4.2 What’s a Corridor, and Where Exactly is the Metro Area? Using Regional Geography to Enhance Hazardous Weather Communication

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 8:45 AM
Ballroom F (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Richard Smith, NOAA/NWS, Norman, OK; and K. E. Klockow-McClain and R. A. Peppler

NWS Norman has been involved in research focusing on the regional geographies within our county warning area. We have learned that an individual’s sense of place plays a critical role in how they consume and understand weather information, and in turn how this understanding influences their decisions. We began our work with a partnership with Dr. Kim Klockow and Dr. Randy Peppler who have done extensive research on weather decision making based on geography. Together we hoped to better understand central Oklahoma residents’ perceptions of local tornado risk hot spots and cool spots. The research has provided us with a unique opportunity to reach out to those we serve to better understand their place-based perceptions and to enhance our ability to communicate with them.

Meteorologists and others communicating weather information often use geographic descriptors to help define an area of ongoing or expected weather. The most common of these in the NWS Norman area of responsibility are the Oklahoma City metro area, the Interstate 35 corridor, the Interstate 40 corridor and the Interstate 44 corridor. As an example, between January 1, 2016 and April 7, 2017, NWS Norman used the term “Oklahoma City Metro Area” or “OKC Metro Area” 134 times on Twitter, and 62 times in Facebook posts. In some cases, forecasters would add additional geographic qualifiers, like “west side of the metro area” or “SE OKC Metro.”

In the Spring of 2017, prompted by questions on social media, NWS Norman did conducted an informal study to understand how people define regional geographic terms commonly used in weather communications. We informally polled emergency managers in central Oklahoma, television meteorologists in the Oklahoma City market, and NWS Norman meteorologists to get their personal interpretations of those terms. At the same time, we conducted a similar informal poll on the office’s Facebook page to gather data on how members of those publics personally define the Oklahoma City Metro Area.

This presentation will detail the results of the central Oklahoma placename study and review ways NWS Norman is working to integrate concepts of regional geography and place-based risk perceptions into our hazardous weather messaging and outreach activities. This integration will hopefully enhance the quality of decision support services and improve our ability to communicate in ways that are understood and relevant.

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