Hurricane Matthew hit the United States over a week ago now, but the cleanup and damage assessment still goes on. One of the things that I saw in the days after Matthew was finding people that had died or that needed to be rescued. While I felt bad for the people, I had a nagging feeling that many of the people that died could have lived. Many of the people that needed rescued could have avoided their harrowing situation had they done what many of their neighbors had done, which was to get out of dodge. During disasters, why do some people fail to evacuate?
Technology Doesn't Help
Matthew didn't come out of nowhere. It didn't go wildly off course (and the times it did actually helped things from being worse as it stayed further offshore than anticipated during the strongest points). So, if it wasn't a big surprise, how come so many people still ended up in harms way?
Simple, because most of them didn't listen.
Evacuation was suggested. In some cases it was more than a suggestion. It was basically a ‘get out now' mandate. The thing is that people can't be forced to evacuate, so while many smart people got out, many decided to stay and tough it out.
I'm sure that some of these people made it through just fine, but others didn't come through. Instead, some people died. Some people had to be rescued. Some people lost pets.
Many Costs If You Don't Evacuate
Lives and money could have been saved. Every person that loses their life to a storm like this is a tragedy, but I can't help but feel that some deaths could be avoided if more people left.
Similarly, every person that's rescued is a great story, but rescues cost money and they put the people doing the rescuers in harms way as well.
I'm lucky in that I live in Michigan and we don't get hurricanes. The worst we typically get from a hurricane is once it's done and finishes its path and we'll get a bunch of rain for a couple of days. I get it. We have it good. But, I can't understand why people don't leave when they ought to and they've been told to. This isn't 1916 when I imagine hurricane warnings often consisted of someone looking out to shore and saying “Uh-oh, hurricane”). In those times, devastation and loss of life was a lot more unavoidable.
But we can avoid it now.
And we should.
So the question is, when will we start avoiding it for good? When will we have a storm that comes and wreaks havoc on buildings and roads and beaches, but doesn't claim a human life?
It can happen. But it doesn't.
Maybe some day.
Readers, why do you think that people choose not to leave when forecasting and communication make it easier than ever? Have you ever stuck around in a storm? How did you feel about it later?