The Chronicle does a poll about the Rita evacuation.
If a Category 4 hurricane had a bead on Houston, 62 percent would leave — a slightly higher percentage than actually did flee ahead of Rita, according to the poll.
"You would have thought that people who had spent more than 10 hours on the road, would say, 'This is crazy, I won't do it again,' " said Bob Stein of Rice University, who conducted the poll along with Richard Murray of the University of Houston. "When the hurricane doesn't hit and doesn't do a lot of damage, people reconsider evacuating. But people don't have any regrets."
The poll is consistent with official estimates that about 2.5 million people left the area, Stein said.
About 70 percent of those who left were afraid of the storm — fearing for their safety from wind and flooding — as Rita seemed poised for a near-direct hit. Only one in five listed evacuation orders as the primary motivation for taking flight, according to the poll of residents in Harris and seven adjacent counties.
Sixty-two percent of people living in Rita evacuation areas left, compared with 42 percent not living in those areas.
But Stein said his analysis of poll responses showed that people who left non-evacuation zones feared the hurricane's effects slightly more than those who left more vulnerable areas.
"If you were in an evacuation zone you accept that risk and don't assess it as very high," he said. People who live in Galveston, for example, may accept higher risks in exchange for enjoying the island city's seaside amenities.
Officials requested residents in storm surge areas to leave their homes on Wednesday, Sept. 21. About a third who evacuated heeded the warning then and hit the road.
That evening's forecast, the most ominous of the week, brought a larger response: More than half who evacuated left Thursday.
Almost half of the evacuees said they stayed in caravans of more than one car, a factor that likely contributed to the traffic congestion. Thirty percent who said they left with three companions or fewer — a group that could have fit into most cars — left in multiple vehicles, according to the poll.
"People in the most vulnerable areas clearly anticipated their cars, like their homes, would be at risk," Stein said. "It's suggestive of people taking their cars, not because they had a lot of people to protect, but because they were taking their second-most valuable possession."
Half of the evacuees headed for small towns in Texas. Dallas and Austin were the next-most popular destinations.
Bottom line, as I've said before: Any reevaluation of the evacuation plan must take into account the fact that more people will leave than you expect. Take any approach you want to that problem, from staging the evacuation differently to opening contraflow lanes more quickly to trying to convince some people to not leave, but expect the roads to be fuller than you think.Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 06, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack