during tornado events, more than 50% of MH residents believe their homes are safe sheltering locations. The prevalence of larger MHs in northern Alabama partially influences willingness to shelter within one’s MH, while higher levels of negative affectivity stemming from recent impactful tornadoes in northern Alabama influences people to evacuate their MHs for safety. Study findings also uncovered a perception and vulnerability paradox for these residents: Those who have the means to evacuate their MH often feel they have no need to do so, whereas those who recognize the potential peril of sheltering in their home and want to evacuate often lack the resources and/or self-efficacy to carry out more desirable sheltering plans. Overall, study results provide valuable information for National Weather Service forecasters, emergency managers, and media partners so that they may use it for public outreach and MH resident education.

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Department of Geographic and Atmospheric Sciences