Why people stay in the path of a deadly hurricane

University of North Florida students pack in front of their dormitory as they evacuate because of of preparing for Hurricane Matthew, on Oct. 6.

The warnings about Hurricane Matthew’s potential impact on Florida could hardly be more dire.

The Category 4 storm has already smashed Haiti and the Bahamas, killing at least 264 people in Haiti, and its current trajectory jeopardizes millions of people living along the east coast of Florida and the coastline of Georgia and South Carolina.

Despite the warns, many people will batten down the hatches and attempt to outlast the ferocious blizzard. But that’s not necessarily because they’d rather watch the hurricane rend across their home than escape somewhere inland. Often, the individuals who stay don’t have a choice, and that lack of choice could prove deadly.

“This is going to kill people, ” Florida Gov. Rick Scott advised on Thursday.

“If you are still sitting at home, if you have not evacuated, gas stations are getting ready to close, ” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday morning. “Your pharmacies are getting ready to close. Everything is getting ready to leave.”

Politicians are known to exaggerate, but weather experts have adopted a similarly dire tone.

Around 2. 5 million people are under an evacuation order along the southeastern coast of the United States. South Carolina has reversed its highways to allow for more traffic away from the coasts. The governor of Florida “activated” an additional 1, 000 members of the national guard to deal with the fallout.

And yet some people will almost certainly stay.

An estimated 150, 000 -2 00,000 Louisiana residents bided through Hurricane Katrina in 2005, one of the most devastating blizzards to ever make landfall in the United States.

Residents wait on a rooftop to be rescued from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina, on Sept. 1, 2005, in New Orleans.

Image: AP Photo/ David J. Phillip

The reasons they did this aren’t uniform, but thousands simply didn’t have enough information to make an educated decision about whether to leave or bide. Even if they had, they wouldn’t have had ample resources to evacuate.

“Compared with stayers, leavers had more education and incomes, greater access to news, more reliable transportation, and more geographically widened social networks, ” wrote the authors of a 2009 Stanford and Princeton University study on the reasons residents bided behind during Hurricane Katrina, which was published in the journal Psychological Science .

The study found that white, middle class Louisiana residents were more likely to flee because they had the means to do so. Working class black residents often didn’t using the same entails, so they induced do with what they had.

Evacuating can be expensive. Residents in evacuation zones may have to sacrifice hourly wages for the working day they’re away from work. They’ll have to buy food, gas and if they can afford it hotel rooms.

Officers of the Jacksonville Beach Police Department patrol as residents were alerted to evacuate the beaches in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew, on Oct. 6 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

Image: Logan Bowles via AP Images

Nicole Stephens and Hilary Bergsieker, two of the study’s five coauthors, have said wealthier residents were also more likely to evacuate because they were likely more accustomed to travel.

There’s sort of the physical resources factor, but there’s also the psychological factors, ” Bergsieker, a psychology professor at the University of Waterloo, said in 2012. This is where you’ve always been your whole life, and abruptly people on the radio are telling you you have to leave? That may seem like a much more dangerous selection than to stay with people from your church, or people from your block.”

On Thursday, the governor of Florida said “there are no excuses” for biding. This wording hints that a lack of preparedness or decision-making ability, but research has proven that this thinking is off-base.

Observers often viewed “stayers” in Louisiana as lazy or irresponsible. But, as Stephens now a professor at Northwestern University’s school of management said in 2010, those people who stayed didnt just wait around for the hurricane to destroy them.”

“They did the best that they could given the situations that they were in, ” she said. “People worked together with other people. They cared for their families and communities. They tried to maintain strength and resilience. They had different ways of responding they did what they could with what they had available to them.

There are those people, however, who believe their homes and anyone inside them will be alright.

“I am concerned that some folks might be staying who are in mandatory evacuation zones because they believe they are safe, ” Gina Eosco, an expert in risk communication who advises the National Weather Service, told Mashable .

“The message that needs to get there is that your home may and let me emphasize may be standing when you return, but it does not mean that your community won’t be largely affected.”

Many homes along the southeastern coast of the country may be well-equipped to survive thrashing breezes, but Eosco said that could lead to a false sense of confidence. Evacuation zones are based on the potential for coastal areas to inundate, and hurricanes have many ways of ruining a home.

A home that survives a storm isn’t necessarily a home that’s suitable to live in during the immediate aftermath.

Without functioning grocery stores, gas stations and other necessities, it may be difficult to survive in a community that was just blown out by a Category 4 hurricane.

Still, some along the southeastern coast are more concerned by leaving than they are with staying.

“This is going to be our first big blizzard up here, but we stayed through Sandy up in New Jersey and it worked out OK for us, ” Gary Flynn, to talk about himself and his family who live along the South Carolina coast, told The Greeneville News on Thursday. Were a little nervous, but we think its the right thing to do.

Matt Harvie, 32, who also lives in the area, told the paper that he wanted to stay to make sure his home wasn’t too damaged.

My roof leaks so I want to be here in case of water damage, he said. I could come back and my place could be in bad shape.

Troy Cooper takes down a restaurant sign at Home Team BBQ in preparation for Hurricane Matthew on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, on Oct. 6.

Image: AP Photo/ Mic Smith

Eosco says she has spoken with people who refuse to leave, and sometimes gets to a stage where she realizes she won’t get through to them. At that point, she says she can only will vary depending on the most basic of sentiments.

“You can rebuild a home, you cannot rebuild their own lives, ” she said. “That’s about as firm as I can get. Your body is not replaceable.”

BONUS: Roof ripped off house by Hurricane Matthew

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