Faculty Publications

Hurricanes Laura And Sally: A Case Study Of Evacuation Decision-Making In The Age Of Covid-19

Document Type



Atmosphere, COVID-19, Decision-making, Emergency preparedness, Hurricanes/typhoons, Social science

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Weather, Climate, and Society





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This study examines risk perceptions and evacuation planning for those residents affected by Hurricane Laura}the first major hurricane evacuation during the COVID-19 pandemic}and Hurricane Sally, prior to the wide-spread availability of vaccines. Research on hurricane evacuation behavior and risk perceptions during a pandemic is critical for quantifying the intersect of these compounding threats. Analyses captured how people perceive public shelters and whether evacuation choices changed in light of the pandemic. Many study participants considered themselves vulnerable to COVID-19 (39.4%), and two-thirds believed it would be “very serious” if they or their loved ones contracted COVID-19, but this had no impact on their actual evacuation decision-making. Approximately 75% of the sample stayed at home during Hurricanes Laura or Sally, and, of these, just over 80% indicated that COVID-19 was a somewhat important deciding factor. This reflects the partial role that COVID-19 played in balancing individual and household protective action decision-making during complex disasters, whereas 15.5% wanted to evacuate but waited until it was too late. For those who evacuated to a hotel, many found that staff and guests wore masks and socially distanced in common spaces. Of particular interest is that individuals have a continued negative perception of public shelters’ ability to safeguard against COVID-19 that was coupled with a significant decrease in the number of respondents that would potentially use shelters in 2020 as compared with before the COVID-19 pandemic. These results have informed and will inform future hazard mitigation planning during the current pandemic or future pandemics or infectious disease outbreaks.


Department of Geography

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DOI of published version