Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why Do They Do It?

As I watched Hurricane Ike unfold this weekend, I was amazed, as usual, at those who did not evacuate, even when warned about the danger. Yes, it was only a category 2 storm, but the predicted storm surge was the big concern. Yet, thousands refused to leave their homes.

My family and I had to evacuate our home because of Hurricane Floyd several years ago. Floyd was a monster storm that, fortunately, remained off the coast of Georgia and Florida, turning just in time to miss us before going ashore in North Carolina as a much weaker storm. Over two million people evacuated the coastal areas, but many remained. Our across the street neighbors stayed home. Had Floyd hit St. Simons Island, where we lived at the time, the island would have been decimated and our neighbors surely lost. They and many others, including some of my field staff remained in their homes along the coast. Most lived on the very edge of high ground and would have faced unbelievable terror and possible death at the hands of that category 4 storm.

Why do they stay? Many fear for their property. It is a very sad time when you take a last look at your home, thinking that you may never see it and most of your treasured belongings again, but life can't be replaced. Property can. Other people remain in place as these storms approach because they don't believe the storm will hit or that it is as dangerous as predicted. Many of the folks on the Georgia coast that didn't evacuate during Floyd stayed because Georgia is rarely hit by hurricanes, so they felt safe. Usually those who do survive a bad hurricane say they will never go through it again.

The thing that bothers me most about those who stay is not that they put themselves in danger. That is their choice. The sad thing is that the men and women of the rescue teams have to put their lives in danger and the various government agencies have to spend millions to rescue these people. Let me rephrase that, "stupid people." I could never forgive myself, if I refused to leave my home, then had a rescue helicopter crash trying to save my life.

After having been in the parks and recreation field for thirty plus years, I feel the same way about those who go beyond barriers and signs, then have to be rescued from waterfalls and other dangerous areas. The rescuers are well trained, but they still put their lives on the line to bring these stupid people to safety or to recover their bodies.

No matter what is said, when the next hurricane comes along, look for those who refuse to leave. It will be the same sad story. They can't bring themselves to leave their property or they will say that it can't happen to them. Man cannot learn, and man continues to pay for it, often with a life.

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