Sources, Perceptions, and Needs for Weather Information by Spanish-Speaking Residents in Georgia

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014: 10:45 AM
Room C107 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Alan E. Stewart, Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA; and C. Capiello and P. Ocampo

Following the 2011 tornado outbreak in Georgia and Alabama, the National Weather Service and various local media outlets focused upon the extent to which Spanish-speaking residents in the affected area received adequate information and warnings about the outbreak. Along these same lines, a Youtube video was posted shortly after the outbreak in which a tornado passed very close by and people could be heard asking in Spanish, “What is that?” Because many Spanish-speaking residents of Georgia have their origins in Central or South America, they may be unaccustomed to the routine and extreme features of the weather in the southeastern United States (e. g., winter storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes). Thus the researchers undertook a survey project to assess where Spanish speakers received their weather information, their perceptions about that information, and their needs for weather data and forecasts. In addition, a Spanish translation of the short form of the Weather Salience Questionnaire also was administered. Data were gathered during 2012 and 2013 from over 200 Spanish-speaking residents in three different parts of Georgia (Athens, Macon, and Savannah). The majority of respondents were women (70%). The respondents indicated they received most of their weather information from Spanish language radio or television (e. g., Univision), or via their mobile phones. They also indicated that they desired more weather forecast information than was currently available to them. There was evidence that the respondents either did not know of other (available Spanish-language products) or did not have access to these services (i. e., cable or internet subscription). Two findings were most noteworthy: 1. Most of the respondents were unsure how to respond to severe weather in the southeast such as winter/ice storms and tornadoes and 2. Most respondents also were unaware of how or where to take shelter if they were required to do so by either a short-fused event like a tornado or a more protracted event like a hurricane or flood. The results of this survey underscore the needs for providing additional weather data and forecast information to Spanish speakers, perhaps in a wider variety of formats that are accessible to them. Further, from an emergency planning and management perspective, efforts should be made to disseminate preparedness, evacuation, and sheltering information to Spanish-speaking communities. This will help ensure that all residents become more WeatherReady.