Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company
By David A. Graham
Older people, people with smaller social networks, and those who are less well-off, are more likely to stay put in a storm. These people worry emergency planners. Disaster experts agonize in particular over those who don’t understand what storms are likely to be like and don’t have a disaster-readiness kit like the ones Jones does, so on that count he’s way ahead. It’s the easiest way to prepare for any disaster, from a hurricane to a house fire, and yet many people don’t do it.
Whether they have a kit together or not, people’s memories of past storms tend to play a major role in decisions about whether to leave. That cuts two ways: New residents in a hurricane zone might not know what they’re in for; veterans tend to remember prior storms and assume that things won’t get any worse.
“Somebody in emergency management in Mississippi told me after Katrina that the thing that killed the most people from Katrina was Hurricane Camille in 1969,” Russ Paulsen, then-executive director of community preparedness and resilience services at the American Red Cross, told me in 2015. “People remembered that whatever they did kept them safe, so they did it again. Only this time, there was a much bigger storm surge. Those people who were okay from a mostly-wind event in 1969 were not okay when there was 30 feet of water coming at them.”