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So Why Didn’t They Move?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Posted in: Uncategorized

I just watched a news segment that featured a victim of Ike in a car, crying that she has no electricity, no water and that she was hungry.

So why didn’t she leave when the government told her to? Why did so many people stay?

They knew four days before that Ike was going to hit them, so why ignore the warnings and the advice?

One family didn’t move because they didn’t want to leave their pets behind. I bet if it had been a fire, they wouldn’t have needed to be asked.

Fancy putting your family at risk like that.

40 Comments »

  • In some areas, the storm surge hit a long time before anyone predicted that it would, so people who were packing up to leave found all the roads leading off the peninsula blocked by water. I guess it could be said that they needed to leave several days before the hurricane was going to hit, but a lot of people just can’t afford to take that much time off work.

    If you’re a person who can barely afford to get by as it is, the added burden of missed wages plus paying to stay in a hotel for weeks on end can be an extremely daunting prospect.

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  • I see why a person would stay. Maybe your house and your car and your job are the only things you have and you feel you have to be there no matter what happens.

    I can get that.

    On the other hand… I dislike intensely people knowingly making some way out stupid choices when they know their houses are perched on sticks sitting on sand and not making even a little effort to be sure they have the resources to survive on their own and then demand help like they are victims when they clearly and decidedly chose to ignore all the warnings.

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  • I live in a hurricane-prone area and when they say, if you stay, you will face CERTAIN DEATH, you need to leave–and I doubt if any employers could have legally fired anyone who followed that directive. Texas had a ton of shelters that took pets and in Louisiana, at least, they had shelters just for pets. That’s no excuse to put your life in danger.

    I’m sorry these people are suffering, I really am…but they were warned. And why have no food? Didn’t they at the very least prepare a hurricane kit? When we’re under threat of a hurricane, I prepare food and water for at least a week. Maybe it’s just peanut butter and bread or canned goods (I have a portable cooker used for camping) but it will get us through. I have about a dozen gallons of water in my garage right now (though it goes into my car in the garage when storms come.) I have batteries and flashlights. A lot of my neighbors have generators. You don’t buy all these things at once…you hoard during sales and buy when it’s NOT hurricane season. It’s part of the price you pay for living on an island.

    This weather is not to be messed with. If you’re going to “hunker” down, at least prepare ahead of time. If you can’t afford to prepare, then please, move away from the Gulf coast!

    That said, I pray for these people and will, as always, donate to the Red Cross.

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  • In NH, if S&R has to save you even though you were prepared and had taken every precaution, well, that’s their job.

    When S&R personnel have to save somebody who ended up in a dire predicament because they weren’t prepared or didn’t take precautions or didn’t listen to warnings, the people saved have to reimburse the cost of the rescue. It’s a sensible, effective plan.

    And I have two cats and a dog and I would NEVER endanger my children on their behalf. That said, I’d put the pets in the car, where they’d have to sleep if I ended up at a motel that wouldn’t take them. Hopefully they’d be fine. My kids sure would be.

    (The owner of that hungry tiger now roaming loose down there would probably not want to try that.)

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  • Nat
    September 17
    10:55 pm

    I live in a hurricane zone as well in Southern FL, and when I heard rumblings that Ike and Hannah might come our way, I had already told my family we would be getting out of dodge. We stayed through Wilma, thinking it would be a “puny” Cat one, and ended up having to hold our sliding glass door in place. No thanks, dump the family albums in the van and leave. Not worth the trauma.

    My friend was a 911 operator during Frances and Jeanne–don’t bother calling for help in the middle of the hurricane. You’re screwed, and basically told so. I heard a couple of people say they simply had no place to go, which I can understand if your finances don’t allow for a car or hotel, but then there are stories of the husband who decided to stay behind while the rest of the family left, or people who weren’t about to let a storm boss them around. Please. If you’re packing winds that go faster than my car, I will gladly bow down.

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  • I think so many people keep hearing warnings like, it’s gonna be bad…leave and then things AREN’T bad, they think that’s how it’s gonna be again.

    I don’t know.

    I can tell you that just by the winds we had up in the Louisville area, if somebody told me THAT was coming my way, plus heavy rains, I’d leave. After what we all saw with Katrina, there’s no way I’d risk it.

    But then again, I also don’t see me moving to a coastal region, either.

    I’ll take tornadoes any day over a hurricane.

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  • people who weren’t about to let a storm boss them around. Please. If you’re packing winds that go faster than my car, I will gladly bow down.

    LOL… makes me think of the comedian Ron White. He was poking fun at this guy who said he could withstand hurricane force winds.

    Ron said,

    it’s not that the wind is blowing. It’s what the window is blowing.

    Amen to that.

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  • Ebony
    September 18
    12:40 am

    People who stay when warned by officials to evacuate are selfish. They are not only risking their own lives but they are risking the lives of emergency personnel who have families. Those people who stayed still ended up losing everything. If they would have left, they could have saved some of their precious memories and at least a vehicle and clothes.

    I emphatize with the people who did vacate and didn’t have anything to go back to, but for those who stayed just because, it’s on them. I don’t feel sorry for them in the very least for putting material worth over folks lives.

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  • LauraD
    September 18
    12:45 am

    Because people will forever be stubborn?
    Because a lot of the poor along the Texas Gulf Coast pretty much blew their hurricane escape fund on Gustav?
    Because no one organized buses to take people with no transportation to shelters, the way NO did? (Can’t believe I just used NO as a “good” example)
    Because when you’ve ridden out hurricanes before, you think you can do it again?
    Because they can’t afford generators, and don’t have garages to keep “gallons and gallons” of water in?

    You are all correct, they should have evacuated. But they didn’t. I feel like America used up the last of it’s compassion for Katrina victims.

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  • When S&R personnel have to save somebody who ended up in a dire predicament because they weren’t prepared or didn’t take precautions or didn’t listen to warnings, the people saved have to reimburse the cost of the rescue. It’s a sensible, effective plan.

    I like that plan.

    As a nurse, I’m willing to take a risk to help people who’ve done everything they can to make my job easier.

    This may not work as a good example, but if I have a parent warn me in advance that their child is combative, they like to hit and spit, and they’d like assistance, but in the end, I still get hit-I’m willing to take that risk.

    Now say I have a parent who just smiles and says, oh, Jonny will be a good buy, won’t you? and then Jonny hauls off and manages to hit me, and then the parent frowns and says, I hoped that wouldn’t happen again

    No. I am NOT willing to put up with that kind of abuse and if the parent doesn’t like me calling in a couple of nurses to help me restrain the child, too bad.

    Emergency personnel, medical personnel, ESPECIALLY in situations like this are taking enough risk as it is. Most of them have families, too, but they risk themselves because they feel it’s the right thing to do.

    But doing it just because others didn’t think anything bad would happen, or because they waited a little too long-well, it costs lives, the lives of first responders and lives of those who did what they should and fate smacked them anyway, and help couldn’t get to them in time.

    It’s heartbreaking, the loss of live and the damage these people have endured. I feel for them. But it still frustrates me when people refuse to leave.

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  • I can see why folks would WANT to stay. Once you leave, you might not be allowed back for a loooong time, and whatever the hurricane didn’t destroy might well be looted, curfews and marshall law or no.

    BUT.

    Having sat through Camille (though down the road a ways; I was five) and Frederick in Mobile, I can safely say I will never. Ever. EVER. Sit through another hurricane. EVER. For any reason. Things can be replaced. Lives cannot.

    Of course the people in Houston were TOLD to sit tight, in order to avoid the mess that was the Rita evacuation, when people died in the massive traffic jams during the evacuation. OTOH, anyone in hurricane territory should ALWAYS be prepared with supplies for several days to a couple of weeks. After Frederick, we lived on Pop Tarts, canned foods, milk jugs full of water and coffee boiled on the grill for a week. If we hadn’t had that, we would’ve been up the proverbial creek. Maybe this is cynical, but I’m not about to rely on the government for survival.

    All that said, I feel awful for all the hurricane victims, whether it was their own fault or not, and I hope this recovery goes better than the Katrina recovery did.

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  • Maybe this is cynical, but I’m not about to rely on the government for survival.

    I don’t think it’s cynical at all.

    If people wait on others to save them, then they are playing a game of chance. The thing with preparing for a disaster is that people can only do so much and if the disaster’s scope is huge…well, we all know what’s going to happen.

    I’d rather rely on myself than on a friend, family, or the government.

    Gee…I’m wordy about this topic.

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  • I’m sure the people who stayed all had different reasons. Some of those reaons might be judged as ridiculous or selfish by people who weren’t in their exact shoes and some might be judged as understandable.

    Key word there is “judged” of course.

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  • Emmy
    September 18
    2:18 am

    Many counties were under mandatory evacuation orders, yet tens of thousands chose to stay where they were and weather the storm. Why, then, would over 1,000 people call 911 for rescue when it got really really wet and windy? I mean, you knew it was coming. Do you really expect people to put their lives on the line because you made a bad choice and didn’t leave when ordered to? Did it not occur to you that even if your house made it through ok, you might be without running water and power for a significant amount of time, and that debris on the roadways would keep you stranded in your house, and that if you couldn’t get out, people who could bring you food and water couldn’t get in?

    I guess I’m just not understanding why NOW it’s an emergency, when people had the better part of a week to get out, and most made a deliberate choice to stay where they were.

    I’d willingly donate to people who left and now have no place to return to. The rest can lie in the bed they made.

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  • My current life situation is such that I could afford to take my family and all our dogs and cats to safety and stay there for however long it took. If my house were reduced to a stack of sticks, insurance would build it back, good as new. And all that stuff in here? It’s covered, too, down to the last paperback book. I could telecommute to work, and so could my husband. Although evacuating would be inconvenient and scary, we’d be fine.

    But we are damn lucky.

    I don’t know what these people’s life circumstances were that caused them to “choose” to stay behind. I doubt it was a decision made lightly. I can well imagine someone like my grandmother as one of the last holdouts. Being a refugee somewhere with no place to call her own would’ve been far more terrifying to her than whatever a hurricane could bring, particularly if she’d lived through them before.

    Yes, people who stay behind cause more work and risk for rescue workers. I’m not denying that. But given that most people kinda want to stay alive and healthy and happy, I’ve gotta believe that whatever reasons they had for staying were seriously compelling — to them.

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  • Cherrie
    September 18
    4:04 am

    A lot of them probably looked at the fact that more people died during Rita evacuations than during the storm itself, and figured they might be better off staying where they were. But you just never know with these things. Only two weeks ago they told us how bad Gustav was going to be by the time it got to our area, and it was a dud. As has been stated already, a lot of people just don’t have the means to pack up and move whenever a storm *might* be coming their way and *might* be really, really bad (“certain death”, they said, but again, Gustav was the coming Apocalypse, predicted to be a Cat 5 when it hit, the “mother of all storms”. It wasn’t). It’s especially hard on people when gas prices shoot up $1 per gallon just as you’re trying to get the hell out of dodge, and you’re burning all that gas sitting in gridlock for hours on end, with no idea where you’re going to end up.

    I would never, ever WANT to ride out a hurricane. I live over a hundred miles inland and they still freak me out. Without a doubt, it’s best to not take any chances. But you do get fatigued after a while, especially given the unpredictability of these things. I’m enough of a weenie that I would try to get out any way I could, but I’ve also been close enough to the chaos and confusion of mass evacuations that I can see why people might decide to take their chances, if they’re brave or crazy enough. It’s horrible either way.

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  • Ebony
    September 18
    4:29 am

    I’ve gotta believe that whatever reasons they had for staying were seriously compelling — to them.

    I can only go by what the folks say when the reporters interview them on the news—and 99 percent of their reasons have been selfish–they didn’t want to leave their property/house. Buildings can be replaced, but lives can’t.

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  • For someone like my grandmother, her house was her safe place. It was more than just rooms and furniture and her stuff. The house wasn’t very sturdy, but it was the one place in the world where she felt she had a teeny bit of control over her living conditions.

    Last year, when we bought this house, I had a tough time leaving my old house and moving here, even though this place is 20 times nicer. The old house was the first I ever owned, and I lived there for 13 years. Although it was a dump in more ways than one, it was all mine, and for the first time in my adult life, I had a safe, private place to live. I was very attached to it, as a result.

    I’m not saying I wouldn’t evacuate in the event of a natural disaster. I totally would, even if it put a huge financial and logistical hardship on my family. But I also understand how some might have a very hard time leaving their homes.

    Bottom line is I sympathize with these people and hope they’re able to get their lives back on track soon. 🙂

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  • I think it’s easy to judge when you’re sitting safe and warm in your homes. I can’t guess why those people stayed, nor why they called for help when it was doubtful help would come, but I can say I’ve been in the position where I wouldn’t have been able to evacuate my home regardless of what was happening outside. In times when a lot of people are lucky just to pay their bills and make ends meet, we should all be able to understand that. It’s easy to call them stupid, or selfish, but some of those people may not have had a choice but to stay in their homes and pray for the best.

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  • Yes, I think some of the people who stayed were idiots. I wanted to smack the partygoers, in particular, who were out drinking until midnight and then called for help during the middle of the hurricane and expected rescue crews to risk their lives in order to save their sorry asses.

    However.

    – There was a remarkably short time period between when Ike turned and headed directly for Galveston and when it hit.

    – 1.5 days is not a lot of time to pack valuables, find gas from sold-out or shut-down stations, close a local business and relocate an entire family plus pets when several hundred thousand people are doing exactly the same thing.

    – A number of the refugees had elderly, disabled or sick relatives who could not be moved in time. Some specifically requested help that never came.

    – If you own an exotic animal shelter, you’re stuck there or you’re condemning your animals to starvation and disease if you can’t get back into your town. This happened in Galveston, and now the trigger-happy police are probably going to kill a tiger and a lion from a zoo for basically existing.

    – Hotels don’t admit pets. Shelters are just starting to do so, and word hasn’t spread fast enough.

    – Many of the people in the area south of Houston are poor and/or don’t own usable cars.

    – There has been such a huge importance placed on the category of a hurricane that people hear the number and compare it to all other storms with that number, never mind that a high Cat 2 that’s 800 miles wide moving at 11 mi/hr with a coastal shallows 45 miles wide is going to do a hell of a lot more damage than a weak Cat 3 moving at 18 mi/hr over a deeper part of the Gulf.

    – FEMA promised a lot of help in the past and didn’t deliver. That generated a whole lot of mistrust. Of everyone.

    – Surprisingly (not really), there are still citizens who can’t afford 24-hour cable news or the internet. These are the means by which many of us learn the vast majority of specific, pertinent information on approaching hurricanes.

    While I agree with part of your frustration, I thought I should point out that it’s often not as simple as it appears to just round up a bunch of people and dump them somewhere else. Just saying.

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  • I’ll take tornadoes any day over a hurricane.

    Really? No offense but…are you nuts? 😉 With tornadoes, you have little or no warning. With hurricanes, you know for a couple of days if you might be in danger.

    I did an informal survey where I work, after having a discussion with a transplant from Ohio. She feels as you do – give her the tornado. Everyone else, including natives and people who’ve moved into my coastal Southern state, said hell yes, give us the hurricanes. You know ahead of time, you can prepare, you can leave if you want.

    With tornadoes, even if you have warning, where do you go? And how many people have those nifty tornado proof rooms in their homes? Or could get to shelter? I recall that some people last spring died as they tried to drive to safety.

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  • Really? No offense but…are you nuts? 😉 With tornadoes, you have little or no warning. With hurricanes, you know for a couple of days if you might be in danger.

    Nope, not nuts. 😉

    With a hurricane, serious damage looks like it’s pretty much going to happen, no matter what. You can leave, but it’s still gonna devastate everything in it’s path, and that path usually looks like it’s huge.

    Tornadoes, while unpredictable, can rip up one side of the street and not the other. Their scope of damage is limited.

    Little warning, yeah, but I keep a weather radio that screams-yes, screams-in the event of a thunderstorm, screams when the conditions are right, and it’s not a five second warning. Today’s technology lets them track when the conditions are right for tornadoes several hours in advance.

    Personally, I think everybody should have a radio like that-$40 and one of the best investments I’ve made.

    Anybody who lives in a tornado prone area should know better than to drive-it’s one of the big warnings that flash across the TV or on weather forecasts. You can’t outrun a tornado, but you can hunker down and pray.

    I’d get my family and we’d get in the bathroom. Once we get a house with a basement, we’d go to the basement.

    Usually the deaths occur when people weren’t prepared, either the storm came up in the middle of the night or they didn’t realize it was going to get that bad. Most often, it’s not the people who took shelter that lose their lives. Property, yes. But like we’ve said, thing can be replaced. Lives cannot.

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  • Well then, I’m glad you’re far away from the hurricane region. As someone who lives in an area prone to both, I’d still take the hurricane – and that’s said having lived through the aftermath of one.

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  • Mireya
    September 18
    2:26 pm

    And let’s not even mention putting the lives of rescue crews at risk. Oh right, why bother, they get paid to do the job…

    And no, I am not being callous. I was raised in a tropical island. I had to deal with at least two tropical storms a year, and thankfully for us, we only had two large hurricane strikes in 20 years: Hugo and Georges. We had several deaths of people doing volunteer work with rescue crews because of people that didn’t evacuate when they were told to.

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  • With tornadoes, even if you have warning, where do you go? And how many people have those nifty tornado proof rooms in their homes? Or could get to shelter? I recall that some people last spring died as they tried to drive to safety.

    I live in Tennessee and it always seems my area is a tornado magnet. The sad thing is, even with a *warning* and getting in a closet or bathroom…people still die. I especially worry about those that live in trailers. There are no shelters set up and no gyms opened up for those people to stay. Call in at work just because there might be a tornado and you want to leave? *snort* Yeah right.

    I have one of those *storm rooms*. I’m terrified of tornadoes and that is the one thing I insisted on when we built this house.

    I’ve never been through a hurricane and I’m glad. While I have a hard time feeling sorry for those that wouldn’t leave, my heart goes out to those that couldn’t leave.

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  • Emmy
    September 18
    2:56 pm

    Everyone who wanted to get out could have. Buses and other transportation were offered to the ill, elderly, and anyone who had no other way to evacuate. People were taken to shelters.

    I’m fine with people wanting to stay home because they can’t play snog the dog at the hotel. Or wanted to wait out the storm that they were told would cause certain death. I just don’t think taxpayers should be on the hook for the cost of search and rescue teams to go in and get them.

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  • KCfla
    September 18
    3:32 pm

    I too live in a hurricane hot-spot ( East-Central Fla.)
    And please don’t think I don’t feel for those who lost so much because of Ike.

    But down here at least they open shelters that are easily accessed by people- rich or poor. Red Cross usually runs them, and runs them very well ( I know- I’ve been to them twice during the summer of ’04)
    This past few years even the hotels have “loosened” up on the pet restrictions during hurricane evacs ( all you have to do is ASK). If not- in my county anyway- we have a Greyhound race park that opens it’s doors to any and all pets needing shelter. And they can hold THOUSANDS of pets if the need is there ( run by them in concert with the Humane Society) I know there are similar set-ups all over Fla.

    I’ve been there- done that. And I can tell you as a mother of 3, I’d do anything I had to to keep me and mine safe. And sitting in my house- no matter how sturdy-with one of those storms barreling down?

    NO.WAY.IN.HELL!

    Perhaps the Governors of Texas, Louisiana, etc. should call our governor. Crist, and Jeb before him really have this “hurricane” thing down to a fine science.

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  • The sad thing is, even with a *warning* and getting in a closet or bathroom…people still die. I especially worry about those that live in trailers.

    But why would they choose to live in a TRAILER or a house without a storm room? There’s just no excuse!

    *heh*

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  • I think the interesting thing about living in the Midwest is when a natural disaster like a tornado occurs, neighbors reach out to one another. There’s no FEMA when a snow or ice storm takes out the powerlines and you’re drifted in – there are however, plenty of neighbors with plow trucks, tractors, saws, snowmobiles, and generators willing to come to your aid. Basically – self-reliant folks with common sense and a good heart willing to help someone they might not know.

    Ditto on the tornadoes – unless it’s a super newsworthy, most tornado victims rely on their neighbors. When one swept through our area, as soon as the coast was clear, there were people arriving with chain saws and trucks, others hunting for calves tossed in trees (no joke) and pulling debris out of fields. People volunteering their barn space and their milking parlors for displaced dairy cows, etc. Many didn’t know the victims – they just showed up and lent a hand.

    I think one of the big problems is lack of survival-savvy folks. You can be poor and still borrow a library book or two to learn the basics. Lack of money is not an excuse for ignorance.

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  • KCfl…they should take lessons from Crist and Jeb. They learned from each and every storm. Andrew taught some very painful lessons to the state of Florida. I’m sorry that the other states haven’t caught on, though I’m very impressed with Louisiana, which seemed to really have made changes since Katrina. Now it’s the city of Galveston’s turn. I don’t think the state could have made it ANY CLEARER for those people to GET OUT. I watched the press conferences with the county judge, the mayor, the police and fire chiefs days before the storm hit. They had the bases covered…people simply had to heed the warnings. And they didn’t.

    So God bless those rescue workers. The largest percentage of pre-storm deaths happen AFTER the storm, not during. That’s why when they ask people to get out, they make them stay out. It is for their own protection. But, alas, most people think they know better than the people who are trained and educated to handle these situations. It’s very sad.

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  • What worries me the most is to know that houses will, once again, be built in this vulnerable spot. Please look at this and then read this, and tell me whether it makes any sense whatsoever to allow residences to be built there.

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  • Ebony
    September 18
    7:53 pm

    It’s easy to call them stupid, or selfish, but some of those people may not have had a choice but to stay in their homes and pray for the best.

    Amanda, I think we can all agree that if someone was warned in enough time, they should have gotten out. Staying because of their house or because they didn’t heed the warning was not a wise decision which some would call a stupid decision. Nobody’s judging them; only stating the obvious. Some folks just didn’t heed the warning and risked not only their lives but the lives of others. The news reporters interviewed survivors and some of the survivors mentioned they made a bad decision about staying for whatever reason.

    I’m sure we all love our homes, but with warning, most (not all) would probably place more value on their lives over something materialistic. Homes can be replaced. Lives can’t.

    JulieLeto this was well said:

    I don’t think the state could have made it ANY CLEARER for those people to GET OUT. I watched the press conferences with the county judge, the mayor, the police and fire chiefs days before the storm hit. They had the bases covered…people simply had to heed the warnings. And they didn’t.

    So God bless those rescue workers. The largest percentage of pre-storm deaths happen AFTER the storm, not during. That’s why when they ask people to get out, they make them stay out. It is for their own protection. But, alas, most people think they know better than the people who are trained and educated to handle these situations. It’s very sad.

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  • Jumping in one more time to say, when there is a mandatory evacuation order (especially in a relatively small place like Galveston or the Bolivar Peninsula) police or other officials usually go door to door to tell people to get out, just in case there are those who don’t have TV or radio or aren’t watching/listening. Or at least they did when I lived on the coast, I’m assuming they still do. If that’s the case, those who actually had no idea they SHOULD evacuate ought to be few and far between. Or non-existant, even.

    On the tornado vs hurricane question, I’ll take a hurricane too, thank you *g* Have been through and survived both, more than once. I like having the choice to get out of the way! Most of the time, unless you’re in spitting distance of the water you have decent odds of your house not falling down during a hurricane. Flooding and falling trees are the biggest dangers inland. Although really I’d rather not have either one. LOL.

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  • joanne
    September 19
    2:05 am

    For those saying they wouldn’t leave because of their pets, that’s nonsense. After Katrina the laws were changed to ensure evacuation of pets.
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/09/18/ike.pets.ap/index.html

    And any person or organization on a barrier island in a hurricane prone area that owns large, dangerous, wild animals should darn well have an evac plan for those animals before putting them in harm’s way. It’s not the unfortunate lions’ and tigers’ faults that their irresponsible owners selfishly left them to fend for themselves, but I can’t blame the authorities for having to do whatever they have to in order to keep people safe from those animals. The foolish, selfish owners of those animals are to blame for whatever happens to them, not the police.

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  • Diane/Anonym2857
    September 19
    2:53 am

    Christine McKay said,

    ~~I think the interesting thing about living in the Midwest is when a natural disaster like a tornado occurs, neighbors reach out to one another. There’s no FEMA when a snow or ice storm takes out the powerlines and you’re drifted in – there are however, plenty of neighbors with plow trucks, tractors, saws, snowmobiles, and generators willing to come to your aid. Basically – self-reliant folks with common sense and a good heart willing to help someone they might not know.

    …snippage…

    I think one of the big problems is lack of survival-savvy folks. You can be poor and still borrow a library book or two to learn the basics. Lack of money is not an excuse for ignorance.~~

    Delurking for a moment because coincidentally enough, I was completing some civilian emergency response training just today, and this question and line of thinking came up in the class. I live in Colorado, so I have no experience with hurricanes. We’re much more prone to blizzards, fires and tornados around here. And yes, for the most part we don’t wait for the government – wouldn’t even think of it.* We just see a need, roll up our sleeves, and deal. We’ve either experienced it ourselves in the past and want to help the ones impacted now, or else know that our turn is coming. Maybe it’s part of that independent streak that sent people out west all those years ago, I dunno. The gal doing the training, though, was raised in Florida. In fact, her mom still lives in a FEMA trailer after sustaining over $250,000 in un/under-insured losses from one of the hurricanes a few years ago whose name I’ve now forgotten. She’ll never rebuild, but refuses to move from all she’s ever known.

    Anyway, we were talking about the psychology of disasters and reactions to trauma, and how the culture of the individuals can come into play. This can be evident in the specific customs and formalities about burying their dead, how people respond to giving and accepting help, etc. One thing she said that made sense (in theory, anyway) was that people will generally respond to a crisis in the same way that they respond to other areas of their lives. I’ve forgotten the precise number she mentioned, but believe she said in Katrina, amid the people who were most negatively impacted and complaining the loudest (not that it wasn’t justified, mind you), 70-80% of those individuals were already on some sort of government assistance before the storm ever hit. Since they had relied in so many ways on the government in the past, their expectations of their government were that much higher.

    Diane

    *It should be noted that just because we take care of our own doesn’t mean we won’t complain about how shitty the government response was, though.

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  • Denise
    September 19
    5:07 pm

    I live on the west side of Houston, about 60 miles from Galveston. While I don’t necessarily agree with it, I do understand why some people erroneously chose to stay and ride out this hurricane.

    When Rita was expected to hit us in 2005 as a Cat. 3, Galveston and the surrounding coastal communities went under mandatory evacuation. People left in droves. What city leaders didn’t expect was the reaction of those living in Houston. Katrina had just devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi coast. Images of the horrific aftermath were fresh on everyone’s mind. So while we were further inland and not subject to the dangers of storm surge, Houston began a voluntary evacuation.

    I can’t begin to describe what a disaster that was. People evacuating from Galveston were trapped in gridlock traffic for 18 hrs, as were people in Houston trying to travel north. They ran out of gas; their cars overheated, and they were left stranded on freeways in sweltering 90* heat. The media showed pictures of women bathing down sweating babies and kids with their emergency water. Folks were scared to death that in the attempt to leave a home in danger of being hit by a hurricane, they were going to have to take shelter in their cars on a freeway when Rita roared through.

    A bus carrying elderly from a nursing home to Dallas exploding, killing almost all the occupants inside.

    My father, who lives on the northside of Houston, packed his wife and my sister in the car and set out. It took them 13 hours to go 7.5 miles. He finally gave up and turned back for home to ride it out because they were nearly out of gas. We originally packed the car to evacuate as well, but after seeing the disaster the roads had become in the evacuation, we changed our minds.

    Rita missed us by a hair’s breadth for the most part and struck Beaumont. Beaumont suffered a lot of damage, though not to the extent that Galveston suffered with Ike. People stuck in that nightmare traffic saw that and swore to themselves they’d ride out the next one instead of risking getting caught on the roads again.

    I think for many, the choice to stay was a combination of a bad evacuation experience with Rita, the assumption that Ike would do some damage to Galveston but not to the extent it did and the old timers who have a strange sense of immortality because they successfully rode out Carla and Alicia.

    Also, many people who did intend to evacuate but wanted to do it at the last minute to avoid traffic problems, were caught off guard by an unusual event. The tide started flooding Galveston far sooner than anyone, including the weather experts, expected. The island started going underwater in the early dawn hours, and they had yet to see a cloud or single drop of rain. Suddenly, many occupants were trapped and needed rescuing.

    I’m not saying the decision was the right one. When the National Weather Service says you’ll face certain death if you stay, you might want to reconsider your decision. But I can see why many came to the decision they did. A terribly erroneous one but not neccesarily without basis.

    I’m with others that the expectation of being rescued after repeated warnings to leave is just wrong. Maybe it’s a human reaction in a moment of danger and panic. You forget what you’ve been told and instinctively call for help. But the media and the local politicians and emergency teams warned folks repeatedly to leave. Even if there were no TV, radio or internet to be had, teams of policemen and firemen were going door to door on Bolivar penninsula urging people to leave. For those that insisted on staying, they took names and social security numbers in case they were needed for future identification. If the gravity of that request didn’t impress upon them the danger in which they were placing themselves, nothing would.

    Since the debacle of Rita, my household always keeps a hurricane kit on hand. Water, food that doesn’t require refrigeration, batteries, flashlights, battery operated radios, plywood and hurricane clips for the windows. After all this dies down, we intend on investing in a whole house generator.

    Many people I’ve seen here are relying on each other instead of Fema. Neighbors with power are running extension cords next door or across the street to neighbors without power. We do laundry for them, fix hot meals and freeze our own ice to hand out to those trying to save their perishables. Those with chainsaws are cutting downed trees for their neighbors and helping to put up temporary fencing.

    I can’t impress enough on folks living in hurricane prone areas how important it is to keep a basic supply kit on hand. Start stocking up the minute June rolls around. Even when you have several days warning of an iminent hit, you will be competing with thousands, maybe millions of others for those last minute items, and stores don’t carry enough on hand to satisfy everyone’s needs. Get prepared early.

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  • Well, it seems I was wrong and that there will be areas where there won’t be any rebuilding. See here.

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  • And let’s not even mention putting the lives of rescue crews at risk. Oh right, why bother, they get paid to do the job…

    And what is that job? If an adult makes the choice to put their life in danger after being warned and ordered to leave – that is their right. It is NOT their right to endanger the lives of people who did NOT have a choice and truly need to be ‘rescued’. It is NOT their right to endanger the lives of the people giving their time and maybe their lives to ‘rescue’ them.

    Do we have ‘rescue crews’ for bad, stupid or wrong judgment calls? I have made some pretty stupid choices in my life but I would much rather die from my choice than to be ‘rescued’ and have a police officer, fire fighter, doctor, nurse, military or whatever ‘rescue’ worker die because of my poor judgment.

    Every time one of those people goes to work they put their life on the line and honestly they don’t get paid NEAR enough for it. Yes that is their choice. And thankfully for us there are people who do it. So gee lets make their life interesting by ignoring warning that we need to LEAVE and than going shit look there is water help and calling 911.

    Then bitching about 911 not being there to save our ass.

    I live in Texas, have lived here all my life and spent a year living on South Padre Island. If you make the decision to live in a danger zone, be prepared. I don’t think there is even a job for ‘rescue stupid people’. So no I really don’t think there are people standing around getting ‘paid’ waiting for asshats to stand on seawalls taking pictures of the purdy water.

    Of course I could be wrong… hell we elected Bush. Maybe we do have those jobs.

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  • I’m one of those who will take a tornado over a hurricane any day. And I live in a fairly tornado prone area. And if you have access to weather info, you can do a fairly good job of predicting where a tornado will be and get to the basement. And here, the damn sirens go off all over the county, not just in the area. Of course, that means we ignore most of them…and instead listen to the weather radio or the storm watchers as to where activity is. A hurricane….it’s over such a vast area that it scares me. No way would I ever live in those areas. Give me the Midwest anytime. And if you do live in that area, you should be prepared.

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  • First Responders in our area get paid $5 for responding to an emergency call, not even enough to cover gas these days. 3AM, holiday weekend, pouring rain or snowstorm, it doesn’t matter…remember to thank your First Responders if you ever have to use them. They’re also the ones that comfort the elderly when their spouse dies and they’re waiting for family to arrive, the ones doing CPR on basically a corpse to keep the organs working so they can be donated when the person reaches the hospital, and the ones that provide oxygen and water to firefighters while they’re trying to save your house or garage or barn. All for $5 and the good feeling they get for helping their community.

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