Hurricane Evacuations: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
For the past week the weather reports have become more and more ominous. Homes and businesses are boarded up. A pallet of water sells out in minutes. It is daunting; there is always one more way to prepare when preparing for any possibility. The hardest decision of all is deciding whether or not to evacuate; and everyone has strong opinions.
There are no easy decisions. Is it better to go or safer to stay?
The Hurricane is now tomorrow. Stress has begun to warp into exhaustion and the tension has to be worse than any noise a hurricane can muster. Although a Category 5 on the Saffir-Sampson scale would come very close.
The phone won’t stop ringing. Over and over on the other end of the line is an automatic voice speaking in clipped tones. This is a mandatory evacuation. Take to the nearest evacuation route. This is not a drill. This is a mandatory evacuation.
A mandatory evacuation does not mean it is punishable by law to stay. However, those who stay must be self-sufficient. There will be no help coming in until the worst has passed.
Division in the Community… and on Social Media
Hurricane Florence in 2018 exposed a sharp divide in our Greater Topsail community (as well as Wilmington/New Hanover County). Although it has perhaps always been present, social media’s ability to allow everyone’s opinion be uploaded made the divide between those who evacuate and those who don’t more apparent.
An update during the storm alerts followers the power has gone out. When the generator kicks on, the update has received attention. Amidst well-wishes, prayers, and sympathetic worry, is blame.
Serves you right. What did you expect? That’s what you get.
As if the torrential downpour of Florence devastating Sneads Ferry wasn’t enough, some people felt it necessary to throw in their own brand of damage along with the storm’s. Any harm brought on those who stayed was seen as warranted. If you ignore an evacuation then this is what you deserve.
The criticism extends the other way, also. Leaving is likened to cowardice as if it only takes gumption to get through a storm safely. (This is ABSOLUTELY FALSE, if you’re wondering)
There are no easy decisions to make during a hurricane and every hurricane is different. Whether staying put or heeding evacuation orders, there are advantages and risks on both sides.
What is the hardest part about evacuating?
Evacuating is fraught with its own problems. All the worst-case scenarios play at full volume when the situation is out of anyone’s control. Even if you can afford to leave that doesn’t mean the unexpected expenditure doesn’t hurt. The fear for property and neighbors is a heavy burden, especially when the power cuts off and there is no way of knowing what’s happening back home. Evacuating means perhaps never coming back home.
Many buildings that needed to be demolished after Florence looked perfect on the outside. Inside was a different story. Those who stayed during the storm were able to tend to leaks and run dehumidifiers that prevented black mold from growing. Most homes left vacant became overrun with rot in the weeks it took some to get back.
Why do people choose to stay during a hurricane?
Tending to damage more immediately is one reason to stay despite an evacuation order. Another is preparedness. Generators, water, food, and experience are crucial when choosing to stay despite an evacuation.
There are as many reasons to leave as there are to stay. There is, however, no reason to shame one choice over another. Just as every hurricane is different, so are the factors that contribute to anyone’s decision.
Some people don’t have the option to leave.
When families evacuated for Florence some would not be able to return for weeks due to the terrific state of the roads. An impromptu “hurrication” is not an expense that fits all budgets. The hospitals evacuated non-critical patients during Florence. Despite not being considered critical, that does not necessarily mean they were fit to travel. Elderly community members, too, might be unable to leave safely.
For those who can stay and remain relatively safe, they become an incredible resource for those who need help and can be of immense service. Neighbors can be looked after. Able to update, those who stay can provide a realistic description of the situation that might not be what the media is conveying.
Among those that stay to be a resource are folks like Eric Corbett, of East Coast Consolidated, who removed trees fallen trees from the roads (in between hurricane bands) so that the linemen could get in to restore power more efficiently. Once it was safe to do so, Sneads Ferry LP Gas Co. owner Drake Jenkins was out refilling propane tanks for those with generators. County employees are assigned to coverage for their respective Emergency Operations Centers; along with those who work on Camp Lejeune and Marines that are ordered to shelter in place to be ready to assist where needed.
Shaming evacuation choices is ignorant, at best.
Many people felt the need to shame those who stayed during Hurricane Florence. For every critical voice, there has been a hug of appreciation for those first-hand accounts. Footage taken during the storm has been viewed thousands of times and people commented that it made them feel better. It looked rough, but it least now they knew. The expressions of gratitude proved greater than the judgement for staying but the cracks are all still there. And there’s nothing a hurricane likes more than making sinkholes of cracks.
Why is the issue of whether or not to evacuate so divisive among the community?
The fear that the decision you’re making is the wrong one drives insecurity and then, in turn, people to lash out. Every hurricane is different, but they all inflict damage. The community’s choices and reaction to a mandatory evacuation does not need to do the same. As stress and tempers flare, let’s not forget that our goal is the same, to get through this together and safely.