Simulating Travel Behavior in Response to a Tornado Warning in the City of Norman, Oklahoma

Authors: Joshua Hatzis*, OU Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, Kimberly Klockow McClain, OU Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies/NOAA Severe Storms Laboratory
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Climatology and Meteorology
Keywords: tornado, evacuation, oklahoma
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Tornadoes represent a significant threat to life and property and tend to evoke protective action in most people. While studies have suggested that nearly a third of the population will not take protective action, those that do tend to take to the roads to seek shelter in another building or evacuate. This runs counter to the National Weather Service’s recommendation that people shelter-in-place. The magnitude of the increase in traffic flow, due to this travel behavior, is highly variable but it can be extremely high if panic ensues or the public is encouraged to evacuate. Depending upon the time of the day and the level of response, this added traffic could cause significant traffic congestion and even traffic jams. Given that vehicles provide little protection from tornadic winds, if a tornado were to impact such a congested road network the casualties could be extremely high. While shelter-in-place is the recommendation of the National Weather Service, for tornado safety, it is unclear exactly how much it reduces tornado risk relative to travelling to shelter or evacuating. We propose to develop an agent-based model to simulate decision making during a tornado warning and the subsequent travel to a shelter or evacuation site away from the path of the tornado. We will use this model to determine the number of expected casualties during a simulated tornado under a shelter-in-place scenario as well as various travel-to-shelter and evacuation scenarios in the City of Norman, Oklahoma.

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