Using Twitter to Understand Public Experiences with Compound Threats During Hurricane Harvey

Authors: Jennifer Henderson*, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Allie Mazurek, Colorado State University, Erik Nielsen, Texas A&M, Holly Obermeier, Cooperative institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, Jennifer Spinney, York University, Julie Demuth, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Communication, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: Hurricane Harvey, compound hazards, vulnerability
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 7
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Hurricane Harvey produced several threats to life, including record flooding, storm surge, and tornadoes. Using social media, our project aims to better understand how these concurrent threats compound risks and vulnerabilities for those impacted by the storm. Specifically, we draw on the concept of TORFF, or overlapping tornadoes and flash floods (Nielsen et al 2015), to characterize how members of different publics shared their experiences of overlapping hazards via Twitter data collected from Aug. 22 to Sept. 3, 2017, before the National Hurricane Center’s track forecast cone first touched the shores of the U.S. to just after the remnants of the system exited the U.S. Initially, our team used a Twitter API to collect 6,218 individual tweets that mentioned tornadoes or flash floods (or variants of these terms), sorting users into public and expert groups. We then pulled public contextual streams—or all tweets created by a user during the hurricane--from 315 users, and using hand analysis, inductively coded 58,008 tweets for themes that represented various types and locations of TORFF experiences across three categories: those in the path, in the remnants, and those impacted virtually. This presentation offers insights into the ways that individuals talked about, expressed concern over, and took (didn’t take) actions in response to Harvey's TORFF hazards. Our findings demonstrate that across the lifecycle of a hurricane, people are active risk managers (Demuth et al 2020), attending to and continually assessing multiple risks to themselves, their families, and their community.

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