We need to take our cues from nature...so many times when a storm is approaching, people will report seeing the animals acting unusually. I will never forget the image of about 100 ducks sitting in a circle in a protected courtyard of my condo complex during the brunt of hurricane wilma. One of the most striking images I have ever seen.
What I am trying to say, is that if a storm threatens, ordinary life does get interrupted, even for the ducks. Living in harmony with our environment is not a concept that we have really been taught or even practice. When you are lucky enough to live on the ocean's edge, there needs to be an understanding that even such a beautiful setting can be dangerous at times. Living in harmony with that would be recognizing that and getting out of harms way when a storm surge threatens.
If you are under a hurricane warning and live in an evacuation zone ordered to evacuate, how can it ever be said that 'we evacuated for nothing' if an area is lucky enough to be spared the worst? Is saving your own and your family's life a 'for nothing' decision to make? We need to start listening more and thinking less in some respects...if we are told to leave due to a storm, we need to take that seriously and understand the message....a direct hit will inundate my community. Drowning is not a 'somewhat survivable' risk to encounter. If your home is in a surge zone and 15' above sea level and a 20' storm surge is forecast given a direct hit, people need to understand that subjecting themselves and their family to water 5' above their heads is worth leaving for.
If people feel they are veteran storm survivors and made it through some landmark storms without flooding, they are blessed. But there is no scientific reason why an area 15' above sea level in a surge zone will not flood with a 20' storm surge given a worst case hit. Why one area 15' above sea level in a surge zone did not flood with "(fill in the blank with a name like Camille, Audrey, Hugo, etc)" has more to do with that areas location in relation to landfall than anything else.
Rarely have I heard that people stayed behind because they didn't know a storm was coming or didn't know that an evacuation order is in effect. More often people stay because they have made the decision that 'it is not coming here'. We hear it all on the time....storms don't hit Tampa, storms don't hit after a certain month, etc. It is not the lack of easy to understand info that is the problem, it is that people are making catastrophically bad decisions to gamble with their lives. Of course evacuating is stressful and a nuisance and maybe even logistically a challenge...but how is that the ducks know to change locations and seek refuge during a storm but humans throw 'caution to the wind' and become the real 'sitting ducks'?
The public needing better surge forecasts is a very small part of the solution to getting better compliance with evacuation orders. Such forecasts are not even possible given the margin of error of a storm 2 days out from landfall. All that the public needs to understand is that if they are under a hurricane warning and ordered to evacuate, that means a direct landfall..or a worst case hit... will probably drown them and their famlies if they stay. They may luck out, but if it comes to pass, they are doomed. Officials have done the leg work for us...taken the guesswork out....they don't order evacuation orders lightly. They have the maps and data to back those decisions up...that goes with the whole 'public service' aspect of their jobs.
Warnings during Katrina and Ike come to mind....they are some of the most graphic warnings I have ever read. A day or 2 before landfall terms like 'certain death is likely' and 'uninhabitable for months' were used by the NHC and NWS offices. Honestly I expected them to receive some criticism for being 'alarmist.' That invokes much more of a reaction in me than some 'code red, level IIIA storm surge warning' that may be issued....and the public can understand that better as well. I think the ability of the public to understand the threat of a storm is underestimated. What they do with that comprehension, however, is another thing.
It comes down to this...if you don't believe in your mind that a storm, regardless of category (and boy oh boy....what an education some major metro population areas lke Houston and South Florida have gotten in the last few years on even what cat1/cat 2 conditions can do thanks to ike and wilma), you are not going to respond appropriately no matter the warning system in place. If you are told to leave, go with flow...best case, it was a nuisance and waste of time and stressful. Consider those some of the inevitable 'perks' of being alive and safe.
DanKellFla wrote:Thanks wxman57, really good information. Everything seems obvious now that you mention it. So, I guess we are back to 'Listen to the Weather Service' and 'Just because the last storm didn't get you, doesn't mean that this one won't.'
I would rather evacuate 9 times for no reason, than not evacuated one time and wish I did.