Oh! - Darling, you got to let me know - Should I stay or should I go? - If you say that you are mine - I'll be here till the end of time - So you got to let me know - Should I stay or should I go?
The Clash, not quite the soundtrack people will be listening to with Dorian expected to make landfall on Tuesday. But the sentiment will be well known to Florida residents as they are engaged in a complex, high-stakes set of financial, logistical and psychological calculations of whether to stay or go.
Family, business, pets, livestock, parents, children, commitments, history all playing their part in the decisin of what to do – Should I stay or Should I go?
People follow the weather and gauge their own tolerance for risk, weighing everything up and trying to measure the cone of uncertainty for when and if to leave. Many a dinner table will be tied up with these conversations and CNN et al will be doing their best to whip up stories and panic amongst the relatives to ensure everyone has an opinion.
This dilemma has a long history in the USA and globally. Nearly 100 people died in vehicles while trying to evacuate from Hurricane Rita in 2005. And then tens of thousands of people who did not evacuate during Hurricane Harvey required rescue. Officials and the public were criticized for their decision to evacuate or not to evacuate in both storms. Then there is the memory of 2017 Hurricane Irma, residents evacuated and the track kept changing, constantly shifting direction. This tips some in the direction of waiting it out.
Today with the cable channels turning every breaking news story in to a spots like coverage with Leavers and Stayers on both sides of the debate 24 hours a day with updates to storm-track projections, information and misinformation on the internet, just how to you manage the decision to go? Sandy came and went between Monday October 22, 2012 – Friday November 2, 2012, the chart shows the evacuation up to Monday 29th October 2012. Hurricane Sandy made landfall about 8 p.m. EDT Oct. 29, striking near Atlantic City, N.J., with winds of 80 mph.
The decision to leave affects different communities, for instance Hurricanes can be particularly deadly for people who live on boats and ignore evacuation orders. For Dorian, this weekend has seen live-aboard sloops and big power boats pulling away from the docks on the edge of Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove. These are the early evacuees.
For many households, the cost of evacuation and finding a place to stay is a major factor in the decision to go or stay. Others need to consider aging family members, pets and children, and the type of structure they call home.
What leads a family or person to leave?
Behavioral studies show hurricane evacuation rates can be explained by a many factors, some discussed above, media communication, forecast risk, a person’s location, people with young children, elderly, availability of transportation, place to go. These studies all look to the probability side of the decision. The rest is down to a persons risk sensitivity - some people who believe they’ll be safe no matter what.
So, the issues is the danger part, whether storm surge could actually happen to me and result in my death or loss of livelihood. The key here is education and giving people the right information and time to do what they feel they need and must do. It comes down to 1. Making sure the people at risk know they are. And 2. Make sure people who can safely stay home know that.
These are the two groups of people that need to be informed far enough ahead of time that they can know which group they are in and what to do. This comes down to prediction and dissemination of the data.
The National Hurricane Centre manages these warnings and the probability. They do this through different levels of warning.
- A) Tropical Storm Watch: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified coastal area within 48 hours.
- B) Tropical Storm Warning: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area within 36 hours.
- C) Hurricane Watch: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified coastal area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
- D) Hurricane Warning: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
These warnings inform the predictions and tracking and are constantly updated to give people the much needed time to prepare and plan.
Studies indicate that authorities need to allow a full 24 hours after definitive evacuation orders for people to get ready and actually leave. Preparing to go, coordinating work and family members, and organizing transportation can take a full day. And after that, evacuees may need 10 hours of daylight to travel before hurricane force winds arrive. People like to leave in daylight. Storms don’t always fit around human issues. Clearance times for the Miami area, for instance, run 20 to 30 hours, depending on the size of storm forecast.
As noted above in the SANDY chart, this 24+10 hour time frame is approximately how far out hurricane forecasters can accurately predict where storm surge impact is likely to be.
In the case of evacuation for a hurricane that can be many days away, when the cost of mobilizing is high and the probability of it being needed is very low preparation should be key with a count down process.
So back to the Clash – should I go or should I stay …… “Prepare for the worst” well in advance, “know what the worst case could be and be prepared to face it if it comes to pass.” Know this 24 hour in advance and leave, even if its dark!!
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