Forty years later, Sopher's simple, well-kept structure at Lake Dora Park in Tavares hides its age, but by modern manufactured home standards, her place is ancient.
Yet Sopher and many others like her feel safe during a time of year experts say is ripe for tornado conditions, thanks to El Niño.
"It doesn't keep me up at night; sex offenders keep me up," said Sopher, who has lived for nine years in her white, two-bedroom house, now decorated for Christmas and dressed up with flowers outside. "I feel like we're in a little low pocket here; I feel safe."
She's not alone. Many mobile-home residents say they feel secure because previous severe-weather events did not damage their homes. Some, like Sopher, suggest that living in low-lying areas allows the strongest winds to pass over.
But tens of thousands of people live in older mobile homes across Central Florida.
In February, Sopher's neighbors in northern Lake County will mark the third anniversary of catastrophic tornadoes that roared through parts of Lady Lake and Lake Mack, killing 21 people.
The same month brings another chilling anniversary, No. 12, of a set of devastating twisters that cut a broad swath through Central Florida and killed 42.
Both deadly weather events shared two factors: They brought widespread destruction during El Niño seasons. And in the great majority of cases, they claimed the lives of people living in old mobile homes that pre-dated the most modern safety regulations that kicked in during the mid-1990s.
With another El Niño season in play, weather and mobile-home experts are mindful of history.
"There's no place that's immune from tornadoes, especially across Central Florida during an El Niño timeframe," said Derrick Weitlich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
"Not everyone can live in the most up-to-date, building-code-engineered home," said James R. Ayotte, executive director of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association, which promotes modern, prefabricated homes. "What does concern me is the pre-HUD code [pre-1976] homes out there."
Central Florida remains heavily populated with mobile and manufactured homes — more than 225,000 across the region, according to the Florida Manufactured Housing Association. An overwhelming majority — an estimated 70 percent to 75 percent — them were built before tougher construction standards took hold in 1994, two years after Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida.
A smaller number — between 20 percent and 25 percent, or about 50,000 — of the region's mobile homes pre-date U.S. Housing and Urban Development standards that took effect in 1976, according to FMHA statistics. Those rules prevented manufacturers from selling cheap and lightweight new homes, but older homes were essentially "grandfathered" in without benefiting from the safety updates.
Mobile homes built after 1994 are best equipped to withstand high winds, Ayotte said, yet "all bets are off" when a structure confronts powerful tornadoes head-on.
2 terrible storms
The oldest mobile homes tend to be in parks, where residents generally own their units and lease the land upon which they sit. Lake County likely has about 8,000 of these oldest mobile homes, based on the FMHA and property-appraiser estimates. Polk, with the region's largest clustering of mobile homes overall, has even more of the pre-1976 structures, perhaps as much as 21,000, based on the FMHA numbers.
All 21 people killed in Lady Lake and Lake Mack following the Feb. 2, 2007, tornadoes lived in mobile homes that were at least 16 years old.