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Decision Making by Austin, Texas, Residents in Hypothetical Tornado Scenarios

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  • + Division of Atmospheric Sciences, Department of Physics, University of Helsinki, and Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland, and Centre for Atmospheric Science, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
  • | @ Social Science Woven into Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 3 Research Applications Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  • | * * Department of Psychology, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • | ++ enXco, Denver, Colorado
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Abstract

One of the goals of the Warning Project is to understand how people receive warnings of hazardous weather and subsequently use this information to make decisions. As part of the project, 519 surveys from Austin, Texas, floodplain residents were collected and analyzed. About 90% of respondents understood that a tornado warning represented a more serious and more likely threat than a tornado watch. Most respondents (86%) were not concerned about a limited number of false alarms or close calls reducing their confidence in future warnings, suggesting no cry-wolf effect. Most respondents reported safe decisions in two hypothetical scenarios: a tornado warning issued while the respondent was home and a tornado visible by the respondent while driving. However, nearly half the respondents indicated that they would seek shelter from a tornado under a highway overpass if they were driving. Despite the limitations of this study, these results suggest that more education is needed on the dangers of highway overpasses as shelter from severe weather.

# Previous affiliation: Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, and NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

Corresponding author address: Dr. David M. Schultz, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Erik Palménin Aukio 1, P.O. Box 503, FI-00101 Helsinki, Finland. Email: david.schultz@fmi.fi

This article is included in the Tornado Warning, Preparedness, and Impacts Special Collection.

Abstract

One of the goals of the Warning Project is to understand how people receive warnings of hazardous weather and subsequently use this information to make decisions. As part of the project, 519 surveys from Austin, Texas, floodplain residents were collected and analyzed. About 90% of respondents understood that a tornado warning represented a more serious and more likely threat than a tornado watch. Most respondents (86%) were not concerned about a limited number of false alarms or close calls reducing their confidence in future warnings, suggesting no cry-wolf effect. Most respondents reported safe decisions in two hypothetical scenarios: a tornado warning issued while the respondent was home and a tornado visible by the respondent while driving. However, nearly half the respondents indicated that they would seek shelter from a tornado under a highway overpass if they were driving. Despite the limitations of this study, these results suggest that more education is needed on the dangers of highway overpasses as shelter from severe weather.

# Previous affiliation: Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, and NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

Corresponding author address: Dr. David M. Schultz, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Erik Palménin Aukio 1, P.O. Box 503, FI-00101 Helsinki, Finland. Email: david.schultz@fmi.fi

This article is included in the Tornado Warning, Preparedness, and Impacts Special Collection.

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