Severe weather survey analysis 2011 2012
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Severe Weather Survey Analysis 2011-2012. Dr. Laura Myers Ms. Ashley Loftin Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center. Severe Weather Survey.

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Severe Weather Survey Analysis 2011-2012

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Severe Weather Survey Analysis 2011-2012

Dr. Laura Myers

Ms. Ashley Loftin

Mississippi State University

Social Science Research Center

Severe Weather Survey

  • The severe weather survey was developed to assess perceptions of severe weather events and the warning process primarily in Mississippi and the surrounding regions.

  • This analysis was conducted as part of the regional emergency management project, funded by SERRI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Severe Weather Survey

  • The results of this analysis are for use by regional emergency planning stakeholders, including…

    • The National Weather Service

    • Emergency managers

    • Weather professionals

    • The private sector

    • First responder agencies

    • Volunteer organizations

Severe Weather Survey

  • The survey was disseminated electronically and via hard copy to residents in these areas through local emergency managers, the media, and the weather enterprise.

Severe Weather Survey

  • The survey was initiated in mid-November 2011 and closed in mid-January 2012.

  • The final number of respondents with complete surveys was 1,810.

The Study Population

  • The majority of respondents to the survey are from Mississippi (43%-995 respondents.)

  • Over 20% of respondents are from Alabama (525 respondents) and 13% are from Tennessee (290 respondents).

Demographics of Study Population

  • Both males (58%) and females (42%) responded to the survey in Mississippi.

  • Males were much more likely than females to respond in Alabama (73%) and Tennessee (72%).

Age Distribution

  • The age distribution of respondents was normal in all three states.

The Weather Aware Respondents

  • As is typical with weather perception research, most respondents were more likely to..

    • be Caucasian

    • have at least some college education

    • and earn moderate to high incomes.

  • It is the weather aware populations that are more willing to share their perceptions on weather.

Experience with Damaging Weather

  • Over 90 percent of the respondents in each of the three states had experienced some level of damage from severe weather.

  • Over 40% in each state had experienced either minor or major tornado damage.

Structural Protection

  • About 75% of the respondents in each state live in a wood frame home.

  • The rest of the respondents live in manufactured homes, apartments, or hotels.

What is a tornado watch?

  • Almost all respondents correctly identified a tornado watch correctly.

Receiving Weather Warnings

  • Mississippi respondents are more likely to use television as their primary method of receiving weather warnings, while Alabama is more likely to use NOAA weather radio.

  • Tennessee respondents are equally likely to use both.

Receiving Weather Warnings

  • There appears to be little reliance on cell phones or sirens as a primary method to receive warnings.

  • The most effective method for respondents is the NOAA weather radio.

First Response to a Tornado Warning

  • MS respondents are more likely to take immediate cover than respondents in AL and TN.

  • AL and TN respondents are more likely to seek a second source of information or wait to hear from a local source

  • They are putting themselves at more risk because they are cutting down their protective action time.

Seriousness of Tornado Warnings After the Extreme 2010-2011 Season

  • MS respondents were more likely to take warnings more seriously after the 2010-2011 extreme weather, followed by AL respondents.

  • About 40% of TN respondents did not take warnings any more seriously than before.

  • MS and AL residents were more likely to have experienced severe weather during the 2010-2011 season.

Serious Weather Warning Terminology

  • Enhancing the seriousness of warning terminology appears to make a difference for respondents.

  • Such serious terminology cause over 50% to prepare and monitor more.

Where do you shelter?

  • Nearly three quarters of the respondents choose an interior room for their shelter.

  • While a personal storm shelter is the better choice, only about 10% of respondents choose that option.

  • This is likely due to cost and also perceived risk.

Weather Alert Messages

  • Message content options were provided to determine which content options led to seeking shelter immediately.

  • Content most likely to result in seeking immediate shelter :

  • National Weather Service meteorologists are tracking a confirmed tornado near your location.

  • Trained weather spotters report a tornado near your location.

Weather Alert Message with Wind Speed

  • The increase from 60 mph to 80 mph wind speed seems to make the difference in when people start to seek shelter immediately.

  • There appears to be no real difference in the use of the term “tornado” versus “strong tornado.”

  • Both terms result in people seeking shelter immediately.

False Alarms

  • Change in behavior from false alarms from tornado warnings appears minimal.

  • Over two thirds will not change their behaviors after false alarms.

  • About 20% are less likely to seek shelter after false alarms.

  • It is of concern that almost a quarter of respondents would be less likely to seek shelter.

Conditions that protect you from tornadoes?

  • Respondents generally do not believe in the myths associated with conditions that protect from tornadoes.

  • Most respondents indicated that any place can be hit by tornadoes.

Number of Warnings Per Year

  • Actually a small number of warnings per location each year.

  • Percentages within each state show a wide variation in perceived number of warnings.

  • Reason for wide variation is probably due to hearing warnings for surrounding locations and recalling those as applying to the person’s locale.

Rely on Sirens?

  • Less than half of the respondents rely on sirens.

  • The primary problems are that people cannot hear them and they are not location specific.

  • Because sirens are for outdoor use, people may not be aware that sirens are not meant for indoor use.

Length of Weather Warnings

  • About two-thirds perceive weather warnings to be just the right length.

  • Just over 20% perceive them to be too long.

  • Only about 10% perceive them to be too brief.

  • Any efforts to decrease length should be taken with caution and monitored closely.

How to Warn and When to Warn

  • NOAA weather radio and television are primary methods to receive weather warnings for most people in the study.

  • Other methods suggested by respondents include more and better use of cell phone technology, especially text messaging.

How to Warn and When to Warn

  • Respondents note the need for greater specificity in the warnings.

  • They want proximity to location in the warning.

  • Many respondents felt the current methods used are useful and work very well.

How to Warn and When to Warn

  • Social media was also suggested, using Facebook and Twitter to convey warnings.

  • Social media would be an avenue to pursue as nearly three-quarters of respondents use social media.

How to Warn and When to Warn

  • For siren use, suggestions were made to use different tones to mean different things.

  • Some respondents suggest not telling them to shelter, just give location of tornado and the path.

How to Warn and When to Warn

  • It is suggested that at least 30 minutes of lead-time be given when possible.

  • Several days of lead-time are useful when that information is available.

  • Digital signs on the Interstate were suggested for those traveling the highways.

How to Warn and When to Warn

  • The polygon system is perceived as being confusing and useless.

  • False alarms should be eliminated if possible.

  • Alerting by phone at night would overcome the sleep issue.

  • Graphic warning maps are especially helpful.

How to Warn and When to Warn

  • The public seems to want to know as soon as possible, not just when the tornadoes are confirmed.

  • In regard to path, they want to know when it is at least 2 counties away.

  • Some refer to the window effect, a time frame in which people should be aware.


  • Multiple sources of weather warnings.

  • Lack of understanding by some of tools and warnings.

    • Polygon

    • Siren

  • Content of warning message critical.

  • Timing of message important.

  • Proximity and path important.


  • False alarm issue needs to be addressed with caution.

  • Warnings at night should be addressed

  • Use of social media.

  • Many tools and methods are effective.

  • Lead time


  • Use of the analysis by the emergency planning network.

    • Warnings

    • Education of the public

    • Education of specific populations

      • Vulnerable populations

      • Transient/tourist populations

      • The private sector

    • Knowledge about what people do with weather warnings.

Dr. Laura Myers, Research Professor

Phone: (828) 243-2952

Email: [email protected]

Mail: PO Box 5287, MS State, MS 39762

Ms. Ashley Loftin, Field Coordinator

Phone: (662) 436-0323

Email: [email protected]

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