If You’re Told To Evacuate, Then Evacuate

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 mb-2016-10-stormrescuers 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?

15 thoughts on “If You’re Told To Evacuate, Then Evacuate”

  1. For the people that stayed instead of evacuating I think they pretty much fall into two categories: stubborn or poor.

    Some people simply refuse to leave “their home” or “their land” just because something is encroaching upon it. This is a very instinctual response to any kind of a threat and while it is often a bad idea in this situation it is understandable.

    Some others are simply without the financial means to evacuate. Evacuation means travelling, missing work, paying for hotels/gas, and all the rest. If you were poor and felt like you were trapped financially then you might be willing to risk more just to avoid the huge payment.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for the comment. I can see both of these, though I think that in regards to the stubbornness, people need to realize that home and property and ‘stuff’ can be replaced, but a lost life cannot.

  2. I can see both points of view here; some people who stayed may have thought they had a chance of not being hit hard by the hurricane and thought that maybe they could even save some of their belongings or protect their property. However, there are just times when you have to leave and hope for the best.

    We’re soon moving into an area that has been hit by fire in the past. I’ve already started planning our “get out of dodge” evacuation plan. We’ll have a grab-it-and-go box with important docs and enough personal items for a few days and a cat carrier w/food, etc. I hope I’ll never have to use it, but with a fire, there’s no waiting it out and hoping it passes over you. You just gotta leave!

  3. I’ve never lived in a hurricane zone, so I don’t know exactly what people who choose to stay are thinking. But I’d like to think that I’d leave as soon as I could if a hurricane was approaching my home, and would do everything I could to secure it.

    Homeowner’s insurance has a purpose, and evacuating your home so you can be safe and your home is insured is a good reason to leave town.

  4. Yeah, if someone told me that a hurricane was coming to where I lived we would make plans to visit family out of state. No reason to stick around and take that risk.

  5. Yep! We’re here in Charleston and we left several days before the storm arrived. Thankfully our place wasn’t damaged but there was a TON of flooding all around us (as everyone has probably seen on the news). Better safe than sorry!

  6. Well said! It frustrates me that so many people choose to ignore evacuation orders and put their lives – and the lives of rescue workers – at stake because of stubbornness. Indiana doesn’t get hurricanes, but if we did, we’d be heading to safety whenever one was heading our way! Great point about years past, too.

    • Yes, it puts other people at risk and I think that’s where I have the biggest problem. You didn’t evacuate, now you’re stuck on the roof yelling for help and someone has to fly a helicopter and risk their life to pull you off. *shaking my head*

  7. My guess is that some of these people have been through many hurricanes and haven’t been hurt, so they figure “Why make such a fuss this time around?” There’s a real analogy here to people who refuse to listen to basic financial advice like, “Pay off your debts,” and “Make sure you save for retirement.” They’re still shocked when the storm hits.

  8. In forest fires, too, the same thing happens: invariably a few people refuse to leave.

    Always figured those people have a death wish…but… When you read the screaming hysteria in news reports year over year, you get to the point where you take it all with large grains of salt. My guess is, a lot of people no longer believe what they’re told in the media.

    One year the local news media here in Arizona actually reported — brace yourself — that A TYPHOON was bearing down on us!

    Typhoons do not strike the Sonoran desert. The occasional rainstorm may blow through, maybe even a kind of miniature version of a tornado. But a typhoon? Heeee! Well, really: after you hear nonsense like that often enough, it ALL sounds like nonsense, even the real stuff.

    Also, Americans are poorly educated, by and large, in science. Many probably don’t understand the meaning or the urgency of weather reports.

    • Good points. I do think that when you get to the point where the governor is declaring a state of emergency and him/herself telling people to leave, that might just be a good point to think of it as something a bit more serious than overhype.

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