LocaKitty (locakitty) wrote,

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Why I Wouldn't Evacuate

Some people have been wondering, "Why didn't more people evacuate?" There are the obvious reasons: no money, no car, nowhere to go, didn't know a storm was coming (believe it or not, this is actually valid) and physically/mentally unable.
So, I look at these reasons and say, "Well, none of those *really* apply to me." So, why didn't I leave during Charley? First and foremost, I didn't think it was headed for us. We were told it was going to Tampa. So, we stayed. We could have gone down to Naples (which happened after the storm) or to West Palm Beach. But, we stayed. Got some water, turned the fridge and freezer way down to keep things cold and watched the news. After the power went out, we watched the storm go by outside. It was breathtaking. I took video with Bobbie and Josh's digital camera. Even though I was in a storm, I was still outside myself. I never felt in danger. I was in a concrete house and the trees surrounding the house weren't tall enough to cause damage to the house if they fell over (they would have fallen short). I was more worried about my car making it than I was myself or the house.
We weren't on very high ground either. I think maybe 15-20 miles in from the Gulf, 12-19 ft above sea level* and about 4 miles from the Estero River (deep enough for kayaking). The house was one of the highest houses in the neighborhood, just to give some idea. Flood insurance isn't mandatory for that house. So, knowing these facts, we decided to ride it out. Plus, the logistics of moving an 85 lb. dog, 2 cats and, well, the fish would just have to deal, plus most of our worldy posessions (at least, clothes, food, water and various other things), staying just seemed to be the best bet. Plus, insurance would cover it.

So, we lucked out. Lost some screens, the door was warped more than ever before. Had a TON of towels to wash because of water being blown under the door and the heat. The heat was horrible. That's why we headed to Naples, Bobbie's mom still had power. See, after the storm passed, everyone was so happy to be alive that power outages didn't seem such a big deal, but there was something even more important. Life didn't really change that much. At least for the people in southern Lee county, where we lived. The next day, coffee was available at the local convenience store. Gas pumps were being brought back online and the grocery stores were open. It varied from one block to the next. Now, I went on a quest for a laundrymat the day after the storm to wash the towels. One was not to be found, but the atmosphere was much different in northern Lee county than it was in the south. People were a bit more panicky. Lines at gas stations were kind of long, cops were there to prevent fights/riots. I saw a few fights break out over place in line. People were hanging out of hotel windows to get some sort of fresh air, honestly, I was more suprised that the windows could open. :)

Noticing the differences between the two areas made me wonder how Charlotte county (next county north) was faring as far as crowd control and supplies. There was one thing present that put my mind at ease: National Guardspeople with BIG GUNS in camo and helmets standing at intersections and driving around in personnel carriers. So, that was Hurricane Charley.

Let's move on to Hurricane Frances, shall we? Now, I didn't live in West Palm Beach anymore, I lived in Ft. Myers, but all of my family was still there. Huge storm headed for them. Oh shit. Wait, don't panic. OK, try to get hotel rooms in Ft. Myers/Naples, none to be had. I can't fit 10 people into Bobbie's house, I wouldn't even dream of asking, so we are down to: get medicines, get cash, get provisions, get house boarded up, get flashlights, radio, lanterns, candles...ok. Got it. They stayed. They rode out the storm. Now, let's look at 3 parts of my family that stayed, shall we?

1) Parents: house is about 10 miles inland. Maybe 5-15 feet above sea level (I'm a little fuzzy on this one, because we have gotten flooding in the neighborhood, but it has never made it into the house, just right up to the front step) and it's brick on the first story and a wood 2nd story. The house is less than a mile from a canal.

They have no pets, could *maybe* afford to get to Tallahassee, but paychecks don't come for another week. They have friends in South Carolina, but the cars that they have = wouldn't make it to either Tallahassee or South Carolina. They are stuck. Which makes paychecks a moot point, really. The house is fairly solid, they have plywood, just need some provisions and turn down the fridge/freezer to make sure that stuff can stay cold a little longer. They have a gas stove, so cooking food won't be as big of an issue if they only had an electric stove. Plus, they've never evacuated, so why start now? OK, OK, that was kind of a flip question, but, that's how they are. After Andrew hit the Miami area, they have been waiting for the storms to come to WPB and Floyd *almost* did some damage there, but even that petered out when it got to WPB. Frances was a little different, though. So, okay, mom and dad are staying. They are taking my cousin and her kids in for the storm. If my grandmother (adopted) was still alive, she would have been there, too. She lived in a trailer park near us, so, that was a no brainer :)

2) Grandfather and uncle: hey, they are dudes, they have to ride out the storm! Ok, not really. My grandfather doesn't really want to evacuate. He lives a little further out than my parents do, maybe 8 miles inland, but he's fairly highly elevated. It's a one story structure, CBS (concrete, block, stucco) construction, and hey, if the fence goes, he needed a new one anyways. That's how he looks at it. Besides, his daughter and her dogs are coming down to stay with him during the storm. He has plenty of provisions, stocked up on his meds and that's that. His insurance is paid up. He's good to go.

3) Heather and her family: I consider Heather a part of my family. That's why she's included here. :) Now, her mom secured hotel rooms in Tampa through her job (she works for the Radisson), but they wound up releasing them (which probably made about 3 rooms worth of people very happy). Here's why. Heather's grandparents really shouldn't be moved. Simple as that. They are frail. Her grandfather is in his final descent into dementia and her grandmother is about to head into that direction. They both suffer from various ailments and need nursing care. So, moving them would probably kill them. They decide to stay. Heather's family decides that they should all stay together, no matter what. Her two brothers, four sisters, mom, sister in law and nephew all gather in the one house. Her brothers brought down their generators and other implements of destruction. Everyone got food/water/ice/games/radios/etc and got ready to sit through a hurricane.

For them it wasn't a matter of money, cars that wouldn't make it or pets, it was the safety and health of parents/grandparents.

And you know what, I WANTED to stay in WPB for this storm. Yes, part of it was stupidity in the vein of "OMG STORMS ARE KEWLIES11!!!ELEVENTY" and another part was being there for my family. To let them be scared and I would be the brave one. Instead, I evacuated rushomancy and his dog, Dax, out of there for two reasons: he had nowhere to go and having never been through a hurricane, I figured we should start him out slow, not with Frances.

While Frances was no Katrina as far as windspeeds, it was probably a little worse since it just SAT THERE for a day and a half. Charley whipped through fairly quickly, it was over by dinner time, but Frances just sat there for however long and just ripped shit up.

So, why did I write all this? To give a little insight as to why some people stay. It's not just money, lack of transport or wanting to see groovy storm action that make people stay. My parents didn't want to leave their house because their life is in there. When Jeanne came through, my aunt who had evacuated earlier, stayed in her house this go round.

You know why else they stayed? They knew that if something went horribly wrong, someone would save them. They had faith in their family, friends and the authorities. Either I would come in from Ft. Myers to save them from hell or FEMA or the PBC Sheriff's Dept or the National Guard, or even neighbors...someone would help. People would band together. After Frances went through, most of the people in my parent's neighborhood banded together. People were sharing generators, water and food. Helping cart off debris, work on getting rid of ants, looking out for snakes. These are people who hardly knew each other's names helped each other out.

I know and understand that these storms are very different from each other. I know that the cities are very different from each other (as far as sea level, etc) but the psychology is the same. You don't think it's going to be as bad as it's going to be. Look at the people in the Florida Keys. They pretty much get a mandatory evac order with every storm, do you REALLY think that everyone leaves EVERY time that order is given? Exactly. They don't. We all think we are invincible, that it can never happen to us, etc. And even though we would trust that the authorities would come save us, we don't really trust them to tell us when we should leave. Maybe someone with a psych degree can figure that one out.

Yeah, so there ya go. Link, cut/paste, ignore. Do what you want. :) Just know that it's REALLY long. :)

*On some investigation by Bobbie, where her house is, storm surge is to be expected in her area if a Category 3 storm had a direct hit in that neck of the woods. Her house would be affected by that surge.

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