November 03, 2008
You hunker down. I'm bugging out.

A lot of people who took the official advice to stay put and shelter in place during Hurricane Ike are saying they won't be doing that the next time a big storm comes this way.

More than eight in 10 Harris County residents responding to a survey for the Houston Chronicle heeded local officials' advice to ride out Hurricane Ike at home, but only 56 percent said they would stay home if another hurricane threatened the area.

The survey also showed that 78 percent of respondents rated local government's handling of the hurricane recovery as excellent or good. Respondents weren't asked about the performance of federal agencies, which are providing most of the recovery money.

The 82 percent who reported that they stayed home during Ike reflects a concerted effort by state and local officials to avoid a repeat of the disastrous mass evacuation prior to Hurricane Rita in 2005, when 110 people died and many motorists ran out of gas en route to other cities.


In the Zogby International poll for the Chronicle, however, 28 percent said that based on their Ike experience, they would evacuate if another hurricane bore down on Houston. Another 16 percent weren't sure what they would do.

[Houston Mayor Bill] White and [Harris County Judge Ed] Emmett attributed the finding to several factors, including the inconvenience experienced by families who had no power for weeks and uncertainty about how severe or destructive the next hurricane might be.

"It's a free country, and people are free to make their decisions," White said. "If somebody felt like their structure was particularly unsafe or it would be an extreme hardship to be without electricity, then they need to take that into account."

Emmett said that after speeches he has given since Ike struck, residents have told him they might leave prior to the next hurricane, partly because of the power problem.

The county judge said he reminds these people that if they had left, they likely would have seen news reports of damage in their neighborhoods and been tempted to rush back to check on their property.

In that circumstance, "you're better off staying where you are," Emmett said. "The time to make your plan to leave is after you lose power and you've secured your house."

I've said before and I'll say again, I think emotion and one's level of risk tolerance influence this decision-making process more than rational appeals from government officials ever will. I also think that whatever people did last time, a significant number will want to do the opposite the next time, just based on the fact that whichever choice you make will suck, so the alternative will look better by default. I think once we come to terms with this, we'll be in a better position to know what to do each time.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 03, 2008 to Hurricane Katrina

There is no doubt that if a hurricane heads this way within the next few years there will be a much larger number of people who will evacuate. In this era, one day is one too many days to go without electricity. People are not going to want to deal with days without power, business and school closures, long lines to get gas, traffic light outages, etc...

Posted by: cb on November 3, 2008 2:00 PM
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