Back in Coastal Georgia with the Evacuation Blues Again

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Hurricane Matthew and Irma. Two evacuations in one year have proven more than enough for me (and I’m hearing there may be yet another one on the way). In both cases I lost more than a week of my life. Whether holed-up with friends hooked on reality TV or moving between cheap motels with my ill-mannered pets, it doesn’t make much difference: it’s a totally depressing scene that has moved me to action.

I ain’t going nowhere next time, no how.

Naturally, my fully considered decision got me to thinking about those who never leave in the first place. Who are these soon to be kindred spirits?

Well, aside from those who physically cannot evacuate, such as the disabled, and those who simply don’t have anyone they feel they can reach out to for help, there are three other commonly cited “personas” that might surprise you.

For example, there are lots of pet owners who won’t even consider evacuating. I’m not talking about the garden-variety dog or cat owner, but those of us who own lots of dogs, cats, goats, raccoons, horses and other farm animals. They feel like they can’t leave, and frankly, can you blame them? Although Congress passed the PETS Act in 2006, a law mandating that disaster preparedness plans take account of companion animals, the adoption of the law has been inconsistent and obviously doesn’t account for the other kinds of animals many of us call family.

Some won’t leave because their homes have been looted during previous storm evacuations, a problem more real for people who regularly deal with hurricanes than you might expect. Some of these folks actually set traps designed to severely injure or kill the would-be burglars — pure Americana.

And, of course, there are those who simply feel confident in their ability to survive anything. They want to be “on that wall” and seem to relish the related risks. While Florida’s Governor Scott told everyone, "Leave or you will probably die,” a Texas mayor went on the record saying he thought that “people don’t need the government telling them what to do.” To each his own.

Here’s where I have landed. For starters, I live on the coast in a home where the first floor is 14 feet up. If I can’t survive on the second floor, then launching the boat I intend to install on my roof will provide for my escape. As the perils of dealing with my homeowners association (HOA) are daunting, I’m figuring the “beg for forgiveness” route may be in the cards. Anyway, we’ll see what happens.

Installing a generator capable of keeping my designated survival area online is an obvious step. Nothing whole-house-sized — a little Al Gore-ish for my taste. Besides, those are the ones that never work anyway. Simply a small, efficient generator that is capable of keeping my “safe space” powered up is all that’s needed.

Two weeks worth of anti-venom, bug spray, toilet paper, water, cold beer and food rations for just my pets and me will be at the ready, as my other family members will have left two weeks before they were required to leave anyway.

And, of course, a gun. Just in case I want to shoot myself for staying.

Given the number of weather-based disasters faced by mostly the same set of Americans every hurricane season, you might have thought we’d have learned a few more things by now. For example, when it comes to getting people to leave their homes, we’re actually quite good at it. But reliable, coordinated communications designed to help us plan for our return? Take it from me: it’s an entirely different learning curve.

First Voice

  1. Jason Busch:

    Tom, our resident essayist. I feel for you. Hang in there.

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