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Hurricane Irma, evacuation decisions, geophysical vulnerability, social vulnerability

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Understanding the factors that influence evacuation decision-making among local residents is of critical importance to those involved in monitoring and managing weather-related hazards. This study examined both geophysical and social variables that we believe influenced individual decision-making on whether to stay home, seek out a public shelter, or leave the area entirely during Hurricane Irma. A 23-item survey was administered to a convenience sample of adults (n = 234) who resided within a coastal Florida county that received an evacuation warning during Hurricane Irma in 2017. Results suggested sources of information relied on through media, government, family, and social networks contributed to differences in evacuation behavior. Moreover, potential exposure to weather-related conditions, such as flooding and strong winds, along with the likelihood to use available social resources, also influenced decisions to stay or leave the threatened area. Finally, prior evacuation behavior was significantly associated with the decision to evacuate during Hurricane Irma. The decision to evacuate for Hurricane Irma was shown to impact decision-making to evacuate for major hurricanes in the future. If these findings are applied to future storms, a broader conclusion can be made that residents in vulnerable areas may be more likely to evacuate for major hurricanes than they were in the past. Improved understanding of evacuation decision-making can assist emergency managers in preparation and planning to reduce casualties resulting from a hurricane or other weather-related hazard.

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Atmosphere, v. 11, issue 8, art. 851