The forecasts for Hurricane Irma are dire.
Much of Florida is now under a hurricane warning. Dangerous, threatening conditions are imminent. Tampa, a city particularly vulnerable to flooding, may see a direct hit. But Irma, with its hurricane-force winds extending 80 miles out from its center "will bring life-threatening wind impacts to much of Florida regardless of the exact track of the center, the National Hurricane Center reports. The greatest danger in a hurricane, however, is usually flooding from storm surge. And the hurricane center predicts 10 to 15 feet of surge is possible along the Southwest Florida coast. And severe impacts in Georgia and Carolina are also a possibility.
This storm poses a threat to life and property, and so far, evacuations in Florida — in cities as far away as Miami and Tampa were ordered. "You need to leave — not tonight, not in an hour, right now," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said on Saturday. "This is the most catastrophic storm the state has ever seen."
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But there's no amount of messaging that will get 100 percent of a population to evacuate. "There's a certain population that's never going to leave," Cara Cuite, a Rutgers psychologist who heads an NOAA-sponsored project on best practices in storm communication, told us last year.
And already a few Floridians in the path of the hurricane who've been told to evacuate are refusing to leave their homes. Why? The reasons are a bit complicated — and they reveal a lot about how risk is perceived and communicated. Let's break them down.