Mobile home residents in the wake of tornadoes often don’t live to recount the experience. Ida Cartlidge and her family miraculously survived.
ROLLING FORK, ma’am — Ida Cartlidge’s winds blew in all directions, but she couldn’t breathe.
Between the thin walls and above the fluttering foundation of a mobile home, Cartlidge, 32, miraculously survived the tornado in March. carve a path of destruction across Rolling Fork, Mississippi. Mobile home residents in the wake of tornadoes often don’t live to recount the experience.
“It sounded like a really big train going by,” Cartlidge said. “And I can feel the wind, it’s so strong you can’t even breathe while you’re in the air.
Cartlidge and her husband, Charles Jones, 59, lead a quiet life in Rolling Fork with their three sons. She works in customer service for an appliance company and Jones for a local auto parts store. They see Rolling Fork as a refuge from city life and an ideal place to raise their children. The family lives in a mobile home park behind Chuck’s Dairy Bar, an eatery that has long been the nexus of local life for Rolling Fork residents.
Then the tornado tore through the park, making it a miserable spot.
Most of the 14 people died at the Rolling Fork when On March 24, a tornado hit the Mississippi Delta live in mobile home parks, with large families crammed into one- or two-bedroom apartments. Such living arrangements are a way to offset the financial stress endemic to the Mississippi Delta, where poverty is widespread and steady employment is scarce.
Tornadoes in the United States are disproportionately kill more people in mobile homes or manufacturers, especially in the South. Since 1996, tornadoes have killed 815 people in mobile or prefab homes. That’s 53% of all deaths in their homes during a tornado, according to an Associated Press analysis of tornado deaths by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The cramped living arrangement forces mobile home residents to shelter just as they live: with very little space between them.
Charles Jones, Cartlidge’s husband, said: “The only thing I can tell them to do is lie down on the floor. “And I got to the top. I stood above my family.
Just seconds before Cartlidge discovered she was buried under her husband on the living room floor of the mobile home, her father called her. He watched the news and saw that a tornado had hit the Rolling Fork.
Cartlidge heard the sound of a car window breaking outside. The window of the house broke next. She picked up her 1-year-old son and plunged to the floor, with her 11- and 12-year-old boys beside her and Jones on top of them. Little did they know that the incoming winds had reached 200 mph (320 km/h). Instead, the strength of the storm is measured by the fear it causes.
“The only things that hold the mobile home steady are the little straps on the ground,” says Cartlidge. “It picked up the house once, put it down. He picked it up again and put it down. It picked it up a third time, and we were in the air.
Her future hangs in the air next to her house. “You don’t know what’s going to happen next, whether you’ll make it through,” she said.
The next thing Cartlidge remembered was she was lying on her back on the ground and the baby was on her chest. He is the only member of his family to weather the storm unscathed.
Her fear did not subside. “All you could hear was people screaming and screaming for help,” she recalls.
Cartlidge propped himself up on a piece of wood and headed out onto the highway. She could feel her bones move with each step.
She broke her pelvis and broken her shoulder. One of her sons had a punctured lung and broken bones in his spine and shoulder blades. Jones suffered injuries to his ribs and spine.
Since returning from the hospital, the family has lived in a motel room just minutes down the highway from where their mobile home used to be. The rainstorm still worries Cartlidge and Jones, as they experience the tornado’s raw power firsthand.
“The tornado will win every time,” Jones said. “It’s like when a nail hits a tire.”
Michael Goldberg is a member of the Associated Press/Report team for the America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover confidential issues. Follow him on Twitter at
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