The role of experience in defining tornado risk perceptions: A case from the 27 April 2011 outbreak in rural Alabama


This research examines the ways tornado experience influences an individuals’ risk perceptions. The work uses the 27 April 2011 Southeastern United States tornado outbreak to investigate perceptions of individuals in three Alabama towns. Surveys administered in Phil Campbell and Hackleburg, two towns that sustained severe losses, are compared with survey responses from Red Bay, a town without sustained loss. The purpose of this study is to determine if direct experience with a tornado influences tornado risk perception. Comparison of survey responses using common statistical analyses suggest that while 40 percent of the study population reports a change in perceived tornado risk, direct experience was less a driver of change than was anticipated. The amplified or diminished perception, in fact, may be based on a more shared social experience. This study found that experience extends beyond direct experience.

Publication Title

Southeastern Geographer