CLEMSON,S.C. -- National wind expert Dr. Peter Sparks, a professor of civil engineering and engineering mechanics at Clemson University, cites poor practices in connection with this week's tornado-related death and destruction.
Mobile homes, which were particularly hard hit in the Florida tornadoes, seemed at particular risk. But mobile homes aren't as much of a problem as are their foundations -- or lack of foundations, according to Sparks.
"The standards are quite reasonable now on mobile homes -- unfortunately, not as much care is put into actually putting the home onto a proper concrete foundation," said Sparks.
Sparks, who testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development in connection with mobile home standards, is a leading expert on wind damage to structures, as well as the relationship between insurance losses and wind conditions. His engineering recommendations on mobile homes helped lead to tougher industry standards.
"But there's no way that such light-weight structures can be engineered to survive these sort of winds. People need to know that and make their decisions accordingly," said Sparks.
Clemson has the nation's only wind-load test facility built solely for the study of wind on low-rise structures such as homes and schools. Civil engineers from Clemson were part of the team that made recommendations on how to build back safer stronger homes after Hurricane Andrew hit Florida and Louisiana in August 1992.
Most hurricanes continue to be "man-made disasters," said Sparks, who cites construction practices and the continued proximity of houses to the ocean.