Rush Limbaugh downplaying hurricane Irma could have decreased evacuations

Hurricane Irma as it strikes Florida.

Enlarge / Hurricane Irma because it strikes Florida. (credit score: NASA EO)

Earlier than Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017, radio entertainer (and Florida resident) Rush Limbaugh falsely ranted that landfalling hurricanes are “by no means as robust as they’re reported,” claiming that life-saving forecasts are exaggerated “to advance this local weather change agenda.” Past his radio viewers, the feedback generated a good quantity of stories protection. But Limbaugh evacuated his beachfront mansion a number of days later.

Given the cultural polarization about sure scientific details, it’s honest to marvel if these irresponsible falsehoods had a discernible influence on evacuations. UCLA’s Elisa Lengthy, Keith Chen, and Ryne Rohla used a phone-location dataset to search out out. They in contrast evacuations for Irma to these in Texas for Hurricane Harvey and to Florida’s 2016 Hurricane Matthew.

The dataset contains anonymized places from tens of millions of telephones, so it requires some simplified processing. Every telephone’s residence location is outlined by its most typical location within the week earlier to the primary hurricane alert. Then, for a window of time across the hurricane, evacuations are decided by a change in location that lasts a minimum of 24 hours.

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