By Kevin Price, Editor at Large, TDB
At the time of this writing at least 23 have died from the killer hurricane that struck the US East Coast — Florence. That number is only expected to rise. When you sit in the comfort of your own home, in an area that has never been struck by a hurricane, it is easy to ask the question, “why would anyone try to ride out a storm like that?” It is certainly easy to judge. I live in Houston, Texas and “Biblical storms” have seem to become a common occurrences in recent years. Yet, in spite of that, I have never left. Last year as Hurricane Harvey approached, I gave it my most serious consideration ever, but in the end chose to ride it out.
I had friends all over the world reach out to me, suggesting that I leave. Some of whom politely questioned my sanity. My instincts told me this was “the big one.” It made me nervous, like Alison in 2001, which led to me losing the rental I was living in and a car. But I didn’t leave. The reason for me in 2017 was a chocolate Labrador Retriever named Coco (picture). She was 13 years old and in terrible shape. Slowly going blind, barely able to rise up. I literally debated going ahead and putting her asleep — friends suggested it was certainly time — but I could not do it. I decided to ride it, even though my brother generously invited all of us up to Abilene, Texas — which is five hours away and out of the storm reach — I could not do it to the old girl. I was sure the trip would kill her.
Another factor was my wife. I know, odd that she would come second in order, but she’s spunky. She is a mental health therapist for a large hospital. Because of how close we live to the facility, she had to be on call 24/7 during the storm. For all practical purposes, she was a first responder. She practically lived there many of the days of the storm while I rode it out at home, grateful for wooden floors and dehumidifiers that kept my home largely disaffected. It was bizarre, just a few miles away whole neighborhoods disappeared. In fact, there was a swath of land of just a few miles in every direction that was largely unscathed where I lived. It was like a pocket of serenity in a sea of chaos. Afterwards I felt like the lead character in Omega Man, roaming the streets in my car for other people (few and far between) and for a place to eat (not that I did not have food at home, but was suffering from cabin fever).
Those days were harrowing. One of my sons and I chatted on the phone, “Dad, please remember to NOT go in the attic if the water rises. You need to abandon Coco and get on the roof. You know how many drowned in the second story of homes during Katrina.” “Gee, thanks son.” He was right though. It was very sobering to think about. So our family survived the storm, each of us with our own tale. Our dog Coco died a few months later in December. I do not regret the decision to stay with her through Harvey. Although, in light of how frightening that storm was, I probably would have done something different in retrospect.
There are so many reasons why people stay. Here is a short list I’ve seen in Florence coverage and those of friends of mine that stayed through storms like Harvey:
- The media’s long history of “crying wolf.” If you live in an area that deals with hurricanes, you know how irresponsible the media can be in their coverage. Ratings, not safety, seems to drive the coverage. We literally cannot tell the seriousness of the threat because of the quality of the news coverage.
- When escaping is more dangerous than staying. There were over 100 deaths from those that simply tried to get away from a Houston area storm in 2005, After the horror of Katrina, people did not argue in Houston when Rita came along. The storm did its harm, but the alarm around it was filled with media hype. That storm has had a profound impression on people and have made them cautious, but not in the way authorities want them to be.
- Other reasons include — lacking the financial resources to leave, lacking safe and quality transportation, job demands, a history of surviving other storms, etc.
In the end, the reasons people stay and ride a storm out varies wildly. Instead of having judgement against those that make that choice, I encourage a little sympathy towards those forced to make that decision and a great deal of gratitude if you do not have to make such a decision.
Kevin Price is Editor at Large of The Daily Blaze and Host of the Nationally Syndicated Price of Business show. He is also a multi-award winning journalist and author.