Run for Your Lives: Five Questions to Ask When You Are Considering Evacuating for a Hurricane

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It's almost July and we have our first Atlantic storm of the season in Tropical Storm Arlene. Fortunately, it doesn't appear that Arlene will grow larger than a minimal hurricane, if that, before it makes landfall along the Mexican gulf coast. Unfortunately, it won't come close enough to us to help alleviate our drought, either.

Named storms occur, in general, about once every two years in June. We had a major hurricane last June, so Arlene is not necessarily an indicator this will be a super busy Atlantic hurricane season, but, like all the public service announcements and billboards tell you, it is hurricane season, so better to be prepared.

If we learned anything during the Hurricane Rita scare of 2005, it's that evacuation from a big storm can be messy and that many people in our area have no clear understanding of when and if they should evacuate in the event of a storm bearing down on Houston and Galveston.

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Note how much of the area isn't in the hurricane evacuation zones.
5. Are you in an evacuation zone?
If you are unsure, you can just check the Harris County evacuation map (see example above). Note how much of the Houston area is NOT in any evacuation zone. That is because, in the vast majority of situations, evacuation is just not necessary. Obviously, if you live within one of these zones and an evacuation order is issued, you should leave. Many people who have lost their lives in hurricanes did so because they refused to leave their homes when told.

4. Do you care for anyone that needs medical attention?
If someone in your care is sick or elderly and requires medical attention, particularly electricity, don't take any chances. Be prepared to leave when evacuations are ordered in zones near you for the safety of those in need.

3. Does your home routinely flood? Are you in the flood plain?
One way to find out is by checking the interactive flood plain map based on Tropical Storm Allison. If your home floods on a regular basis, it's probably a safe bet you'll want to be elsewhere when a hurricane hits, if for no other reason than your own comfort level. But water is the number one cause of deaths during a storm, so there's another good reason.

2. Do you live north of the Beltway or west of the Beltway and north of I-10?
There's a joke over on our friend SciGuy's blog about people needing to evacuate from Katy. It was born out of people from that area asking for evacuation advice in the comment section. Even people from College Station asked the question. The reality is, anyone who lives north of the Beltway or west of it and north of I-10 probably should stay put. Wind is scary and, yes, storms can generate tornadoes as well, but when you live more than 100 miles from the coast, your chances of facing the worst storm winds and rain are significantly decreased. I'm not saying it won't possibly be scary, but, unless you are planning a vacation in Colorado at the same time, you're probably fine where you are.

1. What is the projected path and timing of the storm in question?
The projected path is important because the worst area of the storm is north and east of the center. The most damaging winds and rain extend out 50 to 100 miles from the center in most storms. So, if you are on the west side of a storm and are expecting to be 100 miles from where it hits, you're in good shape. Paths are unpredictable, however, and the exact landing spot is difficult to determine, so plan ahead. If the projected path brings the storm to your doorstep in three days, best get moving as soon as possible to avoid the massive traffic jams that can happen during an evacuation.

The bottom line is that most people don't need to evacuate. They do so out of fear and it is understandable, but they often create real problems for the people who truly need to get out of the way of a storm. While we don't always get a lot of warning before a storm hits, we get a lot more than when a tornado does, so have what you need before hurricane season starts and be ready when and if the time comes.


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reeseman
reeseman

"The projected path is important because the worst area of the storm is north and west of the center." Um, I think you mean east. Ike got within 3 houses of me. If Ike had come in at Freeport my house would have been destroyed. I evacuated for Ike, and I'm not taking any chances on the next one.

Jeff
Jeff

Correct. Fixed.

MadMac
MadMac

Question 5.1: Do you want to die on the road or at home?

Me, my Mrs, and our (we argue over who she actually belongs to) elderly aunt spent 23 hours driving to Dallas to 'escape' Rita. The first 18 was getting through Conroe, (who would want to die in Conroe?) where the cops closed the exits to keep us urban types (we're from Pearland) from using the facilities or buying gas/water/food.

I saw guns drawn at a gas station in Huntsville and kept my Glock ready at my hip. We reached Dallas at dark-thirty in the morning, where my sister-in-law had already arranged a room for us at a fleabag on Industrial, (think Jensen, here).  I'll spare you the 2 weeks of hell spent in big D(ouche).

Bring the wind, bring the water, bring Perry himself, I will never leave my home again.

Jeff
Jeff

This really depends on where you are. If you are in significant danger due to flood waters, 23 hours on the road is better than dying. But, you have to judge your own situation individually. It's different for everyone.

big red
big red

Maybe we will see the return of hurricane parties, which were popular in Houston before Neil Frank arrived to scare the hell out of everyone in Harris county.

Ceilo
Ceilo

I remember those parties. Hurricane parties were almost like nature giving us a break from the daily grind. No work, no school, drink all you want and crash at a friends house for free. This year we're not going anywhere unless a cat 5 comes to town.

MadMac
MadMac

Boy-howdie, do I agree with you. My brother-in-law spent the time (during Rita) hitting Chinese buffets and movie theatres, while I worried about burglary, vandalism, my progressively weirder aunt wandering away.

By contrast, we had a block party after Ike:) 

Shotgun Dude
Shotgun Dude

Personal reminder: Go buy that shotgun from Academy you've been wanting. 

David
David

You run from water and you ride the wind.  Stock up on beer, canned food and ammo if you don't live in an evac zone

Jeff
Jeff

Mostly a good axiom. There are definitely a couple of exceptions, but that has always been a good general rule.

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