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Daily Variation in Natural Disaster Casualties: Information Flows, Safety, and Opportunity Costs in Tornado Versus Hurricane Strikes

Authors


Address correspondence to Sammy Zahran, Department of Economics, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523–1771, USA; sz2401@columbia.edu.

Abstract

Casualties from natural disasters may depend on the day of the week they strike. With data from the Spatial Hazard Events and Losses Database for the United States (SHELDUS), daily variation in hurricane and tornado casualties from 5,043 tornado and 2,455 hurricane time/place events is analyzed. Hurricane forecasts provide at-risk populations with considerable lead time. Such lead time allows strategic behavior in choosing protective measures under hurricane threat; opportunity costs in terms of lost income are higher during weekdays than during weekends. On the other hand, the lead time provided by tornadoes is near zero; hence tornados generate no opportunity costs. Tornado casualties are related to risk information flows, which are higher during workdays than during leisure periods, and are related to sheltering-in-place opportunities, which are better in permanent buildings like businesses and schools. Consistent with theoretical expectations, random effects negative binomial regression results indicate that tornado events occurring on the workdays of Monday through Thursday are significantly less lethal than tornados that occur on weekends. In direct contrast, and also consistent with theory, the expected count of hurricane casualties increases significantly with weekday occurrences. The policy implications of observed daily variation in tornado and hurricane events are considered.

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