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People frequently impacted by natural disasters react differently to evacuation orders: expert

Last Updated Sep 14, 2018 at 9:55 pm PDT

High winds and storm surge from Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro N.C., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)
Summary

One expert says many who are frequently impacted by natural disasters often have different reaction to evacuations

UofT's Dr. Alexandra Rahr says many people are unable to leave the path of a hurricane because of ability, finances

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As hundreds of thousands of people huddle in the dark trying to weather the worst of Tropical Storm Florence, it’s hard to understand why they didn’t leave the area before the storm hit, despite numerous warnings and evacuation orders.

But according to one professor, who specializes in American natural disasters, there are a few reasons.

For one, Dr. Alexandra Rahr with the University of Toronto says many who live in the regions frequently affected by storms often have a different reaction when it comes to evacuation alerts.

“Kind of ride it out culture,” she tells NEWS 1130. “The kind of machismo or tradition of ‘my parents rode out Camille. We’re going to ride out Florence.'”

For others, however, it comes down to ability. Rahr explains some people choose not to leave because of a lack of access to resources.

“It is harder to evacuate when you don’t have very much money. Evacuation is expensive, you have to be able to buy your way out,” she says, adding for some people it comes down to their physical ability, rather than finances.

“You have to be able-bodied enough to go. You have to not be really elderly. You have to not be really ill. If you are ill and you’re having active medical treatment, you have to know you can get that treatment wherever you decide to evacuate to.”

Roughly 1.7 million Americans were told to leave coastal areas in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia before Florence hit. At least five people have been reported dead in North Carolina because of Florence.

“When you actually live in these catastrophic zones in places in the world where disasters happen frequently, one of the things that happens is disaster fatigue,” Rahr adds. “You get told every hurricane season, ‘This is going to be it. This is the big one.'”

Florence has knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people, and brought top sustained winds with speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour to parts of the east coast. Life-threatening storm surges and high winds are expected to continue overnight, with a rising inland flood threat.

The storm has been described by authorities as powerful, slow, and relentless.

Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on Friday morning. It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.