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We all experience the same weather

Weather does not discriminate. Tornadoes and floods can happen anywhere, and affect anyone. However, there are populations that suffer the effects of severe weather to a greater extend. Perhaps their homes are more at risk of destructive tornado damage, of the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf Blind populations may not be able to receive time-critical warnings and alerts.

Today, NOAA and the NWS Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors™ hosted guest speakers to talk about social equity in weather warnings and alerts; the inequities of neighborhoods and the heat island effect, and ways to engage various populations in developing solutions that could benefit millions.

Due to a scheduling conflict, I had to join late. I missed most of the roundtable that spoke about the challenges the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf Blind population has when receiving weather alerts and warnings. Traditional warning methods include outdoor civil sirens, NOAA Weather Radio, television news, and the new Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). This presentation explored the needs and solutions the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf Blind population, and encouraged service providers to simply ask “What do you need?” from them. This is the first best step to delivering weather warnings and alerts in an equitable manner.

Another topic was the Urban Heat Island Effect. Data flat out shows that red-lined neighborhoods experience warmer temperatures. This is problematic when poorer households that can’t afford (or even have) air conditioning. This study is ongoing with more data collection happening the summer of 2021.

Finally, the topic of COVID-19 and tornado shelters was discussed. This study is crunching the data of two surveys that asked about safety perception of tornado sheltering when compared to COVID-19 risks. In the first survey (May 2020), more people felt fear or worry about tornadoes over COVID. By July 2020, COVID surpassed and increased over tornadoes. It seems that once people learned more about COVID, it became something to worry and fear about.

Amidst a pandemic, factors like mask use and social distancing helped shape the perception people had about severe weather and sheltering guidelines. With the uncertainty of COVID and how long these restrictions will last (despite on-going vaccination drives), it’s important to consider the comfort level of those in mobile or manufactured homes when advising to seek shelter from the storm.