Tornado levels mobile home park, one of the most dangerous places to ride out a storm
Powerful thunderstorms erupted across the middle of the nation Tuesday, leaving two people dead and dozens injured from Texas to the Great Lakes.
The Storm Prediction Center received 29 reports of tornadoes and 115 reports of wind damage from the long line of storms.
A housing subdivision in the southern part of Elk City, Oklahoma was damaged by a tornado. Fire Chaplain Danny Ringer told reporters late Tuesday that the storm destroyed 40 homes and severely damaged up to 75 others.
Another storm leveled the Prairie Lake Estate Mobile Park near Chetek, Wisconsin, about 110 miles northeast of Minneapolis. First responders could hear people crying for help in the rubble when they arrived at the scene, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told KMSP-TV.
Helicopter video from Minneapolis television stations WCCO and KARE showed extensive damage at the trailer park, with several homes reduced to rubble.
"It's a mess," Fitzgerald told the Leader-Telegram of Eau Claire. "We have at least one deceased so far and we're still in a search pattern."
A mobile home is among one of the most dangerous places to be during a tornado. The circulation and high winds in a tornado can easily rip or even toss a mobile home. Mobile homes usually do not have a foundation.
The safest places to be in a tornado are a basement, bathroom, or interior room away from windows.
In 2011, when devastating tornadoes struck in Joplin, Missouri, and in Alabama and Mississippi, 111 of the 551 people killed nationwide in tornadoes, or 20 percent, were in mobile homes, according to the Storm Prediction Center website.
Knowing thousands of residents living in a mobile home can be in the path of a tornado makes communicating safety a challenge for meteorologists and emergency managers.
In 2013, a meteorologist from Oklahoma City faced extensive criticism after telling viewers to get in their cars and drive away from the storm, particularly those in mobile homes.
Some people said they followed his advice and were caught in major traffic jams on highways in central Oklahoma as a tornadic storm approached Oklahoma City.
Devin Feuerhelm told KMSP-TV that his sister, Lenna Samuelson, lives in the Wisconsin trailer park with her two daughters, Ashley and Brenna. He said his sister also had a 2-month-old grandson, Nolan, in the home when the storm hit, and they had nowhere to go but the bathtub.
Amazingly, the infant grandson escaped with just a couple of scratches, he said. Samuelson's daughters suffered minor injuries, and the mother suffered a gash on her head, but he said all are expected to be fine.
While their home was flattened, the SUV next to it was untouched.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.