Panel Paper: Behavioral Adaption in Response to Infrastructure Disruptions during Hurricane Irma

Friday, November 8, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 3 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kris Wernstedt and Ruixiang Xie, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Hurricane Irma hit Florida on the 10th of September 2017 and caused catastrophic devastation in the southeastern United States, including the significant evacuation, widespread physical damage, service interruptions, and other infrastructure disruptions. How households adapt their activity related behavior in the face of infrastructure disruptions, such as power outrage and transport closings during Hurricane Irma? how the nature of information about infrastructure disruptions and the way in which individuals process this information shape responses to disruptions and preferred trade-offs? Using survey data from nearly 1300 Miami residents, this paper aims to understand the adaptive behavior of individuals to disruptive events. Results will help local public officials to coordinate transportation and power recovery strategies from disasters.

The cross-sectional survey was conducted during May 23-29, 2018 to capture the experiences of Miami area residents with the 2017 Hurricane Irma. 1,341 respondents aged 18 years or older whose primary residence lies within 50 miles of downtown Miami, and who lived in this residence during the week of September 4-10, participated in the survey. Survey questions focused on storm damage, power loss, workplace changes, school closures, evacuation, travel choices, and preferences for urban system recovery, as well as the socio-demographic background.

Survey results indicate that more than 50% of the respondents who experienced damage to their residence still chose to stay in their residence. 66% experienced work closure, and 36% of them took the day off with pay. When workplaces are reopened, more than half of the respondents returned to the workplace on the same day. 70% of the respondents found the roads they normally use were blocked or closed, and most of them chose to use a different path to get to work or left earlier for work when encountered transport disruptions. Findings also indicate that about 38% of the respondents evacuated from their residence for one or more days, and most evacuees traveled outside the Miami area before the Irma landfall. The main reasons for evacuation including concern for safety, lack of electricity or other utility services, high water in the residence, and mandate from public authorities.

Particularly, we employed choice experiments to examine the relative preferences or priorities for recovery from different subsystem failures due to Hurricane Irma. These include power, grocery stores, transport, work, and school. Employing a Conditional Logit Model, we find that residents place the highest priority for recovery on power recovery, more than twice the weight on re-opening grocery stories, and six times the weight on recovering transport. Reopening workplaces and schools represent the fourth and fifth highest priorities. We also investigate how the respondent characteristics such as income, age, work status, evacuation status, vehicle ownership, caregiving status, and the single-parent status have influences on the preference trade-offs.