87th AMS Annual Meeting

Saturday, 13 January 2007
Media Influence on Hurricane Rita
Nicholas L. Hampshire, NOAA/NWS, Fort Worth, TX; and S. D. Winkley
In 2005, Hurricane Rita hit the gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana and affected the lives of many. In order to determine the uncertainty that lies within the public's view of hurricanes and the forecast surrounding them, a survey was conducted throughout the regions affected by Hurricane Rita. Through the survey we were able to gather the public's view on forecasting and the uncertainties through the medium in which each particular person received their information. This survey also was used to gather an insight to the public's view of the various dangers of hurricanes, Hurricane Katrina's affect on their view, and under what conditions that individual would evacuate again. To determine the uncertainty that lied within the weather forecast presented to the public, archived media articles were analyzed and compared to the actual track of Hurricane Rita. Along with this, 120 people were randomly surveyed in the Gulf Coast Region through a questionnaire created by our research team. This research showed that a majority of the public received and trusted the information submitted by broadcast television stations. Also, the public viewed storm surge as the main danger concern, and over half said Hurricane Katrina influenced their decisions on whether or not to evacuate. The media research found specific newspapers had useful information about forecast tracks but was hidden deep into the paper, while the front page was blanketed with public interest articles, rather than useful information on those tracks and uncertainties. There were also articles quoting NWS employees and other meteorologists that contradicted each other and left the public confused rather than allowing them to fully grasp the situation. One major finding was a newspaper in the Gulf Coast Region also created a survey that coincidently coincided with the survey that our team used, which allowed us to view the effect of time on people's responses to similar questions about hurricane preparations and information sources.

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