Nearly 25 percent of South Florida residents surveyed about hurricane preparations in the year after Irma said they would not evacuate if a Category 3 or 4 storm was headed their way even if it was forecast to hit within 10 miles of their home.
According to a survey released Monday – the year anniversary of Hurricane Irma’s Florida landfall – by the FAIR Foundation, and Get Ready Florida! about 18 percent of Floridians statewide said they would not evacuate in the face of a Cat 3 or 4 storm.
South Florida includes Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
The survey polled 1,000 Florida residents between Aug. 23 and Sept. 2 as part of the National Hurricane Survival Initiative.
“You’d think that after Irma caused so much damage and cost so many lives in Florida last year, more people would understand what’s at stake,” said former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, in a press release announcing the survey. “Floridians really have to take these risks seriously and be prepared for the worst because it can come at any time.”
While no one argues people in zones ordered to evacuate by emergency managers should do so, there has been discussion in the year following Irma about whether too many people fled the storm that didn’t need to.
It’s estimated as many as 3 million people who evacuated were not in evacuation zones.
And these so-called “shadow evacuees” may be encouraged to ride out the next storm at home in an effort to minimize traffic, extend gas supplies and increase available hotel rooms.
“I think it’s fair to suggest the people stay put if they can because they are taking gas and hotel rooms from people who are leaving to save their lives,” said Palm Beach County Emergency Manager Bill Johnson in an April Palm Beach Post story about over evacuations.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered in Palm Beach County for about 153,000 people. Another 138,000 people live in areas that were under voluntary evacuation. About 17,000 people stayed in Palm Beach County shelters.
With the exception of mobile homes, evacuations in Florida are based on storm surge, not wind. That means people should evacuate tens of miles inland, not hundreds of miles north, Johnson said.
“We ask people to stay in the county,” Johnson said. “We need to break down the myths that you need to evacuate to Arkansas to be safe.”
Other findings of the survey included:
- A majority of Floridians who evacuated during Hurricane Irma said the process cost them more than $300. Of these, 40% said the evacuation cost them $500 or more, while an additional 20% said the cost was between $300 and $500.
- For the most part, Floridians are more prepared to meet the needs of their pets in a storm than they are the humans in their home.
- The portion of Floridians who mistakenly believe it’s safe to run a generator somewhere in the home has increased over the past nine months.
- More than one-third of Floridians who live less than 2 miles from the coast don’t have flood insurance.
- More than half don’t know what their homeowners or renters insurance covers in a hurricane, with many incorrectly believing insurance covers things like replacing spoiled food, removing debris from the yard, and buying a generator.