ORLANDO, Fla. - This week, bright sunshine shone down on Bob Tellier's now uncovered driveway in the tornado-ravaged Terra Mar Mobile Home Park. Before the storm, his entire driveway was covered by a carport.
As bad as the lingering damage looks, Tellier believes he
may have been in real danger if his home had not had tie-downs. Tie-downs are a series of heavy-duty straps that connect the structure right into the foundation.
"Whether it would've moved and picked up without them, I don't know," said Tellier.
"Do you feel like they played a role?" asked 9 Investigates' George Spencer.
"Definitely," he replied.
The state of Florida agrees. But one week after that tornado, 9 Investigates discovered the state program to upgrade mobile home safety has only helped a tiny fraction of eligible homeowners.
Since 2000, Florida has set aside $2.8 million in taxpayer money each year to add
tie-downs on the most vulnerable mobile homes -- those built between 1974 and 1994, the year rules were tightened.
Here's the issue: 9 Investigates has learned that about 637,000 mobile homes in Florida need
tie-down upgrades. But so far, after $33 million in state spending, only about 24,000 properties have been retrofitted. That's just 4 percent.
Experts said the $1,300 per home upgrade cost is more than many mobile home owners can afford on their own.
So the state's $2.8 million dries up quickly.
Tellier's 1987 double-wide would require even more of the
tie-downs, if his home were to be retrofitted to match current standards. He would not object.
"Mine held it, but I would definitely say -- more is better," said Tellier.
The tie-down cost mitigation program is administered by Tallahassee Community College at a cost of $150,000 annually. The college then pays outside contractors to do the installations.