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To evacuate or not to evacuate during a hurricane?

Recent study shows surprising result
Posted: 8:53 PM, Sep 12, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-13 08:40:13Z

About 1.7 million people along the East coast in three states are under evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Florence.

It brings back memories to one year ago this week, when Florida’s largest evacuation in history ahead of Hurricane Irma took place.

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But according to a recent survey, many Floridians might change their mind in the future.

A survey by the National Hurricane Survival Institute found that three out of five Floridians who have lived within an evacuation zone, chose to stay during a storm.

Experts say whether or not you evacuate boils down to proper planning and following the facts.

Sandy Mallah remembers fearing for the home he had just bought last fall along Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach.

"I was still up north in Boston, had no idea what the damage extent was," he said.

Violent waves crashed against this sea wall near his home. Luckily, he had just fence damage and tree damage in his yard.

If another storm comes, he says he would evacuate but it would depend on the circumstances and where the storm is forecast to make landfall.

"Very often, storms change direction," he said. "You would think that by this point in time, science would have a better handle on exactly where a storm is gonna end up, but the power of nature never allows us to get there."

The NHSI survey also found that 18 percent of Floridians still wouldn't evacuate ahead of a category 4 storm if it came within 10 miles of their home. And more than half of Floridians who live in evacuation zones have ignored orders in the past.

Other findings of the survey of 1,000 Floridians conducted from Aug. 23 to Sept. 2 include:

  • A majority of Floridians who evacuated during Hurricane Irma said the process cost them more than $300. Of these, 40% said the evacuation cost them $500 or more, while an additional 20% said the cost was between $300 and $500.
  • For the most part, Floridians are more prepared to meet the needs of their pets in a storm than they are the humans in their home.
  • The portion of Floridians who mistakenly believe it’s safe to run a generator somewhere in the home has increased over the past nine months.
  • More than one-third of Floridians who live less than 2 miles from the coast don’t have flood insurance.
  • More than half don’t know what their homeowners or renters insurance covers in a hurricane, with many incorrectly believing insurance covers things like replacing spoiled food, removing debris from the yard, and buying a generator.

Daniel Blackburn of Boynton Beach says he would stay put because he's invested time and money in protecting his home against wind and water.

"I installed hurricane windows just before Hurricane Irma," he said. “The house is 15 feet above sea level so I’m not really worried about storm surge -- They do lower the canal by a few feet, every time a storm is coming."

Blackburn added, “Pay attention to the facts, the forecast. I over prepare and hope for the best.”

Bill Johnson of the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center said the circumstances around evacuations is a double edged sword.

"The problem that we saw with Irma was that about 45 percent of the population that evacuated, didn't need to evacuate," he said.

He says if you live in an evacuation zone, think miles, not hundreds of miles.

"Driving a few miles inland to a friends house, coworker, family member's home," he said. "Every storm is different, so people should people should listen to the local experts."

Johnson said the EOC chooses evacuation zones based on storm surge and flooding.
    
Water causes about 75 percent of the deaths during a hurricane.