NPR

What Makes People Heed A Weather Warning — Or Not?

One social scientist says it's how people interpret these warnings that matters and that "we need to get out there and do a better job of understanding their perspective."
Artwork by Christina Chung. Source: Christina Chung for NPR

"We have not had anything of this nature before."

It's something commonly heard in the aftermath of deadly disasters. It's what Alabama Sheriff Jay Jones said after a tornado killed 23 people in Lee County earlier this month. And it helps explain how residents got caught so off guard — the twister was the most violent to hit the area in recent memory, so for many, it was unprecedented.

Yet even an unprecedented twister can be predicted. Meteorologists had warned of severe weather a day before it struck Lee County.

The issue is how people interpret these warnings, says Kim.

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