1.3 Spun Up in a Shelter: Held Hostage by Your Own Hurricane

Thursday, 22 June 2017: 9:00 AM
Salon III (InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza)
Matthew Cappucci, Harvard Univ., Plymouth, MA

From the start, it was clear that Hurricane Matthew would leave a mark. From its inception as Tropical Wave 97L around September 20th, forecasts for parts of the Caribbean were dire– the storm was expected to rapidly intensify, and would at some point undoubtedly impact land as a major hurricane. But something about Matthew wasn't like the others (where have I heard THAT before!?)– with bizarre characteristics ranging from convective "blobs" to trochoidal wobbles to sprites leaping from its spiral rainbands, Matthew was certainly one for the record books. Despite widespread evacuations though and over two weeks advanced "warning," many residents were still left confused or boggled by forecasts, prompting us to wonder whether there existed a communication gap.

This presentation will delve deeper into the firsthand ground-based observations of Hurricane Matthew, from the perspective of a slightly-crazed college student who skipped class, booked a ticket to Daytona, woke up at 2:48 AM, had two hotel reservations cancelled, was left abandoned on a barrier island with a lack of cell-phone battery, angered a taxi company, met the world's sketchiest motel family, hitched a ride with a TV news crew, was kicked out of the airport, discovered what really lurks in the back of news vans, met some not-so-nice law enforcement, was rejected from a shelter, slept in a soccer goal, rode the storm out, hid in the trunk of a college van, and made it back in time for an exam two days later. In other words, this account will be just about as "ground truthy" as one can get, and hopefully will provide a valuable perspective to broadcasters communicating future storms! What was learned from the social sciences standpoint trapped inside a hurricane shelter points to certain communication "gaps" and the evolution of a message when traveling between "unofficial" sources, and may offer insight as to how we can improve as a field. 

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