Natural Hazards

, Volume 90, Issue 2, pp 513–535 | Cite as

School vulnerability to disaster: examination of school closure, demographic, and exposure factors in Hurricane Ike’s wind swath

  • A.-M. Esnard
  • B. S. Lai
  • C. Wyczalkowski
  • N. Malmin
  • H. J. Shah
Original Paper


Damage and destruction to schools from climate-related disasters can have significant and lasting impacts on curriculum and educational programs, educational attainment, and future income-earning potential of affected students. As such, assessing the potential impact of hazards is crucial to the ability of individuals, households, and communities to respond to natural disasters, extreme events, and economic crises. Yet, few studies have focused on assessing the vulnerability of schools in coastal regions of the USA. Using Hurricane Ike’s tropical storm wind swath in the State of Texas as our study area, we: (1) assessed the spatial distribution patterns of school closures and (2) tested the relationship between school closure and vulnerability factors (namely physical exposure and school demographics) using zero-inflated negative binomial regression models. The regression results show that higher probabilities of hurricane strikes, more urbanized school districts, and school districts located in coastal counties on the right side of Ike’s path have significant positive associations with an increase in the number of school closure days. Socioeconomic characteristics were not significantly associated with the number of days closed, with the exception of proportion of Hispanic youth in schools, a result which is not supported by the social vulnerability literature. At a practical level, understanding how hurricanes may adversely impact schools is important for developing appropriate preparedness, mitigation, recovery, and adaptation strategies. For example, school districts on the right side of the hurricane track can plan in advance for potential damage and destruction. The ability of a community to respond to future natural disasters, extreme events, and economic crises depends in part on mitigating these adverse effects.


Hurricane Ike Wind swath Exposure Vulnerability Spatial autocorrelation Poisson regression Zero-inflated negative binomial 



This article is based on research supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation Grant # CMMI#1634234. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. We also wish to acknowledge Richard Ortiz and Ryan Savage for their assistance with compiling, formatting, and cleaning the school district-level demographic data and Adam Berg AMS CMS for his professional courtesy in the review of the meteorology content. Stephan Gage, of the Houston–Galveston Area Council, was especially helpful in providing us with some of the GIS data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Management and Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy StudiesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.School of Public HealthGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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