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."