Friday, October 21, 2011

New models to aid evacuation planning for hurricanes

Terra Daily: Researchers are developing detailed models to predict how populations behave during hurricane evacuations to better plan for the disasters. The models will be used by public policymakers to improve how evacuations are carried out, said Satish Ukkusuri, an associate professor of civil engineering at Purdue University.

"For example, during Hurricane Rita many people evacuated at the same time, not following the evacuation instructions," he said. "Then everyone was stuck on the freeway for a very long time and ran out of gas, further worsening the traffic congestion.

"The gas stations were depleted of fuel; people were out of food and water. But if you could stage the evacuation properly and we could understand how households react to evacuation warnings and make evacuation decisions, we could build better evacuation strategies."

Rita hit Texas and Louisiana in 2005, causing extensive damage, killing seven people directly and 120 overall from other factors, including evacuation mishaps.

"The models will lead to a practical means of predicting specifically how people will behave during a hurricane," Ukkusuri said. "Who will evacuate and who will stay? When will they evacuate, where will they go and which routes will they use? Understanding these issues is important to make evacuations safer and more effective."...

Hurricane Rita evacuation in Magnolia, Texas, 2005

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