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

Sea Grant Aquaculture Academy in New Hampshire

Sea Grant aquaculture professionals from across the country convened in Portsmouth, NH in early April for a 4-day intensive “Sea Grant Aquaculture Academy” hosted by New Hampshire Sea Grant with support from North Carolina Sea Grant.

Read More >
Images of Sea Grant's work in research, education and extension provided by (from left to right) Wisconsin, Guam and Florida Sea Grant programs. Design by Hallee Meltzer | National Sea Grant Office.

Sea Grant takes center stage in Oceanography special issue

NOAA Sea Grant-funded research and work with coastal and Great Lakes communities across the nation are being highlighted in a special issue of “Oceanography,” the official journal of The Oceanography Society. 

This special issue, published in April 2024, features 36 articles contributed by Sea Grant authors across 29 programs and the NOAA National Sea Grant Office. 

Read More >
Scroll to Top