On the news last night, I saw an interview of someone who lives directly in the path of Hurricane Nicole. The reporter asked, “Did the devastation of Hurricane Ian affect your thought process about whether to stay or evacuate for this storm?”
The local woman just kind of smiled and said, “Nah, not really. We’ll be fine.”
On the one hand, yeah, she probably will be fine. Nicole has mostly been a tropical storm, and only reached Category 1 hurricane status right before landfall. Floridians can handle a Cat 1 standing on our heads. Heck, I swear this is true, I slept through Hurricane Wilma, which hit southwest Florida as a Cat 3. I still remember waking up at 5 AM, hearing the 100+ winds outside my storm shutters, then rolling over and going back to sleep.*
*Bear in mind, there was no storm surge warning for Wilma. “You hide from wind, you run from water”.
On the other hand, there was something about the way she said what she said. It was dismissive, as if the question was silly. Of course Ian didn’t affect our decision making. I shouldn’t assume this, but, I’m pretty sure that even if Nicole was a Cat 5 like Ian, she still would’ve stayed.
It reinforced a belief I’ve long had about human nature: we are godawful at learning things indirectly. We tend not to believe anything unless and until we’re punched in the face with it. People won’t quit smoking until they themselves get lung cancer. People will continue to feed the alligators until their child gets killed by one. People will deny climate change until Florida is mostly underwater (and even then will do nothing about it unless they live in Florida).
Hurricane Ian is an excellent example. Most of my friends stayed and hunkered down. The National Weather Service, the governor, the emergency management system, and all of the affected counties said, “Mandatory Evacuation” and “Potential 12-16 foot storm surge” and still, some people said nope.
“I’ve been here forty years, never been affected by a hurricane,” I heard several times. As if past experience was somehow better information than what the latest weather technology was telling us.
You know what happened. The devastation was–and still is–awful. Many people drowned. Homes were flooded and/or destroyed. It will be years before we’re back to normal. It’s been said that some people are still suffering from a form of PTSD from hearing 150 MPH winds outside their home for nine straight hours. “We’ll never stay for a hurricane again,” I’ve seen several times on Facebook.
But of course, not everybody here got damage. If you have a new house built up to hurricane code, and were fortunate enough that the flood waters didn’t reach you, Ian may not have affected you very much.
And I totally expect such a homeowner to be on the news for the next mandatory evacuation, smiling to a reporter, saying “Nah. We’re not leaving, we’ll be fine.”
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