Some citizens stay home even if coastal evacuations are mandatory, journalists ask why

Photo above: There are many reasons why people stay at home even though government authorities are asking them evaluate. For many, they cannot afford it. Flickr photo

Isaiah Singleton | Reporter |

The North American hurricane season each year could be argued as one of the most worrisome times for individuals who live on the Atlantic coast or the Gulf of Mexico, because there is always the potential that they will be asked to evacuate their coastal homes and business. On the other hand, journalists are first responders and local, regional and national newsrooms deploy teams to move toward the possible disasters. It is part of their jobs.

Journalists are the first responders to hurricanes. One journalist covers the equipment dropped during a weather surveillance mission for the U. S. Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron C130 Hercules. U. S. Air Force Photo | Sgt. Kal Justin

While most deployed journalists find most citizens who are asked to evacuate do adhere to the mandatory evacuations, there is always a small number of citizens who stay and brave the storm for various reasons. For this small number of people, evacuating might be a challenging and an inconvenient process, yet staying in a home or business during a hurricane may not be the safest option.

According to The New York Times, “Even after all of the best practices in emergency communications are exhausted, 5 percent of the population will most likely remain in harm’s way.”

“It’s nearly impossible to determine a storm’s approach any sooner than 5 or 7 days in advance – a fact that is not very reassuring if you’re planning a trip months (or even weeks) in advance.”

National Hurricane Center tells the New York Times

During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, NBC News reports that former Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned residents that there’s no excuse for residents in evacuation zones not to leave and strongly urged people to relocate for their safety.

Brian Resnick

Vox’s Senior Science Reporter Brian Resnick writes in an article during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 that there are a few common reasons why people ride out the storm at home.

In an interview with Cara Cuite, a Rutgers University psychologist who researched a NOAA-sponsored project and who published “Best Practices in Coastal Storm Risk Communications,” said many people who stay have not heard the warnings or may be disabled.

“They simply can’t get out of their homes and don’t have anyone to help them,” Cuite said. “Then there could be cases of people who don’t hear the warning. But in an age when warnings can be blasted out on radio, TV, smartphones and through old-fashioned door-to-door notifications, this is becoming less likely.”

Eleanor Goldberg

In an article by Business Reporter Eleanor Goldberg, she reports Florida native, Diane Berberian, who is visually impaired and does not drive, chooses not to evacuate even after several warnings from family members, government officials, and friends. The 59-year old was facing the wrath of Hurricane Irma in 2017. CNN was reporting it was the strongest ever Atlantic basin hurricane outside the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

The reality of the evacuation decision was that Berberian could not afford to leave her home. She did not have the funds to leave because any flights out of nearby Tampa to Philadelphia would cost her over $1,000.

“I’ve been through this,” Berberian tells Goldberg of her past experiences with hurricanes. “I have respect for weather, so I wouldn’t do anything foolish.”

Lisa Wade

Poverty could also be a factor of why some people, as well as disabled individuals, don‘t evacuate during a hurricane. Lisa Wade, a sociologist who reports for the Pacific Standard, writes “Fourteen percent of the people who remained in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina had a physical disability. Fifty-five percent of them didn’t have access to a car or another way to leave. And 68 percent didn’t have either money in the bank or a useable credit card”.

A common reason that people do not evacuate for hurricanes is that they do not want to leave their pets behind, says ASPCA. Flickr photo

Cuite said people decide not to leave because they don’t want to leave their pets behind.

According to a 2011 poll sponsored by the ASPCA, it found that around 30 percent of dog and cat owners who live in the South (where hurricanes are more common) don’t know what to do with their pets during an evacuation.

Another reason why people don’t leave is due to fear of their homes getting damaged or looted, Cuite said in Resnick’s article.

In his article, he writes that Cuite has spent years of research speaking to first responders, asking them what can get people to take the warnings more seriously. She said in the process of trying to convince even the most stubborn people, it’s all about trying to make people scared.

However, Resnick’s article also reveals that the psychologist encourages journalists to make sure they have the correct information for those who do need to evacuate. During Hurricane Florence in 2018, 1.4 million people were told they must evacuate from the shorelines of North and South Carolina, as well as parts of Virginia. Remember 5 percent decide to stay.

Norah O’Donnell

Hurricane Dorian has already taken 20 lives in the Bahamas, according to CBS News. The country’s prime minister, Hubert Minnis, expects that number to rise. CBS Nightly News Anchor Norah O’Donnell reports in video below.

While Dorian is slowly approaching the coastlines of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, worst conditions are expected today in Chatham County, Savannah according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.

Isaiah Singleton

Isaiah Singleton is a freelance correspondent for and a recent graduate of Savannah State University majoring in journalism. To contact Singleton email him at

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