Hurricane Irma has ignited absolute panic in the Southeast United States. Just days after Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas, this storm — one of the strongest to ever originate from the Atlantic — has caused the Caribbean and Florida alike to prepare for the worst.
Last week, as meteorologists fervently attempted to predict Irma’s path, Florida officials — especially those in Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Broward counties — began issuing mandatory evacuations to higher-risk areas within a short distance to the shoreline.
Then the storm shifted west.
Over the weekend, people residing on the Gulf Coast of Florida learned they were sitting in Irma’s direct path.
But as both the east and west side of the Sunshine State, at one point or another, were informed they would be facing one of the strongest hurricanes to ever make landfall in the continental U.S., the topic of evacuation rose to the front of everyone’s mind.
The question was: Should we leave?
BREAKING: Florida asks another 700,000 to leave ahead of Hurricane Irma; nearly 7 million total urged to evacuate multiple states.
— The Associated Press (@AP) September 9, 2017
Of course, there are a plethora of factors that lead residents to evacuating or hunkering down. Of those factors, consistent reporting seems to be a major influence.
Brandy Weaver, a North Florida resident, told Dearly she was staying partly because of how Irma’s path seemed to be in constant flux:
“We decided to stay based off the inconsistency of weather and overall awareness of the [Jacksonville] beaches area. I began preparing on Monday of this week as to avoid the store congestion and limited options as guaranteed panic sets in. We are ready for power outages for a week if it should happen and prepped our garage door to prevent potential flooding as we are on the border of Zone B and C. I was confident enough and ready to hunker down through [Category] 3 conditions, but not complacent, and rest assured, we would evacuate if a direct hit was imminent.”
She insisted if the storm were to shift again, turning to where she lives, she would, in fact, evacuate — especially because this storm isn’t her first:
“I lived in Orlando, Florida, during hurricane Andrew in 1991, and the outer bands spawned tornadoes — one of which hit my house, ripping my bedroom roof off. So I am fully aware of extenuating conditions from the outer edges of hurricanes. Today, we live on the second of three floors in an apartment off Atlantic Boulevard and San Pablo Road. My husband and I felt secure in our apartment as our building is only 3-years-old.”
And she, again, highlighted how much more manageable a hurricane seems if evacuation can be avoided:
“As of now, we are glad to be home as we are able to continue on without disruptions and or the expense and inconvenience of evacuating with the other 6.5-plus million folks from South Florida.”
— CNN (@CNN) September 8, 2017
But aside from unpredictable forecasting, some decided to stay because, well, the odds seemed fairly good. Sarah Copeland, another North Florida resident and mother of four, wrote:
“I stayed because I live in North Florida, in a house built after 1928, after Dora, after Andrew, and I live on the west side of town on high ground. My children stayed because they are safer with me.”
However, she did have criticism for some of those who, like her, choose to stay, namely the individuals living in mandatory evacuation zones such as the Florida Keys:
“As to why the 25,000 people stayed in the Keys, I have no words. Maybe they feel complacent or invincible, I don’t know, but they can’t say they weren’t warned. […] I watched the National Guard roll in, and I … have gotten to know these guys over the past five months, and they’re like my kids, too. They’re the ones going into the storm to rescue the people who stayed. They’re the ones putting their lives in danger because 25,000 people in the Keys are facing an imminent threat of death and a storm surge of 10 feet. They don’t get the choice to stay or go like we do.”
Though, she clarified she couldn’t blame anyone for choosing to stay in their homes:
“I don’t fault anyone for making the decision to stay — my own decision was made after countless forecasts and making a list of possibilities with my husband. We made our choice and I’m fine with it.”
However, not everyone is as understanding when it comes to staying:
If they told you to leave and you stayed Pray for yourself
— Drpzone (@LeeStickle1) September 9, 2017
Praying for everyone in the path of now Category 5 Hurricane Irma. Please, for the love of goodness, follow every evacuation order. ???
— Ricky Davila (@TheRickyDavila) September 5, 2017
Makes my stomach churn but I will hope for their safety no matter how unwise of a decision they made. Ugh.
— Stacey Anne Leeson (@StaceyALee) September 10, 2017
God bless them, but they should have taken the chance to get out!!!
— KW1979 (@mswilder35) September 10, 2017
Though, many understand that, for some people, evacuating isn’t really an option:
Most Americans are living check to check and have no savings. People can't just evacuate on a moment's notice. Safety is a privilege.
— M’BlockU (@rodimusprime) September 9, 2017
Please remember our neighbors who are poor and disabled, and for whom evacuation is a much more daunting prospect. #Irma
— The King Center (@TheKingCenter) September 9, 2017
If my parents stay home even tho it's an evacuation zone then I'm staying right here with them and we fighting
— Crème de la crème (@KBl3ss3d) September 7, 2017
Whether people decided to flee or remain with their property and loved ones, one thing is certain: America is watching Hurricane Irma with wary eyes, hoping it doesn’t claim any more lives.