13A.7 Perceptions of hurricane risk and the response to Hurricane Rita forecasts along the Texas coast

Thursday, 1 May 2008: 9:30 AM
Palms GF (Wyndham Orlando Resort)
Rebecca E. Morss, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and F. Zhang and J. Sippel

Hurricane Rita made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border in September 2005, causing major damage and disruption. As Rita approached the Gulf Coast, significant uncertainties in the track and intensity forecasts of Rita, combined with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, led to major evacuations along the Texas coast and significant traffic jams in the broader Houston area. Understanding how people perceive hurricane risk and use hurricane forecast information is important for improving forecast communication and enhancing decision making. To investigate these issues, a research team consisting of ten students and two principal investigators developed and conducted an in-person survey with 120 members of the public in three Texas Gulf Coast cities in spring 2006. The interview questionnaire explored coastal residents' hurricane preparation and evacuation decisions and their use and perception of Hurricane Rita forecasts. The study both addressed key interdisciplinary research questions and provided students with first-hand knowledge about how members of the public view hurricane risk and hurricane forecasts. We will discuss findings from the survey, as well as the educational benefits to the students and the potential for the study to serve as a prototype for other classroom-based student research projects exploring weather-society interactions.
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