Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Prepare Communities for Hurricanes

By: Emily Woodward, Georgia Sea Grant

Using information gathered from focus groups in coastal communities, University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is working with researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research to better understand how to communicate hurricane risks so that the public will take necessary precautions before a storm.

“Storm surge is often the deadliest and most destructive part of a hurricane,” said Jill Gambill, community resilience specialist with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “When a hurricane threatens a community, it is important for coastal residents to understand the risks from storm surge and know what to do to be safe.”

Focus group members in Beaufort, S.C., Brunswick GA., and Savannah, GA. were asked about their knowledge of storm surge, to reflect on their experience during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and to analyze experimental maps and animations created by the research team that depicted a hypothetical storm surge forecast.

“The discussions revealed reasons why people might not evacuate, challenges in forecast comprehension and new ways to visualize hurricane risks,” Gambill said.

For example, some focus group participants did not evacuate during Hurricane Matthew because they weren’t aware of the potential for storm surge flooding. Others didn’t leave due to caring for pets and dependent family members, and some waited until it was too late to safely leave.

Feedback from the communities is driving the development of a set of outreach tools, including videos, infographics, handouts and social media messages to raise public awareness of vulnerabilities to major storms.

The focus groups are part of a larger research project funded by the National Science Foundation and Georgia Sea Grant called “Communicating Hazard Information in the Modern Environment,” which aims to improve how hazardous weather risks are communicated as a way to reduce harm and enhance resilience.

Some of the messages were circulated in September as Hurricane Irma approached the U.S. mainland. UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant shared the products with local governments, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and coastal residents.

The storm surge products received widespread positive feedback from meteorologists, elected officials, local and federal government staff, researchers and extension specialists.

“The materials from UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant were wonderful to have during Hurricane Irma evacuation,” said Jones Hooks, executive director of Jekyll Island Authority. “Having the detailed information on hand was useful in our storm communications.”

Hooks shared the storm surge graphics with his staff as the storm approached.

The messages were re-circulated by the National Weather Service in Atlanta and Charleston, as well as featured in articles in local media.

Related Posts

Virginia Sea Grant Launches the USDA and NOAA-Supported Aquaculture Information Exchange Online Community Platform

The Aquaculture Information Exchange (AIE) online community platform website is now live and open for new user registrations. The AIE represents a joint effort between NOAA’s National Sea Grant Office, NOAA’s Fisheries Office of Aquaculture, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and Virginia Sea Grant.

Read More >
Image of Capitol Hill with a bright blue cloudless sky and blooming cherry blossom tree in the right corner
Academia to Government

Sea Grant Announces the 2024 Class of the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program (Sea Grant) is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2024 class of the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program. The 85 early-career professionals selected will be placed in federal government offices throughout Washington, D.C., and join the over 1,600 individuals who have participated in the program since its inception in 1979.

Read More >
Image of plastic debris on Oregon’s Clatsop Beach by Tiffany Woods | Oregon Sea Grant.

Sea Grant announces funding opportunities to support community-engaged marine debris removal and prevention

Sea Grant announces $19 million in federal funding opportunities to address the prevention and removal of marine debris. These opportunities are a component of nearly $3 billion in targeted investments for NOAA in the areas of habitat restoration, coastal resilience and weather forecasting infrastructure through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Read More >
Scroll to Top