Tornado folk science in Alabama and Mississippi in the 27 April 2011 tornado outbreak
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In this paper, we collect, categorize, and discuss the existence of numerous ways of knowing about tornado threat that largely differ from the perspective taken by the meteorological community. These alternate ways of knowing became apparent during interviews with survivors of the 27 April 2011 tornado outbreak in the US southeast, particularly in Alabama and Mississippi. Phenomena discussed herein include perceptions of safety near waterways, vulnerability near a specific highway with a recently modified landscape, the protective nature of hills, relative optimism about home sites, and local observational weather knowledge. Theoretical explanations offered for these observed phenomena include ideas from risk perception and place attachment literatures.
KeywordsTornadoes Risk perception Folk science Place attachment Alabama Mississippi
Sheldon Drobot helped conduct the interviews in Alabama and Mississippi. Angelyn Hobson skillfully transcribed the many hours of interview recordings made there. Doug Speheger processed the tornado data into appropriate statistics for this manuscript. NOAA’s National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center provided the tornado data, which can be found online at http://www.spc.noaa.gov/wcm. William McPherson created the maps, generated using ArcInfo. We gratefully thank the National Weather Service forecasters, media broadcasters, and first responders for their professional actions before, during, and after this tragic tornado outbreak. Although many lives were lost, countless others would have perished without the science-infused information and courageous actions by these individuals. The University of Colorado’s National Hazards Center Grant Program funded the fieldwork portion of this research (NSF CMMI1030670).
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