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  • Costs of Mass Evacuations

    Posted by Jonathan on September 23rd, 2005 (All posts by )

    This is tragic and serves as a reminder that the human costs of mass evacuations are not always less than those of hurricanes. Public officials should not treat mandatory evacuation as the safe option when hurricanes approach. Not that officials aren’t usually conscientious. However, post Katrina, “must evacuate” is in danger of becoming the politically safe buzz-meme WRT hurricanes, and it is unwise to assume that evacuation is always the safe option. There are often no safe options.

    I find more fault with the press in this regard than I do with politicians. The media have become hysterical in their treatment of hurricane risks. Drudge has been particularly bad.

    (A previous post on related topics is here.)

    UPDATE: Via Instapundit comes this thoughtful post about evacuations and media hysteria. The author says that for many people in Houston there is no need to evacuate, and that the media, by making no distinction between risky low-lying areas and everywhere else, are panicking people, exacerbating road congestion and making the area-wide situation much worse than it has to be. That’s right. Waves and flooding are the big killers in hurricanes. While people who are near the ocean and in low-lying areas should consider leaving, for people who are already inland and on high ground it may be reasonably safe to weather the storm at home or in a robust larger building.

     

    3 Responses to “Costs of Mass Evacuations”

    1. Ken Says:

      In this case, it’s a good bet for Galveston and at least part of Houston. And Lake Charles, too. Hell, I wouldn’t even hang around Lafayette if I still lived there – who knows which way that thing’s going to turn at the last minute.

      It looks like ground cars are not an especially good way to empty big cities in a hurry. But if we want anything better, we’ll need more and cheaper energy. Which we won’t be getting for a while.

      What would really help is free-market flood insurance. Voting on what and who should be on the coast is going to lead to us collectively doing something stupid… either paying people to rebuild over and over again when they could just as easily live elsewhere, or trying to abandon a city that actually has a reason for being where it is.

    2. Jonathan Says:

      Subsidized federal flood insurance is a bad idea because it encourages people to live in flood plains. It would be good to eliminate the federal insurance program.

      From a long-term perspective it is unfortunate that the political tendency after these disasters is always to make people who live in the worst-hit areas whole. That seems at first to be the humane response, but in the long run this largesse is like a flood insurance program writ large. By shifting the risks to taxpayers nationwide, it encourages people to continue to live in the riskiest areas. In the absence of the federal insurance program I assume flood insurance would be much more expensive in places like barrier islands. It might be a good thing if fewer people lived on barrier islands, or if those who decided to do so were forced to self-insure by building stronger or better protected houses.

    3. chel Says:

      I really like the way Ken specificies “ground cars.”