Reactions to Storm Threat during Hurricane Eloise



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Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center


The purpose of this study is to provide information that can assist in improving the effectiveness of the National Weather Service's hurricane warning and preparedness programs. It is the result of a cooperative effort between the National Weather Service and the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University. From the project's conception in 1974, the goal was to learn more about the perceptions and reactions of persons to a hurricane threat and warning messages. The study is unique in several ways from earlier documented sociological works on disaster response. First, the preparation of the instrument and training of interviewers were done in advance. This allowed the field team to move quickly and begin gathering data only one week after Hurricane Eloise hit. Thus, the influences of rationalization, discussion, and published accounts on individual opinion and recall were minimized. Secondly, the survey interviews were conducted by a team of meteorologists, previously trained in interviewing techniques, under the direction of the Research Center staff and a professional meteorologist with operational storm warning background. (Interviewees were not told this, however, in order not to prejudice their responses.)Field preparation for the survey began only a few days after Eloise crossed the Florida Panhandle. An advance team consisting of representatives of the Research Center and the National Weather Service drove along the coast from Pensacola to Panama City, talking to officials and looking for a suitable site for the study. The team selected Panama City Beach, Destin, Okaloosa Island, and the Bay Area of Fort Walton Beach. (See pages 11 and 12 for maps and outlines of the project area.) These areas were chosen because of their exposure to the storm, actual damage suffered, and the characteristics and size of their populations. Under the guidance of the Center, a multi-stage probability sample was drawn from Destin, Okaloosa Island and the Bay Area of Fort Walton Beach. Due to the sparseness of permanent residents at Panama City Beach, interviews were conducted with those permanent residents that could be located. A week of interviewing by the survey team produced approximately 380 interviews, lasting 30 minutes or longer in duration. The sampling plan yielded 251 interviews in the Destin-Fort Walton Beach-Okaloosa Island area. An additional 127 interviews were obtained from the arbitrary sampling of persons in the Panama City Beach area.


74 pages


hurricane warning systems, meteorological forecasting effectiveness, sociological aspects of warning systems, human response, hurricanes, Hurricane Eloise