Using human mobility data to detect evacuation patterns in hurricane Ian

Xiang Li, Yi Qiang, Guido Cervone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hurricane Ian in 2022 was a destructive category 4 Atlantic hurricane striking the state of Florida, which caused hundreds of deaths and injuries, catastrophic property damage, and an economic loss of more than $112 billion. Before the landfall of Ian in Florida, the state government issued evacuation orders in high-risk zones to reduce casualties and injuries. However, there is limited data available to monitor the actual evacuation patterns and compliance with the evacuation orders at a large geographic scale. This study utilizes human mobility data (i.e. SafeGraph Weekly Pattern) to analyse the spatial patterns of evacuation during Hurricane Ian in 2022. The objectives of the study include three key aspects: 1) proposing an analytical workflow that utilizes human mobility data to detect mobility patterns in disasters and other emergency events; 2) identifying significant evacuation patterns, and 3) revealing the spatial variations in the compliance with evacuation orders in the affected areas. Using data science and spatial analysis techniques, this study detected notable changes in population movements, both within Florida and nationwide, which are potentially linked to the hurricane-induced population evacuation. The distance decay pattern of population flows from Florida demonstrates a propensity for individuals to relocate to nearby areas during the hurricane. Furthermore, the increase in population outflows from the impacted areas suggests the effectiveness of mandatory evacuation orders. A more pronounced increase in outflows from designated mandatory evacuation areas points to the public awareness of the evacuation zone designation. This study provides large-scale, fine-resolution analysis of evacuation behaviours in natural disasters which cannot be easily detected in traditional data sources. The analytical workflows provide actionable tools for government agencies and policymakers to evaluate the effectiveness of evacuation orders and improve evacuation plans in future disasters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAnnals of GIS
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science Applications
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences

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