Predicting hurricane evacuation decisions: When, how many, and how far

Lixin Huang, Florida International University


Traffic from major hurricane evacuations is known to cause severe gridlocks on evacuation routes. Better prediction of the expected amount of evacuation traffic is needed to improve the decision-making process for the required evacuation routes and possible deployment of special traffic operations, such as contraflow. The objective of this dissertation is to develop prediction models to predict the number of daily trips and the evacuation distance during a hurricane evacuation. Two data sets from the surveys of the evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan were used in the models' development. The data sets included detailed information on the evacuees, including their evacuation days, evacuation distance, distance to the hurricane location, and their associated socioeconomic characteristics, including gender, age, race, household size, rental status, income, and education level. Three prediction models were developed. The evacuation trip and rate models were developed using logistic regression. Together, they were used to predict the number of daily trips generated before hurricane landfall. These daily predictions allowed for more detailed planning over the traditional models, which predicted the total number of trips generated from an entire evacuation. A third model developed attempted to predict the evacuation distance using Geographically Weighted Regression (GWR), which was able to account for the spatial variations found among the different evacuation areas, in terms of impacts from the model predictors. All three models were developed using the survey data set from Hurricane Katrina and then evaluated using the survey data set from Hurricane Ivan. All of the models developed provided logical results. The logistic models showed that larger households with people under age six were more likely to evacuate than smaller households. The GWR-based evacuation distance model showed that the household with children under age six, income, and proximity of household to hurricane path, all had an impact on the evacuation distances. While the models were found to provide logical results, it was recognized that they were calibrated and evaluated with relatively limited survey data. The models can be refined with additional data from future hurricane surveys, including additional variables, such as the time of day of the evacuation.

Subject Area

Civil engineering|Meteorology

Recommended Citation

Huang, Lixin, "Predicting hurricane evacuation decisions: When, how many, and how far" (2011). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3484203.