Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Sherman-Morris, Kathleen

Committee Member

Brown, Michael E.

Committee Member

Lalk, Sarah

Committee Member

Gutter, Barrett F.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Earth and Atmospheric Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Geosciences


One of the greatest natural hazards that is faced with in much of the United States are tornadoes. Despite improvements in the warning processes, the risk of significant loss of life remains high. That is particularly true with vulnerable communities which have higher proportions of mobile homes; however, violent tornadoes are very difficult to manage in permanent homes or buildings as well. As a result, tornado shelters have been built in some communities and have become available to the public. However, their presence is intermittent, and there are many tornado-prone areas that lack such shelters.

After a public survey, it was found that there was unmet demand for tornado shelters and, at least in the most extreme circumstances, a large percentage of the population would be willing to utilize such. It was also found that better communication of tornado shelters would increase utilization rates either in circumstances where they already exist or where the need exists. Some residents, particularly those in mobile homes, were likely to utilize shelters more frequently, which increased their need to an even greater extent.

Once both the public and broadcast meteorologists were surveyed, it was found that the public was strongly supportive of mobile applications about tornado shelters in their area, and local television sources and the websites and applications related to those stations were also popular sources. Broadcast meteorologists in the Deep South in particular mentioned the need for more shelters and advocated construction, but not as much in other regions. They mentioned that mobile apps would be quite useful for the public to locate shelters.

A case study in the context of the concurrent COVID-19 pandemic (knowing that crowded spaces was not a desirable situation amidst the pandemic) found that shelters were still potentially useful with mitigation. Those concurrent hazards made for a more challenging study and proved to be a valuable case study in tornado sheltering. The results found that it was possible to attenuate both threats provided that careful planning and actions were undertaken. As a result, both short-term and long-term recommendations were suggested which may also be useful in future pandemic situations.

Included in

Meteorology Commons