angiest's WunderBlog

Inland evacuations revisted

By: angiest, 8:46 PM GMT on August 17, 2010

I originally wrote this leading up to the landfall of Ike in Texas. Some of what is stated here is obviously outdated:

In ready through Dr. Masters' blog through Gustav and Ike, I was struck by the number of people who say that people living well inland shouldn't evacuate a hurricane. It may be true that not everyone inland should evacuate, but it is certainly not something that warrants a blanket statement. As I have mentioned in some of my posts, I live in Katy (far West Houston), a good 50+ miles inland. I evacuated for Rita and given the same data I would do so again. I am weighing that decision for Ike now.

When I moved to Houston in 1999 (having been a student here for a few years prior) I decided on roughly what would cause me to evacuate from a storm. Over the years here is what that has morphed into.

A north to northwest moving cat. 3 hurricane making landfall between Bolivar Roads (east end of Galveston) and to the north of Matagorda Bay. In such a situation my home would be in an area that could potentially experience sustained winds of around 100mph. This obvious depends on exact track, speed of motion, etc, and is very hard to make a good guess about, hence this is not an easy decision.

I have a new (8 year old) tract home in an unincorporated area. There are no building codes, no requirement for hurricane straps. For reasons too complex to go into at this moment, I know there is a good chance my roof is not well secured to the walls. I am not confident that it would stand up to those winds, let alone blowing debris. To complicate matters, I have a daughter with cystic fibrosis, and she cannot be without electricity (air conditioning) for any length of time. For these reasons, I have good cause to consider evacuating for a subset of possible storms. Others may have similar concerns. And others may have no such concerns.

If you live in a region at risk for surge, definitely get out. If you love inland, look at your own situation, determine what the risks are and determine whether or not you should evacuate.

I intend to expand this at a later time.

If you don't live in the coast the decision to evacuate is really up to you. If you leave in the coast then definitely evacuate.

Expanding on the situation with my house, prior to closing we had the house inspected. The inspector found that the purlin struts were improperly installed at greater than 45 degrees on one side of the house. Although the builder installed new purlin struts, I have determined I don't want to be in my house during periods of sustained hurricane force winds to find out if the roof will really hold. Maybe I am being paranoid, but why deal with it if I have the ability to leave? Similarly, why put my children through hours bad weather when they don't like storms that end in 30 minutes? They would much rather be with their grandparents. And of course, there is always loss of utilities that has to be dealt with, and as I mentioned in the original post one of my children has medical reasons why she cannot be without AC. But suppose, as happened in Ike, my house survived and we actually got lucky and didn't lose power or water service? Well, after returning to town we still had to deal with limited gasoline supplies (fortunately I had stored some before the storm as an emergency supply in a pinch), and there was a brief period when there were no groceries, in part from supply disruption, but also due to people coming in from other areas where the stores didn't have power at all.

For me, I'll continue to evacuate when there looks to be too much risk. At the time the decision had to be made, Rita was enough of a risk. Ike continued to be a risk, and only a very slight deviation in his track would have put us in the eyewall and all that wind. I'll watch it on TV, and not take the risks.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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