92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Sunday, 22 January 2012
"Socioeconomic Correlation to the Perception and Resulting Actions to Severe Weather Forecasts”
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
Shadya J. Sanders, Howard University, Washington, DC; and T. Adams and E. Joseph

The extent to which socioeconomic status (SES) factors in the efficacy of public perception (reaction to) of forecast warnings and ultimately the mortality rates from severe weather is investigated. Increasing forecast accuracy requires the application of more sophisticated computational models and observing systems. These are costly investments, yet it is unclear whether these investments directly translate to a proportional reduction in the loss of life and property. The public's perceptions of and reactions to forecast warnings issued in the media may be an overlooked factor that could measurably impact mortality rates associated with severe storms in the United States. Are standard forecast warnings (e.g. tornado watch, tornado warning) too contextually limited to convey the differences in the severity of storms and consequentially when immediate public action to seek protective shelter is warranted and when it is not necessary? Is the public desensitized as a result of severe weather forecasts? Moreover, are there particular factors related to SES that further compromise the perception and reaction to forecast warning of severe weather?

This particular outbreak presented one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in the United States in roughly 40 years. A case study of the analysis of the forecast and storm was conducted to discern the quality of forecasts and render the geographical path of the storm and corresponding damage. The levels of mortality that occurred across the southeastern states during April 25-28 2011 as a result of the tornado outbreaks was observed and analyzed. Analysis using GIS mapping of the storm track overlaid with the SES and mortality rates associated with the storm were conducted. The results of this study may reveal the need to develop broadcast safety information standards about severe weather that not only convey information on differences in the severity of storms, but also that are targeted at particular risk communities with respect to their SES.

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