J13.3 Storm surge and “certain death”: Interviews with Texas coastal residents following Hurricane Ike

Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 4:00 PM
618-620 (Washington State Convention Center)
Mary H. Hayden, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and R. E. Morss

Hurricane Ike made landfall near Galveston, TX as a large category 2 storm that generated significant storm surge and flooding. Findings highlight interviews with 49 Texas coastal residents affected by Hurricane Ike and examine interviewees' perceptions of hurricane risk, protective decision making leading up to Ike, and opinions of hurricane forecasts. While most interviewees were aware that Ike was a potentially dangerous hurricane, many were surprised by how much coastal flooding Ike caused and the resulting damage. Given the storm surge and damage Ike caused, a number of interviewees did not feel that Ike's classification on the Saffir-Simpson scale adequately communicated the risk Ike posed. The “certain death” statement issued by the National Weather Service was heard by many interviewees, and it helped convince several to evacuate. However, others had strong negative opinions of the statement that may negatively influence their interpretation of and response to future warnings. As these findings indicate, empirical studies of how intended audiences obtain, interpret, and use hurricane forecasts and warnings can be very valuable for designing effective hurricane risk messages and dissemination strategies.
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