HRRC study forecasts hurricane threat behavior in South Texas

Carla Prater

Carla Prater

Michael K. Lindell

Michael K. Lindell

Lower Rio Grande Valley officials will have help planning regional hurricane evacuations from a study undertaken by researchers at Texas A&M’s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center in collaboration with the university's Colonias Program.

Led by HRRC faculty fellows Michael Lindell, professor of urban planning, and Carla Prater, senior lecturer of urban planning, the study will forecast the behaviors of residents of Willacy, Cameron and Hidalgo counties during hurricane threats and evacuations. The predictions will help state and local officials plan for shelters, develop transportation models and guide public awareness efforts and decision making during evacuations.

The one-year, $85,000 project, is funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Lindell and Prater aim to determine:

  • The number of potential evacuees and vehicles within the three-county study area under various tropical storm/hurricane scenarios, such as category 1-5 hurricanes, or tropical storms;
  • Where evacuees plan to seek shelter/refuge;
  • The general level of awareness, hurricane experience, and evacuation experience of the vulnerable population and how this experience may affect the decision to evacuate;
  • Significant factors influencing the population’s decisions to evacuate or stay, such as advisories by local officials and the media, personal resources, border security checkpoints, social influences and employment; and
  • An evacuation timeframe in response to official evacuation orders and various defined forecast storm conditions, such as category of hurricane and potential flooding.

Residents of the counties’ urban areas will receive questionnaires in the mail, and Colonias Program workers, or "promotoras," will help locate research subjects within the study area’s colonias — typically isolated borderland developments that often lack basic infrastructure such as electricity or running water.

posted November 21, 2012