Gulf Coast Hurricane Tracker

A single source reference on tropical weather predictions. With a traditional focus on the upper Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast we've maintained links to track all Atlantic Basin, Caribbean and eastern Pacific storm systems. We are now expanding our view to tropical storms throughout the world intending to be a comprehensive global storm tracking resource.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Evacuation still the best option WHEN REQUIRED

After the evacuation for Hurricane Rita, many people claimed they would never do that again. They would rather ride out the storm than sit in that traffic again. It took me 14 hours to drive a distance than normally took 4. And I think the only reason it wasn't longer was that I met some people who pointed me to a back roads short cut that was empty.

I remember that the same situation existed in 1992 when we evacuated when Hurricane Andrew was heading towards us. At that time the roads out of Orange county to the north were a parking lot so we headed west towards Houston. It took us 4 hours to drive 110 miles while some friend needed the same 4 hours to drive 30 miles. Then the officials in Beaumont said that the next time there was an evacuation, they would block all east west travel and force us into a northward path. I didn't think it was right for Jefferson county bureaucrats to decide the fate of people who lived in the next county over. Fortunately, we didn't have to evacuate again from there until Rita.

I am certain that the same situation existed in New Orleans, Miami, Mobile, Charleston, SC and every other major city faced with an evacuation in the threat of an oncoming storm. That is just reality. Face it folks - we can't get through town in an hour during rush hour let alone during an evacuation. That doesn't eliminate the need to go. It is critical that everyone evacuate when they are told to. Yes the traffic will be bad. Yes it will take longer to get to point B - SO WHAT! This is your life that we are talking about.

AS I pointed out after the hurricane conference last year, the mantra is "Run from the water, hide from the wind." If you live in a storm surge area, you must evacuate at the appropriate time. In the Houston Galveston region, the evacuation order is set up by ZIP codes with those closest to the coast leaving first. It is like unloading an airplane from the back to the front once it lands. It requires some patience, a plan and a cool head.

All of the deaths in the Houston area during the Rita evacuation were a result of the evacuation, not the storm. Changes have been made to the evacuation plan to prevent this type of thing from happening. These changes are good and will certainly help. But there will still be traffic and delays.

And finally, if you are not in an evacuation zone, Please stay put unless there is some overriding reason for you to leave (like you live in a mobile home). During Rita, 3 million people evacuated when only 1.5 million live in the flood zone. This made the evacuation worse than it had to be.

So when the call comes in to leave, be prepared to and go at the appropriate time. If you don't live in a flood area yet you still want to leave, let the rest of us get out first than go while there is still plenty of time before the storm makes landfall.

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