Cold-season Tornado Risk Communication Case Studies from November 2016 to February 2017
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Cold-season Tornado Risk Communication Case Studies from November 2016 to February 2017

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  • Journal Title:
    Weather, Climate, and Society
  • Description:
    Cold-season tornadoes, defined here as those occurring during November–February (NDJF), pose many societal risks. Not only do they occur when tornadoes are least common in the United States, but NDJF tornadoes also tend to be nocturnal and are most prevalent in the Southeast, where complex terrain, limited resources, and a high mobile home density add social vulnerabilities. In the period 1953–2015, within the domain of 25°–42.5°N, 75°–100°W, over 900 people were killed as a result of NDJF tornadoes. Moreover, NDJF tornado frequency is increasing much faster than that of annual tornadoes. Given the enhanced societal risk, particularly in the Southeast, effective communication between professionals and the public is imperative during a cold-season tornado event. This study investigates communication strategies and barriers from the perspective of National Weather Service and broadcast meteorologists, as well as emergency managers, through a postevent survey of four major tornado events from November 2016 to February 2017. Barriers to tornado risk communication identified by the professionals included public “me-centeredness,” inconsistent messages, and timing and meteorological uncertainties, as well as case-specific factors. Meteorologists perceived their communities as vulnerable to tornadoes in general, yet also prepared and receptive to warnings. Factors influencing perceived barriers and vulnerability are incorporated into a conceptual model of tornado risk communication, which is applicable to tornadoes in general. Ideas for overcoming these barriers include consolidation of warning graphics, collaboration between the meteorological and social science communities, and improved education of tornado risks for the most vulnerable sectors of society.
  • Source:
    Weather, Climate, and Society, 10(3), 419-433
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