“One day is fine, next is black…”

Jul 11, 2005 by

(Note: Make sure you don’t miss Loki’s Podcast in the post below this one.)

Over at New Orleans Metroblogs, Chris Martel offers a funny but perceptive breakdown of his personal risk/reward considerations concerning hurricane evacuation. Last Friday, I spoke to at least three friends who were pretty much thinking over the very same issues.

Truly, evacuation is a huge pain in the butt. Especially with family and young children. You either leave early and spend several days in some pit like Shreveport, or you leave at the last minute and risk muddling through eight hours of stop-and-go traffic on the interstate. I know several New Orleanians who are now extremely reluctant to leave due to absolutely miserable evacuation experiences.

Which leads to the question: During this frighteningly “active” hurricane season, at what point will those who are normally inclined to evacuate decide instead to “ride things out” due to too many previous false alarms? Or, in the future, will potential evacuees wait longer and longer before making a decision to leave? And will these trends hinder the city’s efforts when the next, say, Category 3 storm enters the Gulf? I don’t envy the mayor and others who have to deal with these sorts of issues.

If you err too many times on the side of caution, I think you will have fewer and fewer people heed future warnings to get out of town. But what’s the alternative when lives are at stake? Surely the city and state’s leaders can’t play fast and loose with this sort of thing. Quite the dilemma.

Of course, the real problem is that about a third of New Orleanians cannot or will not leave the Crescent City no matter what. When the inevitable “big one” floods our irreplaceable urban bowl, that will spell catastrophe.

Update: (Today’s T-P had an article wherein the Governor comments on the evacuation conundrum)

Although many Louisianians are hurricane-savvy and know when to evacuate, others rely on official direction. In those cases, Blanco said, a premature evacuation is just as harmful as a late one.

“A premature decision causes you problems,” Blanco said. “If you do that constantly, people lose confidence” in officials and will not leave when a major storm imperils [the area].


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