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Visualizing Storm Surge: Assessing Factors in Uncertain Storm Surge Evacuation Decisions

Authors: Jennifer Mason*, University of Arizona, Alexander Klippel, The Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Environmental Perception, Cartography
Keywords: uncertainty, visualization, storm surge, flood, hurricane, decision making, evacuation
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2014, new storm surge flood maps were released by the National Hurricane Center. With widespread dissemination of National Hurricane Center graphics, it is important to evaluate the effect that these new maps may have on risk perception and behavioral intention. The research in this paper looks at various factors including individual differences and different map characteristics to identify their relationship in making evacuation decisions. Study one shows that having more certainty in flooding does not result in higher evacuation rates. Participants also pay attention to the flood height category, stating they would choose to evacuate most in the highest flood height zone closest to the ocean and least in the lowest flood height zone farthest from the ocean. Evacuation rates are higher overall in a mild flood scenario over a more severe scenario. Exploring the maps further, the mild flood scenario had a lower flood height zone adjacent to the ocean instead of the highest flood height zone, potentially influencing results. In study two, the maps in the mild flood scenario are redrawn to close the gap in the highest flood zone. The data shows that participants again evacuate more in the higher flood zones and mild flood scenarios. Study three disentangles how distance to the ocean and flood height zones impact decisions. The results reveal that participants choose to evacuate more at locations closer to the flood source, and once farther from the source, they use flood height as a strategy for choosing when to evacuate.

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