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Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1, people and left others stranded for days on roofs, in attics and on streets in flooded New Orleans in , starkly illustrated to the rest of the country the importance of getting out. Often, though, people think a storm won't be so bad or their homes are built tough enough. Some want to avoid shelters or the expense of staying in a hotel. Still others worry that their homes will be looted.

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Florida State University professor Jay Baker, who has studied the subject for decades, said it is not unusual for one-third to half of all residents to defy mandatory evacuation orders, especially in places that haven't been hit hard recently. Sandy was blamed for more than deaths in 10 states, with many victims drowning in their homes or while belatedly trying to escape. In New York City alone, 35 of the 43 deaths were from drowning, largely in areas ordered to evacuate.

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Other people survived after police and firefighters risked their lives in churning floodwaters to reach them. Only about half of the more than , people in New York City who were told to flee did so, officials say. New Jersey officials estimated that 90 percent of the , people ordered to evacuate obeyed.

But the areas under mandatory orders in New Jersey included many vacation homes. In New York, the threatened neighborhoods consisted mostly of year-round residences.

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Tom Iovino says no. In the last 15 years there have been only three mandatory evacuations called in Tampa Bay: for Georges in and for Charley and Jeanne in So why don't people pack up their photo albums, load up the kids and the canned goods and go? Iovino likens the situation to a house fire.

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You wouldn't stay in a burning building, right? But when it comes to hurricanes, we don't really know. The bay area hasn't taken a direct hit since Our collective knowledge is hazy. But stories can help us remember. Ginger Matthews has lived all her 59 years in Long Beach, N.

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But determined to watch over her home and the coin laundry she owns nearby, she defied evacuation orders. But that was senseless. In urging evacuations before Sandy, officials around the metropolitan area sounded a note of moral obligation: Think of the emergency workers who might have to risk their lives to rescue you. As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie put it in his usual sledgehammer style, staying is "both stupid and selfish.

Punishments: Some states make it a crime to ignore an evacuation order. New York has a similar law that carries up to 90 days in jail. In Pinellas, disobeying a mandatory evacuation order is a second-degree misdemeanor. Still, it's unclear how often such laws are enforced, if ever. Indeed, Bloomberg said there would be no arrests in the city for defying evacuation orders during Sandy.

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Some scholars suggest it's legally possible to force people to leave. It could be seen as analogous to quarantining people in disease outbreaks, said Amy Fairchild, a Columbia University public health professor who co-wrote a paper on the subject. But in general, the image of forcing people out of their homes, or arresting them for staying, has little political or practical appeal. As Iovino points out, where would they put people they arrested? The jails are full as it is. Under a principle known as the rescue doctrine, a rescuer who gets hurt saving someone can sue if the emergency was the result of negligence. That arguably could apply if an emergency worker was injured rescuing someone who ignored an order to evacuate, said Hayes Hunt, a Philadelphia lawyer who mulled over the issue on his blog, From the Sidebar.

It's not clear, though, whether any emergency department would want to take that step against a citizen. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco suggested that people who defied evacuation orders should "write their Social Security numbers on their arms with indelible ink" so that their corpses could be more easily identified. Rita ultimately pointed up a different problem: More than people died during the clogged and chaotic evacuation of Houston.

Some communities ask residents to sign waivers documenting their refusal to leave — a tactic that drives home the danger. As hurricane season started in , Florida launched controversial ads featuring genuine, panicky calls from people begging for help during 's Hurricane Ivan and being told it was too dangerous to send rescuers.

It's unclear exactly what effect such scare strategies have on evacuation rates, though. The most effective approach? Going door to door to tell residents in person that they should flee, but that's often impossible with big populations and short time frames, said Florida State's Baker. The Publix store that opened in Lake Worth in Bruce R. Share this: Tweet Email. Like this: Like Loading Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:.

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