Hurricane Evacuations: Explain the "I'll Stay" Mentality?

There’s also the ‘if I’m there I can mitigate any damage’ mindset.
Lose a few shingles & getting a drip in the roof? I can put a bucket under it which I can empty so that I don’t have water coming in for days.
If I stay, I can prop up something against a window if it breaks so rainwater isn’t blowing in or have more time to move my furniture upstairs.

Of course this storm is predicted to have water in some people’s bedrooms…their second story bedrooms!
FTR, I didn’t evacuate either, but then I’m in PA. :rolleyes:


40% of Americans can’t cover an unexpected $400 expense. I can see an emergency evacuation (several hundred miles and several days costing approximately this much. To the extent that it costs less than that, there will be more people that can make it happen, but it will still leave a lot of people who just don’t have the cash/credit reserves to cover it.

  1. The media crying wolf.

  2. Some people just flat-out underestimate what a hurricane can do.

  3. some people have lived through weaker ones and don’t realize the difference between a Category 2 and a 4/5.

I would never criticize anyone for staying home during a hurricane/tornado incident, even if there is a mandatory evacuation issued for the area. I have never been in a situation where I’ve gone through any kind of evacuation, mandatory or otherwise (knock on wood), but I know that if such a thing were to happen - I would not want to leave home.

In addition to the obvious reasons that people don’t leave, i.e. lack of finances for a hotel room & no family/friends to stay with in the interim; too ill to travel; no vehicle to leave with and/or unable to drive for whatever reason; etc. - leaving home during one of these events leaves you vulnerable to any/all of the below happening:

-Going out on a highway with hundreds of others & getting stranded because of traffic (since everyone else is leaving with you) and/or because you run out of gas. Screw that.

-Going along with the above, driving out somewhere where there’s a lot of water & having the car get flooded/ruined because of this, and then having to abandon the car - and then having no place to go. Screw that as well.

  • Going into a shelter and getting shot/stabbed/injured. I’ve done volunteer work in homeless shelters, and those places can definitely be dangerous. Add to this the added tensions of many people there in close quarters to each other (unwillingly) & also worried/stressed out because of the potential storm damage to their homes/worry about their family/worry about their employment, etc. - and you have a recipe for disaster.

-Not being home to deal with some flood damage that happens to the house - that could have been mitigated/prevented if I were home, i.e. a small hole in the roof, water entering the house from outside, etc. - I’ve gone over this in more detail below.

-Have your valuables be vulnerable to theft by looters/criminals who break into your house in your absence, by taking advantage of the situation re: numerous people leaving their homes empty & being gone for an indeterminate length of time. We saw this during Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, and I’m sure it’s happened in other cases as well.

Going along with the above:

-I do pay close attention to these hurricane/tornado events; and, I do live in an area that has experienced some flooding - i.e., there have been times where there has been heavy rain here, and streets have flooded. People have also drowned in my area due to driving into a flooded area & miscalculating the amount of water they’re driving into. I’ve also seen water coming OUT of storm drains in some areas, since the system is getting flooded.

  • In one case, during an extremely torrential downpour one of my down-spouts was filled with leaves (which I didn’t know ahead of time), and because of the blockage excess water was dumping all over my front yard area, uncomfortably close to my home. Since I was home, after some difficulty I unclogged the blockage & make sure the water was flowing through the down-spout normally. However, if I hadn’t been home to address the situation, my house may have gotten at least somewhat flooded - which is why I’m emphasizing that it’s important for homeowners to be home & deal with issues like this.

That’s not entirely true; they had warning that there was a storm in the Gulf from Cuban Jesuits who were amateur meteorologists, and from various steamships that had passed through or near it.

The head of the NWS just didn’t put the pieces together, and was of the opinion that the geographic situation of Galveston made it unlikely to be seriously damaged by a hurricane(!). Read up on Isaac Cline if you want to learn more.

I think part of the reluctance to evacuate is that you have to evacuate usually days beforehand, and a hurricane’s path and intensity can change significantly in that time, so unless it’s expected to be some kind of Hurricane Carla monster storm, a lot of people will take their chances instead of evacuating 2-3 days before EVERY possible storm might hit.

The issue is really where the go/no-go line is drawn, both in terms of storm intensity and speed as well as projected path. To use a recent example, Hurricane Harvey was one that few people in Houston evacuated for. Why? Because it was a Category 2 expected to make landfall near Corpus Christi. But it intensified dramatically in the 18 hours prior to landfall, and then took an extremely atypical path up the coast and back out over the Gulf instead of the more usual sweeping NE curve inland. So everyone was caught entirely flat-footed. But the vast majority of the time a hurricane hits near Corpus, the Houston/Galveston is only minimally affected at worst.

So everyone has this time window in which they can evacuate without extreme trouble, and the problem is that it’s far enough out that much can change between then and landfall. Since evacuating your family probably costs on the order of several hundred bucks at a minimum if you don’t have family or friends to go stay with, it’s understandable that most people aren’t going to do that unless they’re compelled to in some way.

Combine that with institutional bungling like what happened with the Rita evacuations (people stuck on I-45 for 20+ hours), and people start thinking that they’re not going to leave unless there’s a serious risk to life and limb.

Having done it; Agnes 72 Wyoming Valley and the resulting flood:

  1. Looters. Go after my stuff and I’ll cap your ass

  2. If I am there maybe I can do something to rescue things, reduce damage – sandbag, move stuff, and board until the last possible moment

  3. Weather predictions are always wrong (not)

  4. I refuse to panic

  5. Someone from Uncle Sugar can always rescue me if it really gets that bad

You can justify a lot of things in your brain especially when you are either young (and therefor immortal) or old and facing the loss of everything from your life and past. It is not a good idea but we do it.

Having been through Sandy and evacuated at the last possible minute, I can understand the mindset of staying. I had it but changed my mind just before it would have been too late to do so. Our house suffered substantial damage and, had we been there, all we could have done was watch (in the dark) as the water came in. Sandy wasn’t even still a hurricane when it made landfall and we weren’t on the “wrong” side of the center of the storm when it did. Don’t be dumb. If you can get out, get out.

Honestly, a lot of good reasons here, but I think all of this starts with one simple thing:

It is not possible to comprehend how dangerous a truly massive hurricane is.

You just cannot visualize it unless you have been in one. On video it just looks like a bad storm. Every time there’s a hurricane you get to see reporters down by the water, wind whipping sharp rain into their face, yelling at the camera, “IT’S VERY WINDY, BOB!” at the dude back in the studio, and you think “I can handle that. Might even be fun.”

When they tell you some parts of the Carolinas could have 6-foot, even 9-foot storm surges, that’s just a number. 200-KPH winds, just a number. Maybe you’ve seen a funny picture of a guy going down his own street in a canoe. You dco not understand that if you are outside and caught in a six-foot high flood, you are going to die. Six feet doesn’t sound like much - it’s shallower than a decent backyard pool - but when it’s rushing, the force will quickly overwhelm any human being. (If you have the stomach for it, watch videos of the Boxing Day tsunami; there are videos of people being swept to their deaths in water no deeper than six feet.) 200-kph wind will also kill any exposed person; that is not just a strong wind, it’s the hand of God.

You just cannot comprehend that kind of force; it is beyond normal human experience.

Mostly, it is the media calling wolf. In this part of the world, they do much the same thing with Winter storms several times a year. Secondarily, there is the impulse to stay and protect what you have, especially if what you have is all you have and it is very little. I’ve talked with a couple folks who had the attitude that “everybody dies from something.”

Hurricane Andrew 1992 in Miami survivor here. I had lived there through the previous 35 years and had experienced hurricanes Donna, Cleo and Betsy plus several minimal hurricanes and tropical storms whose names I’ve forgotten. All were bad (no power for extended periods, windstorm damage to buildings, coastal storm surge, local “ponding” (south Florida is flat as a billiard table, so rainfall just accumulates for some time since there’s no gravity-concentrating terrain to speed the flow). Nobody except those living in trailers or in “flood zones” as then defined even thought about leaving.

Evacuation requires (1) knowledge of the potential effects, (2) overcoming the “macho factor” (its just a storm), (3) resources, (4) warning, and (5) a plan. But by 1992 the majority of south Floridians had zero experience with hurricanes and little respect for them. So scratch #s 1, 2 & 5. Resources is tough to gauge because Florida is so long that even just getting to the northern end takes 8 or more hours - and you may still not be outside the “cone of destruction”. It’s not like you can drive an hour or two and be up in the hills. This increases the expense and the need for an early decision which may turn out to be unnecessary and mitigates against leaving.

As for warning, Andrew surprised everyone. It was three days out and basically east of us. Common knowledge predicted a curve to the right, and a landfall perhaps in GA. Two days out it was still east of us, but now we expected it to curve and hit Jacksonville. One day out it was STILL east of us and we were saying “Poor Palm Beach!” But no, it continued practically due west and began to intensify. By that time the highways were crowded with tourists and residents and accidents and the resulting gridlock made evacuation moot. We battened down the hatches.

But it was truly horrible and life threatening, both during and in the aftermath. Cat 5 winds are indeed properly characterized as utterly devastating. I saw chain link fences blown away, complete with steel posts and concrete footers. Chain link fences!! How much wind resistance is there in a wire fence?!?

I came to conclude that in the future, while I might stay in a solid house outside today’s flood zones for a Cat 1, maybe a Cat 2, anything more and me, the better half, and the dogs are getting in the RV and heading for Arkansas. Early. The lesson of Andrew is that I will much prefer to cut my way back in afterward than to crawl out from under the rubble and thank my lucky stars that I’m alive.

That article says “cash on hand” to cover $400 expense. Nothing about available credit via credit cards.

They’re Americans so not hard to believe at all that they are living paycheck to paycheck

I think way down deep inside, a lot of people don’t want to look foolish or like cowards. Bump mentioned the Rita evacuations. Half of south Texas moved out and had the roads clogged for days. More people died from the evacuation process (nearly 100) than they did due to the storm. Lots of people criticized the evacuees for over-reacting. That’s a hard position to be in. we don’t like that feeling.

I think even further down people have some deep belief that if they’re there to witness it, they can do something about it. They’re mostly wrong.

I have a friend who’s riding it out in Newport, NC about 2 blocks from the ocean. I think it’s stupid. I hope I hear from him again.

Completely understandable. However - after seeing some relatives pass from terrible illnesses (cancer, etc.) after months of suffering in hospitals, a death by drowning is not the worst way to go. And, no one lives forever anyway.

What a bizarre response. What the heck are you talking about?

This is what the fuck I’m talking about. We’re all going to die at some point - of something. Staying at home during a hurricane/tornado - especially if you have nothing but your home & nowhere else to go - is completely understandable…despite the risk.

This would be my excuse for staying put. I am a cheap bastard.

Every year, storm waves snatch someone from a harbor in Galicia. Every year, the fall floods take several cars parked in riverbeds which spend the rest of the year dry (ramblas), all over the Mediterranean coast of Spain.

And every year, the people involved manage to be surprised, even adults who have lived in those places for their whole lives. I mean, I can understand some retiree from Sweden not having heard about gota fría floods, but dude, if you’re from Valencia you have no excuse!

And yet, they manage to be surprised.

People who have very little cash often don’t have credit cards either.

I have a thread on my facebook feed (not mine, a ‘friend’) asking what would you do. A whole bunch of guys say “I’d put the wife and kids in the car to somewhere safe and then ride it out” - as if its less than manly to leave and they are doing some sort of macho duty,

I can’t say I’m too regretful when that type of asshole gets removed from the gene pool.