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Older mobile homes most vulnerable during storms

Staff and wire reports

©St. Petersburg Times, published June 1, 1998

Mobile homes today are being built stronger and heavier than ever. Still, older models especially are vulnerable to storms.

Only about 10 percent of Florida's 800,000 mobile homes were built after HUD set new standards in July 1994, said Frank Williams, executive director of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association.

Industry experts say the older the home, the greater the risk of damage in a storm.

"We know for a fact that (older mobile homes) will only withstand winds of about 75 mph instead of 110," said Angel Garcia, sales manager at The Board Walk manufactured home community in Homestead. Substantial and significant differences exist between homes built under the previous HUD standards and new ones.

With older mobile homes, "It was a tin or a plastic shack you were living in," said Monroe DuBois, owner of Monroe's Mobile Home Service in Homestead.

By comparison, "The mobile homes today are built every bit as good as lumber-built homes, if not better," he said.

The new models are made with thicker and stronger wood and use metal strapping to tie the building together as one unit.

HUD requires that they be able to withstand 120 mph winds if they are anchored within 1,500 feet of the coast, 110 mph in other areas of coastal counties and 100 mph in inland counties. The sheer weight of mobile homes has increased from about 16,000 pounds to about 40,000 pounds, DuBois said.

Anchoring requirements have more than doubled from the previous five or six anchors per side to 11 to 14 anchors per side. Each anchor consists of a weighted disc that's buried in the ground with a steel cable attached to the house.

© Copyright 1998 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.