The Refusal to Leave
As hurricane Gustav approached South Louisiana, the exodus was massive, the largest in history. No doubt having Katrina and the toxic soup bowl she left behind fresh on their minds, New Orleans was deserted and left to weather the storm alone. She was spared. The storm "turned." The evacuees returned.
Then Ike appeared. It turned also, directly towards Galveston. Reportedly over 140,000 Texans refused to evacuate. Heads of families chose to put their loved ones at risk when authorities announced that staying would amount to "certain death." In 1900, an unnamed hurricane slammed into Galveston. Between 6000 and 12,000 people perished. The death toll from Ike is still unknown.
Why is it that people refuse to evacuate from an approaching hurricane? After Katrina, there was talk of the difficulty of evacuation for so many people who were dependent on public transportation. Evacuation of the sick and infirm can place them as much at risk as staying. For the healthy father with a minivan and a family, remaining in such a perilous place is beyond ludicrous. They place their loved ones at risk of annihilation to save a few possessions from the weather and looters.
Have they become accustomed to not believing the announcements over the airwaves days prior to landfall? Do the announcements need to be revised? Has faith in official announcements dwindled because of doom and gloom forecasts every time a hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico? Does crying wolf over and over reduce the authorities to the status of Chicken Little? Or are these people simply stubbornly refusing to evacuate because they know they can refuse? Is it a childish aversion to authority telling them what they should do? Are they acting on emotions rather than logic? I do not know. I do think that the authorities need to take a hard sociological look at this phenomenon and make adjustments in how they recommend and order evacuations. If they do not, the death toll will only rise.