General Question

RayaHope's avatar

Why did so many people choose to NOT evacuate Florida knowing that horrible hurricane was coming?

Asked by RayaHope (7448points) September 29th, 2022

They put the rescue people at risk, their pets and themselves. Why not just leave until it was over and safe to come back?

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22 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Many reasons.

Sometimes it is difficult to find a shelter that will take pets, so they stay home with their pets. Although, Florida does have shelters that take pets, I don’t know how available they are around the state.

They feel they will be able to take care of their house better if they are home, which can be true in some situations, but not when you are in the eye of a catastrophic storm near the water.

They believe they will be ok, and getting back to your house afterwards can be a pain in the neck. Sometimes you have to wait days to go back home afterwards.

They have been through hurricanes before, and everything was ok, so they think it will be ok again. Previously, maybe the hurricane jogged and didn’t even hit, or the eye wasn’t near them and they think they have been through a cat 4 before, but really the cat 4 eye last time was 50 miles away and they were only experiencing cat 2 wind and storm surge.

A lot of people don’t understand that evacuation is primarily done for flooding not the wind speeds, and that when water rushes in many feet deep, there is nothing you can do. The exception is mobile homes and very old buildings with old roofs and windows cannot withstand the hurricane winds.

I don’t know if all of the areas that are now devastated were in mandatory evacuation zones. Definitely a lot of them were, but there might be areas in very bad shape that were not under evacuation orders that are really suffering. The people weren’t being obstinate, they were just assuming it would be ok, because they were not in an evacuation zone.

People told to evacuate are usually advised to go inland and stay in their counties. They don’t want people traveling 6 counties away.

Evacuating means staying at a shelter, or with a friend or relative, or paying for a hotel. The last one can be really difficult for people who are poor. Florida does make efforts to help evacuate the poor, elderly, infirmed, and people without transportation.

RayaHope's avatar

I saw some videos of the aftermath and OMG it is terrible. Total destruction and the flooding is insane, I feel so bad for them. I don’t know how I could handle all that carnage and lose everything you own. Not to mention some people didn’t even make it through. :(

JLeslie's avatar

Over 700 rescues so far. It’s horrible.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

S T O O P I D !

Pandora's avatar

Sometimes people are stuck. They don’t have money to stay anywhere or know where to go or are able to evacuate because of lack of transport. Your elderly are more likely to stay behind especially if they have pets and Florida is filled with elderly people.

It can be frustrating for people as well to have to keep picking up all their stuff and moving and missing work if the storm hardly does any damage. Especially if they can’t afford to miss work. Some jobs will tell you don’t come into work on the day of the storm or the day after but if it hardly did any damage they expect you back by the 2nd day and if you don’t show you won’t get paid. And if you drove out of the state to stay with family 2 states away, it can take you a few days to get back because you may have to drive through areas that got damaged, and traffic is horrible.

My family lives in NC and the last big hurricane that hit them had them staying with me for a week. The house was fine except for some missing roof tiles but even after a week, they had no power for almost another week.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Do some people stay to protect their homes and belonging from looters?
I don’t know if that is actually a problem but I can see how it is possible. All the residents are supposedly gone; police are tied up with other issues; power and communication is not reliable.
Crazy as it sounds I might be one of those folks staying behind with a Go-kit of everything I need to last a week anywhere. If my home survived then no problem. If it were flooded to the point of destruction I’d move to one of the other higher, unoccupied homes.

We live in the snow belt and can have pretty brutal snow depths. Everyone is in it together. We have an expression that goes: “There are no enemies in a snowstorm.” The meaning is, everyone helps everyone else. I push your car if you’re stuck. You push mine.
I don’t know if that same thinking holds with Floridians during a hurricane.

seawulf575's avatar

Living in a hurricane area (coastal NC) I am familiar with the concerns of evacuation. When storms are coming there is always the consideration of evacuation. @JLeslie hit a lot of the things. What to do with pets seems to be one.

Things I have always considered are things like: what is the category of the storm? What is the likely path…will it be a direct hit on us or will it be going to one side? How fast is the storm moving? Where can I evacuate to? If I evacuate, what are the chances of being able to get back to the house in a timely fashion? What are the traffic conditions in my evacuation path?

All these things are considerations. Surprisingly things like Will I Lose Power? are not considerations. I’ve lived here for 11 years now and have been through a few big storms. I have only evacuated for one. Hurricane Florence. There were mixed and misleading reports on the strength of this storm…it was a Cat 2 and then a potential Cat 4 or 5, but then came in as a Cat 1. We evacuated to my cousin’s house in Atlanta. Again…that was a solid 6–8 hour trip depending on traffic/weather/etc. Something to consider…driving through bad weather can be every bit as dangerous as hunkering down. Once we got to Atlanta, we were stuck. There was absolutely no way to get back home following Flo leaving town. We had to stay for 10 days. In the end I had to plan a travel path based partly on tides. When high tide hits, the rivers swell and flooding on the roads happens. When tides ebb, the rivers recede and the flooding goes away allowing passage. I threaded the needle.

Hurricane Matthew was a much stronger storm, but we rode it out. It was something like a Cat 3 storm. But it was a fast mover. To put it in perspective, Florence at one point was moving 1.5 mph and Matthew was closer to 25 mph. That means Matthew blew through and was gone whereas Florence came and stayed, dumping tons of rain.

jca2's avatar

Evreryone gave really good ideas, above.

I was thinking about people not wanting to leave their homes because of looting, which often seems to happen after a disaster when everyone is away, and structures are ripped open. People want to stay and secure their items.

Pets are another biggie, as mentioned above. One ore two cats or dogs may be do-able, but with a lot of pets, or some pets which are hard to move, it could be tough.

Being poor with no money for gas or having a crappy car which might not make it for a drive of hundreds of miles, that could be a big consideration for people. The money issue described so well by @Pandora, with people having to miss work or the job expecting them the next day, that would be a big deterrent.

I have friends on the east side of Florida, and I see them posting parties at outdoor bars during the hurricanes and tropical storm watch. I guess all the yahoos come out and use it as a reason to get drunk, in solidarity.

Here in NY, we have had a few bad hurricanes in the past 10 years or so, and one time, I went to my mom’s and we stayed at a hotel. It was a Doubletree, and they charged us $350 a night which was the rack rate, meanwhile, a typical Doubletree stay would have been about 150–200 a night. I called up and told the Manager that for 350 a night, she could at least give us free breakfast, and so she did. We had the last available room in the hotel. The hotel had power, we did not have power at home and it was end of October so it was cold. We stayed three nights, I think.Another time, we stayed at a friend’s time share up in Massachusetts. It was two bedrooms, so my parents and my daughter came, and it wasn’t a bad stay, but we were there 8 nights. Thank God for my friend having the time share with the flexibility for that last minute stay. For that one, there was no power at home, but power at the time share and also, at home there were stories about long gas lines and no gas at a lot of places, and in Massachusetts there were no issues with that.

When we’ve had no power for bad storms, my neighbors hunker down or they have generators and they just stay home and deal with it. After those storms, the power companies have trimmed a lot of trees that are near power lines so we’ve been lucky for the past few years.

RayaHope's avatar

@jca2 Sounds like that hotel was charging you an extremely high rate, three nights was over a thousand dollars. yikes! They should have made you breakfast AND a car payment. Thank God you all were okay, that’s what matters most!

jca2's avatar

@RayaHope: Yes, that’s called the “rack rate” which is the standard rate without discounts. It’s also called “fucking people because you can.”

JLeslie's avatar

Regarding looting, I usually don’t hear about too much looting in residential areas, but I’ve seen it in commercial areas in places like Miami in the past, and it probably happens in other areas, but it doesn’t seem widespread to me. Nighttime curfews usually take care of the looting for the most part.

The curfews are for safety also. When streets are totally dark they are extremely dangerous, especially intersections that usually have traffic lights. Traffic light intersection that are black are supposed to be four-way stops, but people completely miss them at night and just blow right through even if they know the law, a lot of people don’t even know that traffic law. Also debris on the ground and streets can’t be seen easily.

I don’t doubt there will be some theft, but hopefully not things very sentimental. With the flooding most things in the house are ruined anyway, although people in flood prone areas usually put valuables, photos, and important documents up at least a few feet if they can’t take those items with them, or even if they stay they do it as part of preparing.

Florida is hot, and when there is water intrusion, the humid air can start destroying things fast with mold.

We have gouging laws. Hopefully hotels aren’t doing that here. I haven’t checked prices.

Biden specifically urged oil companies and gas stations not to gouge with gas prices.

chyna's avatar

A friend of mine’s ex husband lives there and didn’t evacuate because he he has extreme back pain.
So physically he would not have been able to pack anything and leave. Of course, staying could have killed him. But he didn’t have too much damage to his home.

JLeslie's avatar

Disney Dolphin is $227 tonight. Not a gouging price at all, that’s one of their lower prices throughout the year.

Other Orlando hotels look to be normal price or maybe $50 more, not extremely high. Some hotels like Courtyard and Fairfield as low at $140.

Down closer to Southeast Florida in Sarasota there are still hotels around $150—$250 a night. There are hotels up above $300, but probably always are, because they are fancier hotels on the water.

RayaHope's avatar

@JLeslie I’m not sure but when my mom booked the hotel a few weeks ago she said it was about $160 per night. Hope that hasn’t changed since.

JLeslie's avatar

If it’s booked it’s booked. It can’t change.

KNOWITALL's avatar

A lot of my friends stayed, they were not in the high impact area though. And a lot of people are fatalists, either it’s your time or it’s not. Shrug.

JLeslie's avatar

Typo: Southwest FL.

janbb's avatar

I stayed at a nearby friend’s house during Sandy; came back to my house after two nights. No power for 12 days and some minor tree damage. I stayed with some other friends nearby for part of the time and came back to check on my house periodically.

We also have had the power company around cutting down branches and trees near the lines.

Entropy's avatar

I knew someone who was reluctant to evacuate in previous hurricanes. The attitude is that many of these folks have lived through alot of hurricanes and many know what they need to do to wait them out. So they get complacent, especially since the media treat EVERY storm like it’s the End of the World. So they get disaster-fatigue. This leave them vulnerable when an ACTUAL deadly one shows up.

This is something meteorologists are well aware of. I heard an interview with one complaining about, in his case, blizzards. Everytime the weather prediction calls for big snow and then the storm veers off course at the last second or turns out to be weaker than expected, the public gets disaster fatigue…and the next time they prepare less. Then when a big blizzard hits, people are unprepared and get caught on roads they shouldn’t have been on in the first place.

So this particular meteorologist was complaining ‘what do I do?’ If he sounds the alarm everytime he sees a potential big one approaching and is wrong 4 times out or 5, he may paradoxically be leaving the public less attentive when that 5th moment hits. On the other hand, if he tries to ration how often he sounds the alarm, he might be wrong in the other direction and a storm might prove worse than he expected. It’s a tough balancing act for a job that’s more about probability than certainty.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Heard from three friends that had to evacuate from around Venice FL. one had the house destroyed; back sliding glass doors gone, holes in siding that went into interior walls and roof partially gone. The other two were a little further North of Venice, both had water go through the houses, one didn’t have flood insurance, repairs will be on their dime.

RayaHope's avatar

@Entropy I never realized weatherman have it so rough.
@Tropical_Willie I feel for them and no insurance is terrible. I don’t live in a flood-prone area, but if we did I would hope we had insurance for that.

JLeslie's avatar

I always tell new Floridians to listen to local news, local weather reports, the governor, and local officials, and the storm track updates from the national weather center at 11:00 and 5:00. In Florida if you are told to evacuate you should, because we don’t evacuate just everyone, it’s thought over very carefully. The national “weather news” might be saying everything is a catastrophe and the whole state will be blown apart, but local information is not like that.

I don’t remember when the evacuation order happened for Ft. Myers and areas immediately adjacent, it’s possible they had orders very late in the game making it more frustrating and difficult to evacuate, since the first target was Tampa. Evacuations started a few days before the storm hit in the Tampa Bay area. I assume the islands in the area of Ft. Myers were under orders even as early as when the Tampa area was, but maybe not the mainland, or maybe only Evacuation area A, but not B and C?

Jellies with relatives in those areas, the relatives probably know if their was a failure to designate areas more south as evacuation areas in a timely manner.

Florida has zones for evacuation and people can check what zone they live in. Islands and areas very close to shore the police and other officials drive the streets and knock on doors making sure people know to evacuate. People who decide to stay can register to say they are staying in place and not evacuating.

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