Last Wednesday was an unusual weather day in Virginia. Seven tornadoes ravaged different parts of the state, causing loss of lives, multiple serious injuries and extensive property damage. Though I applaud our local news agencies for moment-by-moment reports, I do not believe that we are ready for this type of weather, in this part of the country. I was working on August 6, 1993, when the tornado hit the Walmart in Colonial Heights. What I remember from that experience was that the people inside the Walmart played a major role in the rescue efforts, immediately after the tornado struck. From what little I know about tornadoes, an action plan must be worked out before the tornado strikes. My wife and I have chosen the central hallway, in our brick rancher, as our safe place. I have no idea how safe this location really is, and would rather not find out. For Becky and I, our greatest weapon against this weather is prayer.
The stark reality that we see over and over is that mobile homes do not fare well in a tornado. Of the two mobile homes that I saw in news reports from Wednesday, one had been ripped from its foundation and tossed across the street, while the other had been peeled open in the trailer’s midsection. Mobile home parks always show the greatest devastation and carnage of a tornado, though we have also seen many homes destroyed as well. My point here is that homes are stronger than mobile homes. The probability of total destruction of a mobile home is almost a given. We still have many people living in mobile homes in Chesterfield County. If these mobile homes stand the greatest chance of total destruction, what must these people do? The problem is that these people would have to have plenty of advanced notice so that they could get to a safe place, which would have to be outside of a mobile home park. Greenleigh Mobile Home Park has over 500 mobile homes in that community. Where in the world would everybody go? Bermuda Baptist Church could serve as a shelter for some, but could not accommodate that number of people. In fact, we would have a hard time accommodating all of the people in Bermuda Estates Trailer Park. The devastation that would occur from a tornado striking a mobile home park would be tremendous.
I am not sure if anchoring mobile homes is a state standard or a county standard; I am thankful that Chesterfield County requires this. However, I am not sure that the anchoring systems are designed to withstand a tornado, where winds vary from 70 to 200 mph. I do not have answers to this problem, but I sure hope that people who live in mobile homes are thinking about what they will do. Many that live in mobile homes in our area are Hispanic. It is my hope that for those who are not fluent in English, that they either have access to an emergency notification system in Spanish or have children who understand English well enough to know what our local news stations are reporting.
Tornadoes are not common in this state, but they do occur. We were extremely fortunate and blessed that none of the seven tornadoes, nor any of the signatures that weather forecasters were seeing touched down in our area. My heart and prayers go out to those who were affected by the tornadoes. People must have a plan before tornadoes are approaching. It may be years before we have another outbreak, or it may be next week. We put a number of gates at exits on Interstate 64 that will allow the evacuation of coastal regions, in the event of a hurricane. Except for drills, these have not had to be used since installation, but they are in place. As long as there are mobile home parks in Chesterfield County, we need to figure out an evacuation and sheltering plan, when a tornado is possible.