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Coastal emergency managers’ preferences for storm surge forecast communication

Betty Hearn Morrow, PhD, Jeffrey K. Lazo, PhD


Storm surge, the most deadly hazard associated with tropical and extratropical cyclones, is the basis for most evacuation decisions by authorities. One factor believed to be associated with evacuation noncompliance is a lack of understanding of storm surge. To address this problem, federal agencies responsible for cyclone forecasts are seeking more effective ways of communicating storm surge threat. To inform this process, they are engaging various partners in the forecast and warning process.This project focuses on emergency managers. Fifty-three emergency managers (EMs) from the Gulf and lower Atlantic coasts were surveyed to elicit their experience with, sources of, and preferences for storm surge information. The emergency managers—who are well seasoned in hurricane response and generally rate the surge risk in their coastal areas above average or extremely high—listed storm surge as their major concern with respect to hurricanes. They reported a general lack of public awareness about surge. Overall they support new ways to convey the potential danger to the public, including the issuance of separate storm surge watches and warnings, and the expression of surge heights using feet above ground level. These EMs would like more maps, graphics, and visual materials for use in communicating with the public. An important concern is the timing of surge forecasts—whether they receive them early enough to be useful in their evacuation decisions.


storm surge, communication, hurricane

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