Michael Lowe -- MS Thesis Defense

(Penn State, Department of Meteorology)

Sensitivity Analysis of Hurricane Evacuation Casualties and Costs in Florida

What MS Defense Homepage GR
When Apr 25, 2012
from 09:00 am to 11:00 am
Where 529 Walker Building
Contact Name Michael Lowe
Contact email
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Advisors: Jenni L. Evans and George S. Young



Evacuations associated with hurricane events are an expensive endeavor, compounded by the potential for casualties and other significant costs owing to forecast error at the time that evacuation orders are announced. A synthetic climatology of over eighty-two thousand hurricanes is created based on the historical climatology of hurricanes that struck Florida between 1900 and 2010. Five evacuation events, including issuance of evacuation orders and a logistic model of cumulative population evacuation, are simulated for each synthetic hurricane.  At the end of each model run, associated costs are calculated for the total number of households that evacuated, as well as casualty costs for the individuals who stayed in areas that were ultimately struck. A sensitivity analysis is performed for three major variables: the accuracy of program generated hurricane forecasts, evacuation order lead time, and length of coastline evacuated beyond the cone of uncertainty (COU) based on past hurricane forecast skill. A reduction in forecast track error reduces the total overall cost of evacuation, but may result in higher casualties if too short a distance of coastline is evacuated. Evacuating approximately 250 km on each side of the COU is optimal because casualties are not appreciably decreased with a larger evacuation area. Longer evacuation order lead time results in a decrease in casualty costs, while the combined costs of evacuation and casualties increase only slightly. Implications for both the forecasting enterprise and for policy-makers are discussed.