Weather and Forecasting

Article: pp. 1177–1190 | Full Text | PDF (13.46M)

An In-Person Survey Investigating Public Perceptions of and Responses to Hurricane Rita Forecasts along the Texas Coast

Fuqing Zhang

Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

Rebecca E. Morss

National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

J. A. Sippel, T. K. Beckman, N. C. Clements, N. L. Hampshire, J. N. Harvey, J. M. Hernandez, Z. C. Morgan, R. M. Mosier, S. Wang, and S. D. Winkley

Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

(Manuscript received 26 December 2006, in final form 26 March 2007)

DOI: 10.1175/2007WAF2006118.1


Hurricane Rita made landfall near the Texas–Louisiana border in September 2005, causing major damage and disruption. As Rita approached the Gulf Coast, uncertainties in the storm’s track and intensity forecasts, combined with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, led to major evacuations along the Texas coast and significant traffic jams in the broader Houston area. This study investigates the societal impacts of Hurricane Rita and its forecasts through a face-to-face survey with 120 Texas Gulf Coast residents. The survey explored respondents’ evacuation decisions prior to Hurricane Rita, their perceptions of hurricane risk, and their use of and opinions on Hurricane Rita forecasts. The vast majority of respondents evacuated from Hurricane Rita, and more than half stated that Hurricane Katrina affected their evacuation decision. Although some respondents said that their primary reason for evacuating was local officials’ evacuation order, many reported using information about the hurricane to evaluate the risk it posed to them and their families. Despite the major traffic jams and the minor damage in many evacuated regions, most evacuees interviewed do not regret their decision to evacuate. The majority of respondents stated that they intend to evacuate for a future category 3 hurricane, but the majority would stay for a category 2 hurricane. Most respondents obtained forecasts from multiple sources and reported checking forecasts frequently. Despite the forecast uncertainties, the respondents had high confidence in and satisfaction with the forecasts of Rita provided by the National Hurricane Center.




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