Evacuation Expectations

I had really never given much thought as to what drives people to evacuate during natural disasters.  For the most part, I just accepted that some people choose to evacuate and others do not.

However, after reading Kirstin Dow and Susan L. Cutter’s essay, “Crying Wolf: Repeat Responses to Hurricane Evacuation Orders,” I began to consider what motivates people to evacuate. I learned the extent to which authority figures and resources influence people’s decisions.  Throughout their essay, Dow and Cutter explore the impact of Hurricane Bertha and Hurricane Fran in 1996 as “false alarms” (Dow 238) and “unnecessary evacuations ordered based on expectations of a hurricane landfall that ultimately proved to be wrong” (Dow 238).  Dow and Cutter emphasize the importance of perceived personal risk in determining whether or not to evacuate.  Even though South Carolina’s Governor Beasley called for a voluntary evacuation, residents of South Carolina weighed “the quality of home construction, location, family safety and needs, and data on storm tracks, strengths, and probabilities” (Dow 250) more heavily in their evacuation decision making.  These people also used the Weather Channel and Internet as more accurate sources of information to evaluate hurricane risks.

Because I was convinced by Dow and Cutter’s findings, I assumed that their research would validate the responses that Long Beach members had during Hurricane Sandy.  I referred to the Long Beach, NY Hurricane Sandy Facebook Page, which has been the foundation of our research, to compare the evacuation behavior to that of South Carolina.  Much to my surprise, I was unable to find posts that explained why people had or had not left Long Beach.  The only information I could gather came from the actual managers of the Facebook Page who were using the Facebook Page’s account.  As the managers relayed information and updates about the storm, their posts were not complemented with personal accounts.

While I realize that the Long Beach, NY Hurricane Sandy Facebook Page does not encompass all of the dialogue that has occurred among victims, I still wonder why there seems to be no discussion about evacuation on behalf of Long Beach residents.  Were Long Beach residents not participating in this Facebook forum because they did not have access to technology at that time?  Was this Facebook page intended for people outside of Long Beach who wanted to receive information about the storm?

Attached are screen captures of Long Beach, NY Hurricane Sandy’s information about Hurricane Sandy and evacuation measures.  From my observations, there seems to be a distinction between evacuation and leaving.  My limited understanding of evacuations has connoted evacuations to serious mandates.  On the other hand, I believe that departures suggest a more voluntary behavior.  Perhaps, evacuations and permitted departures can be used interchangeably though.



Dow, Kirstin and Susan L. Cutter. “Crying Wolf” Repeat Responses to Hurricane Evacuation Orders.” Coastal Management. 26:4. 1998: 237-252. Odyssey. Web. 16 January 2013.



  1. So, tell me more. Is this source of data just not appropriate to look at evacuation?

    1. I would argue that this source of data is not the most appropriate in understanding the evacuation situation from Long Beach residents’ perspectives. Even though Long Beach residents are now active on the Facebook page, they seem to be absent from the initial moments and conversations because of their circumstances. The early days of the Facebook page seem to provide outsiders with Hurricane updates.

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monica byrne

novelist . playwright . traveler . futurist . feminist


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