Abstract

Hurricanes Isaac (2012), Harvey (2017), and Irma (2017) were storms with different geophysical characteristics and track forecast consistencies. Despite the differences, common themes emerged from the perception of track forecasts from evacuees for each storm. Surveys with a mixture of closed and open-ended responses were conducted during the evacuations of each storm while the storm characteristics and decision-making were fresh in the minds of evacuees. Track perception accuracy for each evacuee was quantified by taking the difference between three metrics: perceived track and official track (PT − OT), perceived track and forecast track (PT − FT), and home location and perceived track (HL − PT). Evacuees from Hurricanes Isaac and Harvey displayed a tendency to perceive hurricane tracks as being closer to their home locations than what was forecast to occur and what actually occurred. The large sample collected for Hurricane Irma provided a chance to statistically verify some of the hypotheses generated from Isaac and Harvey. Results from Hurricane Irma confirmed that evacuees expected a storm to be closer to their home locations after controlling for regional influences. Furthermore, participants with greater previous hurricane experience perceived a track as being closer to their home locations, and participants residing in zip codes corresponding with nonmandatory evacuation zones also perceived tracks as being closer to their home locations. These findings suggest that most evacuees from hurricanes in the United States appear to perceive storms as being closer to their home locations than they are and overestimate wind speeds at their homes, thus overestimating the true danger from landfalling hurricanes in many storms.

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