Storm Evacuations Prior To Rita Still Casting A Shadow On Houston?

Good morning everyone. I have continued to track Hurricane Ike as it heads toward an eventual landfall anywhere from the Central to the Upper coast of Texas late tonight Friday, or early Saturday. Speaking of Ike, I noticed that the City of Houston has decided to hunker down, and take on the storm rather than evacuate. Reading an article that I found on the internet this morning courtesy of Yahoo News, I see that the fourth largest city in the United States has made a bold decision.

With Ike still having the opportunity to strengthen into a major hurricane prior to landfall, this decision does make you wonder. While residents of Gavleston, which is the site for the deadliest United States disaster from a Category Four Hurricane back in 1900, were told by the National Weather Service that they would “face certain death” if they decided to stay and attempt to ride the storm out. Houston residents were told to board up their windows, clear their decks of furniture, tie down any loose objects in their yard, and stock up on water and non-perishable food.

However, officials went on to warn inland residents not to evacuate en masse in order to avoid the gridlock that was created prior to Hurricane Rita. Could that have been a factor in why Houston city officials decided not to evacuate? It was. Back in 2005, when Rita began to make its move, city officials put together an evacuation plan that had the 2 million coastal residents including those in Galveston evacuate first, and then the city residents would follow. However, when Rita became a Category Five storm, and with memories of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath still very fresh in people’s minds, officials did an about face, and ordered residents to get on the road while many coastal residents were still trying to get out. The result was huge traffic jams that resulted in 110 deaths from accidents and tragedies.

However, knowing that there is a possible major hurricane bearing down on this city of some 2.2 million people, it is an awful big risk. Now, there are some experts out there, who believe that this is not an easy decision, or that “elected officials were not elected to be hurricane expertss.” However, isn’t that what we elect these people for? In other words, these people are put in the positions they’re in because they’ve been able to make tough decisions. And, while it is true that they aren’t tropical weather experts, they can consult those who are. To risk a very large population to not only the direct and immediate impacts of the storm, but also the aftermath, could end up being a very costly and deadly decision.

In all fairness, I do not live in the Houston area, and may not know all the facts. So, I apologize if there are those, who might be offended or disagree with my opinion. Many residents may agree with this idea of not evacuating since they want to be there with their property and possessions. It is alright if they want to stay since that is their choice. However, there are those, who may want to leave. The City of Houston had three years to evaluate their plan prior to Rita, and analyze what went wrong. This is the whole purpose behind the idea of preparation, or any implementation of a system. Evaluate what’s wrong, and figure out ways to do it differently the next time. New Orleans did it, and for the most part, they did a very good job in preparation for Gustav.