5B.5 A Comparison of Perceived and Climatological Risk to Tornadoes Surrounding Three Tennessee Cities

Tuesday, 8 November 2016: 12:00 AM
Pavilion Ballroom West (Hilton Portland )
Kelsey N. Ellis, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN; and L. R. Mason and K. N. Gassert

With recent research highlighting the frequency of and fatalities from tornadoes in the southeast United States, as well as the launch of the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast (VORTEX-SE), the unique physical and social characteristics surrounding tornadoes in the Southeast is an evolving, critical research focus. Tornado activity in the Southeast is different from other areas in the United States for a number of reasons, including a large percentage of nocturnal tornadoes and the lack of a clearly defined season of activity. These two characteristics of Southeast tornadoes may contribute to a lack of public understanding of personal risk, which may result in a lack of preparation for or response during tornadic events. 

This study focuses on the counties containing and surrounding three major cities (Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville) in Tennessee to understand how accurately residents in these areas perceive their risk to tornadoes. Risk factors studied include tornado frequency, diurnal timing, seasonality, and direction of travel. Climatological risk characteristics using data from the Storm Prediction Center’s tornado database are compared to perceived risk characteristics obtained from phone surveys (n=1800) of area residents. Residents were also asked about their risk relative to other areas in the state, and their perceptions of how rivers, cities, and mountains/hills may alter their risk. Personal attributes such as prior experience with tornadoes, length of time living in the Southeast, and demographic characteristics are examined as potential reasons for residents to over- or under-estimate their risk to tornadoes.

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