Over the past few weeks both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have devastated the homes and businesses of many people in the United States and the Caribbean. Cities were flooded, people lost power, buildings were leveled and most tragically, people lost their lives. The scientific reason for these natural disasters occurring at such a devastating and unusual scale, could be traced back to climate control, but that’s another issue for another day. The question I’ve heard most, is…. ‘If there are proper warnings in place, why don’t people evacuate before a hurricane?’ Well, in the case of Hurricane Irma, many did. In face, the evacuation in the state of Florida was one of the biggest in history. But, that’s not the norm. So, I’ll address what often happens in the United States. Small islands with limited ways to evacuate are a different conversation.
I grew up primarily in Tampa, Florida. That region of the United States is prone to hurricane’s. Now, I live in California and that region is prone to earthquake’s. Both are terrifying and can be catastrophic. The major difference being, the average warning for an earthquake is a matter of minutes. The average warning for a hurricane is a matter of days, even a full week. So, while it’s easy for people to understand what happens in the wake of an earthquake, it’s difficult for them to understand casualties in a hurricane. So, here’s the truth.
When you’re used to hurricane’s and tropical storms happening a few times a year and you virtually go unscathed, you tend to be passive about warnings. Yes, you take small precautions, like buying water and non perishables, getting batteries and flashlights, buying bags of ice and coolers etc. But, that’s to prepare for the likely chance that you’ll loose power for a few hours or days. You may even board up your windows, or buy sandbags if you live in a flood zone or near water. But, if the news is telling you to evacuate, 8 times out of 10, you do not listen. Why? Because hurricane’s tend to be fickle. They may be projected to hit one place and at the last moment, they turn and hit somewhere completely different. The fact is, more hurricanes hit Florida than any other state in the U.S. and one to two hurricanes hit the east coast every year. So, when you see cities like Houston with Hurricane Harvey, or even New Orleans, during Hurricane Katrina, understand that those people trapped in their flooded homes, standing on their roof, needing boats to rescue them are not there because they are less than smart, or lazy. They’re no different than you or I. When you’re used to someone constantly warning you about something and there are rarely any serious consequences, you tend to get complacent and shrug it off. For example, the fire alarm in my building used to go off almost daily. Every time, the security team would make an announcement and tell us to disregard, false alarm. This happened so often that my neighbors and I would roll over and go back to sleep, or turn the volume of the tv up to drown it out whenever it would go off. Until one night around 3am, the alarm went off and the announcement said, ‘This is not a false alarm, leave your belongings behind and evacuate the building immediately.’ There was a hostage situation and a bomb was involved. No joke. When we went outside there were police everywhere. Thankfully, the issue was resolved a few hours later after we all evacuated and some were bused to a shelter. While, the alarm was put into place to tell us to evacuate, no one listened initially. And in that case, their could’ve been tragic consequences. This, this can give you an idea of how the constant threat of something terrible can become so mundane, people stop taking it seriously.
All that to be said, please be understanding of the victims of hurricane’s. No one hopes or expects to be in those dire situations. It could happen to any of us.
If you can, please donate to one of the foundations doing what they can to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. God Bless those affected, I understand. Click on these sites to help:
Unicef: Text ‘Relief’ to 864233 to donate $10