Tiny Houses and the Tornado Disaster

I would like to bring to your attention to the disaster relief efforts in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama in the wake of the recent tornados. I am hoping that somehow we can present tiny houses as a way to help those people start to rebuild their lives.

I personally have friends who have families in this area that lost their homes completely. Also many have lost their schools and churches too. I would like to reach out and help these people, but not sure of the best way to move forward.

I have several contacts among the builders of tiny houses and could reach out to them to see if they could help in any way. I am open to your suggestions and would like for you to comment below or step forward to help in some way.

Here is a recent article on Katrina Cottages of which I show a couple of pictures below. Could tornado victims find shelter in Katrina cottages?

Thanks for your input and suggestions!

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Zer0 - May 4, 2011 Reply

Remember the Katrina cottages? Maybe we could persuade the local governments to make special allowances to purchase and construct them.

    Kent Griswold - May 4, 2011 Reply

    Hi Zer0, yes the photos above are Katrina Cottages. I recently read an article stating that one of the states is looking into using them. I am trying to track it down. -Kent

Linda Burson - May 4, 2011 Reply

I think this is a very do-able and affordable solution for most people as they rebuild their lives.

Bill Clay - May 4, 2011 Reply

I had taken an interest in the Katrina cottages a while back. Last I looked, Lowe’s still had the plans and build lists available. I think this is a viable option for those wanting to re-build quickly.


    Bill - May 4, 2011 Reply

    The katrina cottages would be an excellent way to start, provided the local zoning laws would allow them. There are also a lot of plans on the Internet to help as well. Kent even has the Sonoma shanty plans at a great price.

Bill - May 4, 2011 Reply

Probably the biggest way to help will be providing labor for the clean up and rebuilding efforts. If someone had a supply of tiny houses on wheels, that could provide temporary housing in the interim. I could see going there to help with clean up and rebuilding myself, once I get a truck. A mobile workshop would be a great asset in such a situation. Perhaps the Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity has some response program in place to connect with?

David L Alexander - May 4, 2011 Reply

The website katrinacottages.com has a lot of interesting information, but has not been updated in several years. Meanwhile, the architect of the series of plans for the cottages has her own website …


… which provides more information. Some even include plans for later extensions.

alice - May 4, 2011 Reply

For long term planning perhaps earth sheltered houses with heavily reinforced roofs and very few projecting features might be a good option in tornado prone areas. Porches and other overhanging structures could be made to break away easily without taking any more of the structure along. It might make sense to build large public buildings this way and have parks on top so you’d get more green space above and weather-proof shelter below.

Mike Glodo - May 4, 2011 Reply

Great discussion.

Also, maybe some opportunity in Mississippi county, Missouri where the US Army Corps of Engineers breached the levee to relive pressure on the system. Many houses on the floodplain under water (and farmland scoured by the flood). There is continued flooding adjacent to the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. This is, generally, a low density agricultural area.

Also, the Corps will possibly continue to breach levees further south along the Mississippi.This is a very lo

This area sits on top of the New Madrid Fault. Rare and huge earthquake potential.

Design problem here – also a tornado area.
See FEMA 320 – Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building a Safe Room For Your Home or Small Business

There was a publication from a few years ago from the Illinois Emergency Management Association (IEMA) that discussed wind-proofing with an emphasis upon using straps (strong ties) to keep the structure from coming apart, etc. I will post a link when I find it.

More about the flood:
“Army Corps Blows Up Missouri Levee
Published: May 2, 2011” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/03/us/03levee.html

james - May 4, 2011 Reply

u left out arkansas….(several tornadoes and massive flooding)

anyway the katrina cotages are getting more and more common here. theres actually a dealer here in town.

Delores - May 4, 2011 Reply

My first thought after the extent of the storms was known was that someone needs to get to FEMA and suggest the Katrina Cottages. We know the problems the FEMA trailers caused in NOLA after Hurricane Katrina and this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce these homes as a possible permanent solution to the housing problem in the south this year. As has been suggested, these homes can be built for future additions after the immediate emergency has passed.

Mike Glodo - May 4, 2011 Reply

Flood, Wind & Water Resistance Features Used in Building LaHouse
from the
LSU AgCenter

This this is by no means a “tiny house” but illustrates good design practices and structural elements.


Can’t find the IEMA pub, but this does the job.

    JBG - May 5, 2011 Reply

    @Mike Glodo… There is definitely need for residential building systems to include some protection from Mother Nature. However, the referenced Baton Rouge homes are protected in winds only up to 130MPH. The devastating tornadoes that roared through Alabama (my home state) were clocked at 170+MPH. Many homes were completely demolished… literally wiped off the map. No building system exists to withstand the horrific winds recently experienced in Alabama and other states.

TB - May 4, 2011 Reply

As a senior citizen I would love to be able to live in one of these sweet houses. I live in East TN, but I don’t know of any in this area.

BigGoofyGuy - May 4, 2011 Reply

The tornado situation would be an ideal way to use the Teal Modular Shelters. It even shows how it could be used as an emergency shelter.

Cathy Johnson (Kate) - May 4, 2011 Reply

That would be an excellent suggestion–they’re quite charming, practical and clean, if only for an interim solution for some families. Glad to hear some of the states are looking into it.

Phil - May 4, 2011 Reply

might not be “normal” enough for Americans to use, but I say build plywood Hexayurts. A low cost shelter made from ready available materials, and will last for several years while families find better, long term solutions.


gmh - May 4, 2011 Reply

Tiny homes would be good temporary shelters, but if I lived in tornado country, I would want something more permanent and solid. Something well anchored to the ground. Something with a basement or storm cellar. Many of the people who died or lost everything lived in mobile homes or trailers. Don’t think I could go back to that after the nightmare of being blown away.

elisabeth in ct - May 4, 2011 Reply

Katrina cottages are wonderful, but not in tornado country. Perhaps something closer to a straw bale or adobe hobbit style housing would be better…especially in areas with a high water table. Low profile and massive rather than lightweight and flimsy by comparison.

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