Date of Award

5-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geospatial Science

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Dr. David M. Brommer

Second Advisor

Dr. Jonathan P. Fleming

Third Advisor

Dr. Gabriela Carrasco

Abstract

Destructive severe weather events are an unfortunate reality of the United States’ unique geography. Each spring, the central and southeastern states are subjected to nature’s most violent localized storms, tornadoes. The 2011 tornado season received nationwide attention for two events: the April 27 outbreak was responsible for 348 fatalities from 292 confirmed tornadoes across 16 states, while the May 22 Joplin, Missouri, tornado was responsible for an additional 162 fatalities (Storm Prediction Center, 2011; Paul & Stimers, 2012). One of the most devastating single tornadoes of that outbreak was the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, tornado that claimed 64 lives along its 130-km track and ranked as an Enhanced Fujita scale category 4 (EF4). Urban sprawl in the United States exposes people to more events similar to what occurred in Tuscaloosa as developments increase in area and population size. The National Weather Service (NWS) continues to modernize its warning systems because inadequate warning for at risk populations is a major contributing factor to fatalities and death. However, there is little information available about the public’s response to these warnings in seeking adequate shelter. For this analysis, a survey was constructed to simulate a tornado event, similar to that of the April 27, 2011, tornado. Participants were provided with three levels of warning information (high, medium, and low), while only half were able to view a map of the tornado’s progress towards their location. Participants were asked to evaluate the situation by answering a series of questions at multiple intervals of the storm. The collected survey data will be used to analyze risk perception and shelter seeking behavior in relation to available warning information.

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