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People's movement perturbed during, but similar after Hurricane Sandy

NYC residents resumed 'normal' mobility less than 24 hours after Hurricane Sandy


New York City residents' movement around the city was perturbed, but resumed less than 24-hours after Hurricane Sandy, according to a study published November 19, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Qi Wang and John Taylor from Virginia Tech.

Tropical cyclones, including hurricanes and typhoons, are severe natural disasters that can cause tremendous loss of human life and suffering. Our knowledge of peoples' movements during natural disasters is so far limited due to a lack of data. The authors of this article studied human mobility using movement data from individuals active on Twitter in New York City for 12 days during and after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. They analyzed location data attached to over 700,000 tweets from over 53,000 people and mapped each location during 24-hour periods over the 12 days.

The researchers observed that peoples' locations covered nearly the entire mapped area and showed similar geographical and statistical distributions to 24-hour periods soon after the hurricane, including areas subject to mandatory evacuation. These results may indicate that New Yorkers were relatively resilient in terms of human mobility during Hurricane Sandy. While resilience could be vital for the city's post-disaster response and recovery, it may also be dangerous if people are moving through mandated evacuation areas during or immediately following extreme weather events like a hurricane. Understanding nuances of human mobility under the influence of such disasters will enable more effective evacuation, emergency response planning, and development of strategies and policies to minimize human fatality, injury, and economic loss.


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Citation: Wang Q, Taylor JE (2014) Quantifying Human Mobility Perturbation and Resilience in Hurricane Sandy. PLoS ONE 9(11): e112608. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112608

Funding: This study is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1142379. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Open access publication of this article was supported by Virginia Tech's Open Access Subvention Fund. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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