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posted: 4/18/2017 5:47 PM

Editorial: Learn from those most at risk - have a disaster plan in tornado season

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  • A devastated mobile home park in Garland, Texas, is testament to the damage a tornado can wreak in a matter of seconds.

    A devastated mobile home park in Garland, Texas, is testament to the damage a tornado can wreak in a matter of seconds.
    Associated Press File Photo

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the deadliest day for tornadoes in the metropolitan area, a day in which eight twisters tore through the northeastern corner of Illinois, killing 33.

They hit towns such as Barrington Hills, Lake Zurich and Woodstock. Hardest hit was Oak Lawn, where dozens of cars were thrown about like toys.

One part of Oak Lawn that sustained a lot of damage was a trailer park.

It's not surprising.

Emergency management authorities confirm what many of us probably suspect after seeing coverage of storms: Those who live in mobile homes are at a much greater risk when the weather turns foul.

Since 1950, 141 people in Illinois have been killed by tornadoes; half of them lived in trailer parks.

Consider that trailers are not anchored to the ground, they're relatively light and they have no basements, and it's easy to see why they are susceptible to high winds.

But what also puts their inhabitants at greater risk is that Illinois has no state law -- as some states have -- or county ordinances that require stable storm shelters for trailer parks.

Our Doug T. Graham explored in a story in Monday's paper just how suburban mobile home residents cope with the specter of extreme weather. He found that among the dozens of mobile home parks that dot the suburbs, some have no on-site shelters, and it's up to residents to come up with a disaster plan of their own.

Dick Stilin, 81, drives a mile to Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield when the weather gets bad and camps out in the concrete parking garage until it passes. Better safe than sorry.

Some mobile home park operators have found ways to help ensure residents' safety.

Spring Lake Mobile Home Estates in Bartlett has an office building with a basement on site, and several residents have keys to it. When severe weather is in the forecast, the park posts it on its Facebook page and someone opens the door.

Residents of the Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park in Crystal Lake have access to three nearby buildings, including a two-story cinder-block structure with a reinforced garage. They can also seek shelter in two underground 16‐ by 16-foot well containment units.

There tends to be an abundance of "community" in mobile home communities. Neighbors watch over each other, and many mobile home parks are populated by seniors.

Even if you own a brick house with a basement, you're not guaranteed to be safe. Consider what happened in Fairdale and Washington, Illinois, in the past few years if you need a reminder.

You can learn something from those most at risk -- mobile homes residents -- by developing a plan.

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