3.3 An Alternate Approach to Communicating Hurricane Warnings with the Use of a Hurricane Surge Visualization Model

Thursday, 11 June 2015: 11:00 AM
303 (Raleigh Convention Center)
B. Lee Lindner, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC; and S. Duke, J. Johnson, and F. Alsheimer

Storm surge from hurricanes can travel well inland in low-lying coastal areas. However, the vast majority of the public is not aware of their exposure to this risk. Attempting to make the threat of surge more understandable, an interactive website was developed that combines SLOSH estimated surge with elevation and tide data and then simulates the level of surge on photographs of a thousand landmarks throughout the Charleston metropolitan area. The intent of the surge visualization model is to allow anyone to find a landmark near a location of their choosing, and then to see approximate water depths on photographs of that location for a variety of hurricane scenarios. The model is definitely not perfect; with several glitches and approximations, but it is good enough to test the approach and then refine the model in later versions. The model will be introduced in the talk, and meeting participants are welcome to explore the website after that on their laptops or mobile devices. We welcome comments, suggestions and criticism.

The effectiveness of our approach is now being examined by surveying randomly selected members of the public. A series of web pages have links to background information on hurricanes, background information on the project, information on how to use the model and a link to the model itself. Before accessing the visualization model, users are directed to a survey that assesses their current understanding of storm surge as well as collects standard demographic data. Once the survey is completed, users are connected to the model and allowed to navigate the model to any extent that they desire. Users are then surveyed on their understanding of hurricane surge again, problems they encountered while using the model, and their understanding of uncertainties in hurricane prediction and model development. How has their understanding improved? Has their appreciation of the uncertainties improved?

If our study shows that our approach improves the ability of the NWS to communicate hurricane warnings, the visualization model could easily be modified to incorporate the latest SLOSH projections to provide realtime surge estimates. Thus, the NWS could issue a hurricane warning with a link to the model, potentially making the warning more effective at communicating the danger. Our approach could easily be adapted to other cities along the eastern seaboard and the Gulf coast.

Additionally, we envision the public using the model while no hurricane is present to improve their understanding of hurricane surge while also assessing which areas are particularly vulnerable to surge. This will assist in land use planning, home construction and other uses.

This abstract was prepared under Subaward # Z10-83390 with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) under Cooperative Agreement No. NA06NWS4670013 with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC). The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA, DoC or UCAR.

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