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Sensitivity of tsunami evacuation modeling to direction and land cover assumptions

December 18, 2014

Although anisotropic least-cost-distance (LCD) modeling is becoming a common tool for estimating pedestrian-evacuation travel times out of tsunami hazard zones, there has been insufficient attention paid to understanding model sensitivity behind the estimates. To support tsunami risk-reduction planning, we explore two aspects of LCD modeling as it applies to pedestrian evacuations and use the coastal community of Seward, Alaska, as our case study. First, we explore the sensitivity of modeling to the direction of movement by comparing standard safety-to-hazard evacuation times to hazard-to-safety evacuation times for a sample of 3985 points in Seward's tsunami-hazard zone. Safety-to-hazard evacuation times slightly overestimated hazard-to-safety evacuation times but the strong relationship to the hazard-to-safety evacuation times, slightly conservative bias, and shorter processing times of the safety-to-hazard approach make it the preferred approach. Second, we explore how variations in land cover speed conservation values (SCVs) influence model performance using a Monte Carlo approach with one thousand sets of land cover SCVs. The LCD model was relatively robust to changes in land cover SCVs with the magnitude of local model sensitivity greatest in areas with higher evacuation times or with wetland or shore land cover types, where model results may slightly underestimate travel times. This study demonstrates that emergency managers should be concerned not only with populations in locations with evacuation times greater than wave arrival times, but also with populations with evacuation times lower than but close to expected wave arrival times, particularly if they are required to cross wetlands or beaches.

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