12.1 Risk, Information, and Vulnerability for Evolving Tornado Threats in the Southeast

Thursday, 25 October 2018: 11:00 AM
Pinnacle room (Stoweflake Mountain Resort )
Julie L. Demuth, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and J. Vickery, H. Lazrus, J. Henderson, R. E. Morss, K. D. Ash, D. C. Smith, K. M. Anderson, and L. Palen

Tornado threats are dynamic. Whether tornadoes will occur, where, when, and of what intensity are all factors that evolve over the days and hours before they form. Moreover, improved meteorological knowledge and forecast skill coupled with new information technologies, including social media, has resulted in an increasingly large volume of risk information available when tornadoes threaten. Because tornado threats and risk communication about them are dynamic, so too are people’s tornado-related vulnerabilities, risk perceptions, and responses. These issues are particularly salient in the southeastern U.S., where factors, such as tornadoes that occur at night and “off season” in fall and winter and the limited predictive skill, can make effectively communicating the risks more challenging. These forecast and communication challenges can exacerbate the risks faced by populations in the region, especially those with physical and social vulnerabilities to tornadoes. This project aims to deeply examine the complex intersection of these issues by investigating how people’s risk perceptions and responses evolve dynamically with a tornado threat, and how these interact with evolving risk information and vulnerabilities for tornado events in the southeastern U.S. The tornado events of focus for this presentation are two EF-3 tornadoes that occurred in southern Georgia on 22 January 2017: the nocturnal “Adel” tornado that killed 11 people including 7 in a mobile home park, and the afternoon “Albany” tornado that occurred approximately 12 hours later and killed 4 people including 3 in a mobile home park. For this event, data were collected and analyzed using three interlinked methods: (1) 19 in-person interviews with affected members of the public, including 10 interviews in the mobile home parks where fatalities occurred and 9 interviews with residents of fixed homes in neighborhoods adjacent to the mobile home parks; (2) narratives from Twitterers who were at risk from the tornado events; and (3) 17 in-person and telephone interviews with forecasters from the local National Weather Service forecast office and local TV meteorologists. This presentation will illustrate how these complementary datasets reveal the nuanced, multi-faceted ways that tornado risk information is provided, accessed, interpreted, and used as a tornado threat evolves, and how this knowledge can help improve tornado forecast and warning communication and response.
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