One or more mobile homes or trailers, especially when located in or near a tornado zone. adj.
Stough explained that the tradition began with a conversation between two Spot regulars: Jerry Wood, a noted musician, and Wes Race, famed for his poetry and other counter-cultural efforts. Race confirmed the tale in a telephone interview.
"I was riding around the southwest side with Jerry and I mentioned that, for whatever reason, tornadoes always seem to hit mobile homes," Race said. "Jerry said 'Well, they're tornado bait.' "
The exchange not only inspired Race to pen a poem "Mobile homes huddled on the outskirts of town / Their radios turned on wishing they were underground" but also to suggest the first Tornado Bait Party. The party became an annual tradition that packed the tiny Spot with hundreds of revelers.
Bud Norman, "Tornado party breathes again," The Wichita Eagle, March 28, 2003
That led to the creation of the National Severe Storms Laboratory which after its first few years relocated to the heart of Tornado Alley, here in Norman. Other federal agencies involved in weather research and forecasting followed. Today some of the offices are housed in trailers. Keli Tarp is a meteorologist, [sic] called them tornado bait.
Greg Allen, "Weather forecasting and its potential value to business," Morning Edition, National Public Radio, August 4, 2003
"This industry has always had a problem with image," laments Charlotte Gattis, executive director of the Georgia Manufactured Housing Association, who finally gave up calling radio disc jockeys to complain about their "tornado bait" jokes because it became an all-consuming task.
Tom Eblen, "Home Sweet Mobile Home," Atlanta Constitution, November 22, 1992
Many thanks to subscriber Bruce Friedman for passing along this phrase after he heard it on NPR (see example citation #2, below). Note that a synonym is tornado magnet (1988).
Allen Bates alerted me to the following citation, which seems to indicate that this phrase dates back to at least 1983:
The tradition of the Tornado Bait Party dates back to 1983, when Stough and co-owners of the old Spot Recreation held the event in defiance of Kansas' springtime weather predilections.
"Shamrock holds its third Tornado Bait Party," Wichita Eagle, May 20, 2005