Why Do so Many People Ignore Evacuation Orders During a Hurricane?

Picture it. You live on the Gulf Coast. You’re a suddenly single mother of three who’s presently without a job or income. The Nth named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season enters the Gulf. The media begins its preparation propaganda, sounding the alarm for people to top off their tanks, fill their pantries, gather medications, and buy an infinite supply of water. You have about six dollars in the bank and about three more in your gas tank. You are barely able to keep one shelter over your head and they’re telling you to plan your evacuation route now and seek some elsewhere. You turn on the TV and listen to the weather guy drone on and on about people living in the flood plain, coastal residents, and something about securing your yard ornaments. A quick glance at the screen reveals a bunch of squiggly lines criss-crossing the Gulf, representing the predicted path of destruction..which happens to be right down the middle of your own backyard. The countdown begins – seventy two hours to go.

You could take one of the buses being offered to the city to one of the designated shelters further inland. Then you think back to 2005 and Hurricane Katrina. Stark images of hungry people in crowded, unsanitary conditions for days on end cross your mind. You think of your kids being exposed to God knows who for who knows how long. Waiting in line with the masses for basic necessities like food and bedding for your kids. Confined in the setting, regardless of how horrible it might be, until someone with the authority to return you home decides it’s safe to do so and that they are ready and able. In essence, relinquishing all control to someone else and trusting them, sight unseen, to take care of you.

Your thoughts wander back to your finances and your eyes wander back to the television screen. You don’t have any relatives you could stay with and no friends either. There’s nobody able to offer financial assistance of any kind. Gas is $4 a gallon and even if you had money to fill your tank, you wouldn’t have any left for lodging and food during the time you were away from home. Even if you did, you dare say your car would make it, being that it’s in desperate need of repair. You realize you might find yourself weathering the storm on the side of the road somewhere in your broken down car with your three kids.

So you turn off the television, make your kids a sandwich, enjoy the electricity while it lasts, prepare for the worst…and hope for the best.

The reason that so many people choose to ignore evacuation orders in the wake of a landfalling hurricane can be summed up in one word – poverty.

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