Evacuee Perception of Geophysical Hazards for Hurricane Irma


Jason C. Senkbeil  J. Collins




Senkbeil, J., J. Collins, & J. Reed. 2019. Evacuee Perception of Geophysical Hazards for Hurricane Irma. Weather, Climate, and Society 11: 217-227.

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Hurricane Irma was one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes in history before landfall and caused a large evacuation. A total of 155 evacuees at interstate rest areas were asked to rank their concern about damage at their residence for six different geophysical hurricane hazards. Additionally, they were asked about their perceived maximum wind speeds (PMWS) and the wind speeds at which they thought damage would occur (DW) at their residence. These wind speeds were then compared to the actual peak wind gusts (APG) nearest to each resident’s location. Results show a significantly greater concern for wind and storm size, compared to other hazards (tornadoes, rainfall/flooding, storm surge, falling trees). The mean PMWS of evacuees was greater than the mean APG, suggesting widespread misperception of wind speeds. Furthermore, the mean APG was less than the mean DW, and the mean PMWS was also higher than the DW. Additional tests found no significant differences in wind perception between residents with previous storm experiences and no experience, and no significant differences between those who resided in mandatory evacuation zip codes and those who did not. These results suggest that wind speed risk is poorly understood, even though it is a high concern for evacuees from hurricanes. The communication of wind speed risk in forecasts should possibly be modified by placing greater emphasis on postlandfall impacts, wind speed decay after landfall, and wind speeds that cause damage to different types of residences.