Hurricane Ike: User Response and Effectiveness of NWS forecast products

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Monday, 18 January 2010: 5:00 PM
B213 (GWCC)
Brian Haines, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX; and L. Wood

Presentation PDF (174.8 kB)

Hurricane Ike (2008) produced the greatest storm surge along the Texas Coast since Hurricane Carla made landfall near Port Lavaca, TX, on 11 September 1961. Although Ike had maximum wind speeds of only a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, the hurricane had a very large wind field with hurricane force wind radii extending close to 115 miles prior to landfall. The size of the wind field resulted in a devastating storm surge. The fact that Ike was not a major hurricane (Category 3 or greater) on the widely used Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, but produced a life threatening storm surge, surprised many coastal residents. The Category 2 rating resulted in many Southeast Texas residents within the storm surge threat zone deciding to stay as Ike approached, ignoring evacuation orders from local officials. The public response from Hurricane Ike illustrates the need for a better understanding of how residents assess their hurricane hazard risk upon the threat of a hurricane. Therefore, for this study we investigated user response and preferences, as well as the effectiveness of NWS Hurricane Local Statements (HLS) and storm surge products. This was accomplished with a 14 question general survey, followed by a more detailed 22 question NWS product survey. The general survey was designed to determine which media residents use for receiving tropical cyclone information, and what they consider to be important decision making information; while a subsequent survey focused on determining the effectiveness of NWS HLS and storm surge products. The respondents indicated they rely on television as their primary source of information and that they prefer both graphical and textual based products. Regarding evacuation decisions, 20 percent of respondents indicated that the Saffir-Simpson intensity rating (current and/or forecast) was the primary deciding factor, which is the same percentage as those listing recommendations by local officials.