Demographic Impacts and Disaster Response to 2004 Hurricanes

(January 2011) The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in Florida’s history. Four hurricanes caused $45 billion in damages and widespread population displacement. About 1.6 million people evacuated their homes—and many had to more than once in the year. Based on sample surveys with 11,000 residents in heavily hit areas, Stanley Smith has found new results on how the hurricanes affected communities, the demographic impact of evacuation, and what lessons these effects have for future disaster relief.

Stanley Smith is a professor of economics and the director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) at the University of Florida. Smith also directs BEBR’s Population Program, which produces the official population estimates for all cities and counties in Florida and population projections by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin for Florida and each of its counties. His research interests include the methodology and analysis of population estimates and projections, state and local demography, economic demography, and the demography of Florida.

In this interview, Smith discusses the demographic impact of the damaging 2004 Florida hurricanes, the ensuing evacuations, and how these effects compare with Hurricane Katrina, along with recommendations for future disaster and evacuation preparedness based on his research.