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Opinion: Why did Hurricane Ian kill so many people


Editor’s Note: Cara Cuite is a health psychologist and assistant agricultural extension specialist in the department of human ecology at Rutgers University. Rebecca Morss is a senior scientist and associate director of the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The views expressed here are their own. Read more idea on CNN.



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More than 100 people died when Hurricane Ian hit Florida. Why is this storm so deadly? As researchers who study how people make evacuation decisions before coastal storms, we believe it is important to understand the characteristics of this storm – and its communications – that have contributed to its demise.

Cara Cute

Rebecca Morss

Meteorologists’ forecasts for Ian’s probable path changed as the storm moved inland, as forecasts often do. In this case, the storm moved south and areas such as Lee County, where 72 hours previously thought to have a lower chance of being affected directly, eventually directly into the path of Ian.

Ian also underwent rapid enhancement, probably affected by climate change, that means its wind speed increased dramatically as it passed through the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall.

Emergency managers often need at least 48 hours to successfully evacuate areas in southwestern Florida. However, the voluntary evacuation order for Lee County published less than 48 hours before making landfall and for some areas was made mandatory just 24 hours before the storm came ashore. This is less than the amount of time outlined in Lee County itself emergency management plan.

While the lack of time to evacuate is quoted by some As a reason for them to stay, there are other factors that may also have prevented evacuations in some of the hardest hit areas.

To properly execute an evacuation order, people first need to know their evacuation area. Research from other areas of the country show that many people do not. That’s why evacuation site locator site in the affected counties is very important. However, a lot of people are checking their area some of these sites are down in the days before the storm.

Our own research (and others’) indicates that mandatory evacuation orders can lead to higher evacuation rates than voluntary orders. Maybe first hearing that their area was under a voluntary evacuation order may have made some residents less concerned and less likely to take action when evacuations became mandatory. It can also have lead to confusion about what people must do in the critical days and hours before the storm makes landfall.

In areas where there is a subsequent evacuation order, those who do not wish to evacuate should quickly find and obtain information about the evacuation area. In addition, need time to communicate evacuation orders for the entire community and for people decide what to dopacking, finding a place to go, and arranging how to get there, often amid heavy traffic and other complications and obstacles.

Also important to Ian was how previous personal experience with hurricanes influenced people’s decisions. Several areas devastated by Ian have had several recent hurricanes in the past, including hurricanes Charley and Irma. While these storms affect many communities alike, they doesn’t have the same effect as Ian, which may have created a false sense of security among some residents.

As Fort Myers City Councilmember, Liston Bochette III speak, “Obviously, about one in ten times when they warn you, it happens. Well, this is the only time. And people didn’t evacuate as they should have. And I thought we were being lulled… this was a little paradise in the world and we were lulled into a passive mindset that it wouldn’t affect us. ”

In addition to a false sense of security from previous near misses by some residents, others in the hardest-hit areas of Hurricane Ian in Florida may not have had any personal experience yet. with such strong storms. This may be true of the millions of people who have moved to Florida through the past few decades, especially those traveling from areas where storms are rare or not. In Ian, as in some storms in the past, Some people realized the danger too late.

It is still too early to draw conclusions about the lessons that can be learned from the communication successes and failures before Hurricane Ian, but some things are clear. People need to know they are in an area where an evacuation is required – and waiting until the storm hits to find out their area may be too late. Emergency managers need to educate people about impending storms while also developing more robust websites to handle queries in the days before the storm.

Government officials and the media should continue to provide specific information about where, how and why to evacuate, which can be an important factor in people’s decision to leave.

Multiple listings available shelters include clear indications of whether they are pet-friendly or may accommodate individuals with special needs, which can be helpful for more than 33,000 people who used the public shelter system. However, among those who did not evacuate, pets and disabilities continued to be cited as reason, suggesting that more access and evacuation assistance is needed in these areas.

Hurricane Ian focused residents’ attention on important elements of storm preparedness, such as their evacuation zones. For future storms, it’s important to continue to help people, especially the most vulnerable, understand how and why to evacuate, often under Rapid translation of forecasts. Hurricane Ian proved that sometimes the worst-case scenario really does happen.

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