VORTEX-Southeast Tornado Focus Groups taking place in north Alabama May 19-26

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Tornadoes are a fact of life in north Alabama. Unfortunately, they leave behind more than just physical storm damage.

That is why VORTEX-Southeast researchers are teaming up with social scientists and psychologists to host focus groups in Limestone and Madison counties over the next two weeks.

The tornado focus groups take place May 19 through May 26. Each group will last about an hour or two, and participants will be compensated $30 for their time. Space is limited to the first 110 people to sign up and register: If there is no available space, participants would not be able to participate, so it is imperative to register before arriving to the focus group.

You must be 18 or older to participate, and you will need to bring your I.D.  Click the link to go to the official sign up form at the researchers' SignUpGenius website and you can also register by hitting the "Get Tickets" button on the Facebook page.

The focus groups will take place on the following dates and locations:

  • Saturday, May 19 at 9:30am: Ardmore Library (Giles County, Tennessee)
  • Saturday, May 19 at 2:30pm: Tillman Hill Library in Madison County
  • Sunday, May 20 at 1pm: Moores Mill Volunteer Fire Department in Madison County
  • Sunday, May 20 at 4:30pm: Harvest Volunteer Fire Department in Madison County
  • Monday, May 21 at 2:30pm: Gurley Library in Madison County
  • Tuesday, May 22 at 9:30am: New Market Senior Center in Madison County
  • Tuesday, May 22 at 2:30pm: Tillman Hill Library in Madison County
  • Wednesday, May 23 at 2pm: Madison Library in Madison County
  • Wednesday, May 23 at 6:30pm: Owens Senior Center in Limestone County
  • Thursday, May 24 at 6:30pm: Tanner Volunteer Fire Department in Limestone County
  • Friday, May 25 at 2:30pm: Athens Limestone Library in Limestone County
  • Saturday, May 26 at 9:30am: Murphy Branch Library in Madison County
  • Saturday, May 26 at 2:30pm: Downtown Huntsville Library in Madison County

Why meteorologists from across the country are focusing on the Tennessee Valley

“We’re interested in the southeastern US because there is a disproportionate risk of tornadoes — or a suspected disproportionate risk of how tornadoes affect people’s lives there, even more than tornado alley per capita," explained Dr. Michael Egnoto VORTEX-Southeast social science researcher and doctor of communications at University of Maryland.

“We’re looking into what that means to residents of the Southeastern U.S., and we’re particularly interested in communities that we consider to have additional risk.”

Dr. Egnoto and his colleagues want to know how you react when you receive weather forecasts that may include severe weather.

“We are asking a lot about— kind of how people like to hear about tornado information, how they like to receive information during a weather emergency, what they have access to, we want to hear maybe if you would share details about your home and your living situation.

“If you do live in a mobile home, we’d like to know everything from when it was built to how close your nearest neighbor is. All of these things kind of fit together to build a picture of how the National Weather Service can better serve needs of these people in different communities and kind of what a community means.”

The ultimate goal: Help people determine their safest place possible — even for those who travel 15 to 20 minutes for shelter.

“We’re finding that there are people who don’t have one [safe spots] within a reachable distance," Dr. Egnoto explained. "People who are dependent on transport from either others or public transportation systems — things that are not available during severe weather events."

"And that 15-20 minute travel time is often ideal circumstances, not when everyone else is trying to get to a place.”

The tornado focus groups take place May 19 through May 26. Each group will last about an hour or two, and participants will be compensated $30 for their time. Space is limited to the first 110 people to sign up and register: If there is no available space, participants would not be able to participate, so it is imperative to register before arriving to the focus group.

You must be 18 or older to participate, and you will need to bring your I.D. The official sign up forms can be found at the researchers' SignUpGenius website,  and they are also taking questions as well as comments on their Vortex-Southeast Community Interviews Facebook page.

The researchers are particularly interested in hearing from those who live in manufactured or mobile homes.

"The greatest need we’re seeing right now is people who either live in a mobile home or manufactured housing because that comes with some differences in how those types of housing reacts to storms," Dr. Egnoto explained. "It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different. We want to make sure we are doing our part to help those communities understand the nuance of their situation.”

The invitation is extended, and the researchers are ready to listen.

“Help us learn from you,” exclaimed Dr. Egnoto. He welcomes any questions or comments by dropping a line vortexse2018@gmail.com.