New Storm, New Danger: Complacency Is Your Greatest Threat

Weather Talk
Friday, May 27, 2011 - 1:24pm

For South Louisianans, every summer is a roll of the dice. That’s when hurricane season is in full swing. Each day the threat of a storm looms as families go about their day-to-day lives. Although Louisiana has witnessed direct impacts several times in the past, many still do not heed the warning from officials when an evacuation order is given.

Betsy, Andrew, Rita, and Katrina.

Those four names will make any person from Louisiana anxious as they are the names that evoke the most powerful memories.

Ivan, Georges, Opal, and Isidore.

Those are four names of storms also remembered, but not in the way meteorologists, or officials, hope.

“The Near Miss Dilemma” is the feeling people get when they evacuate for a big storm spinning their way, but the storm either shifts away from their city, or does not do much damage at all. This will give people the idea that evacuating for the next storm is not necessary, creating a sense of complacency.

Every storm has its own story, identity, and unfortunately, its own damage path. Although Hurricane Rita was tragic for Louisiana, it was a welcomed “miss” to Galveston, TX. That miss, however, spawned “The Near Miss Dilemma” in residents, creating greater devastation just three years later.

In 2005, Hurricane Rita churned her way towards Galveston, and mandatory evacuations were issued. Toward the end of the forecast period, it became clear that Rita was not going to directly impact the area. Although some fringe effects were felt, the true damage was left through memory. Many felt as though the evacuation was a waste of time and money.

In 2008, once again a major hurricane, Ike, was churning its way toward Galveston. Once again the mandatory evacuation was issued, but this time, the reaction was much different.

Despite warning from the National Weather Service saying that residents living in single-family homes in some parts of coastal Texas faced “certain death” if they did not heed orders to evacuate, many stayed, fearing it was going to be a replay of Rita. Sadly, 112 people lost their lives and 23 are still missing to this day. Most of that loss could have been avoided had people evacuated in time.

For Louisiana, the game changer was Katrina. The devastation caused by the storm surge/levee failure is etched into the collective minds of not only the nation, but the entire world, as the media documented the torture experienced by those who stayed behind in the inundated city.

Not only do many compare future storms to Katrina, but some are unwilling to evacuate unless the storm is expected to be as bad. This can be a dangerous proposition. You’ll hear people make comments about potential storms such as, “Is it as bad as Katrina?”, or “I made it through Katrina, I can make it through this one.”

Although many people will stay behind for any number of reasons, it is important to always remember that every storm is unique, and comparing one to another can cost you greatly. Remember, it is better to lose some money on an evacuation that may not have been necessary, than to lose your life.

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