Press Release

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To Stay or Go? Why People Ride Out Hurricanes

(Grand Rapids, MI) – According to a presentation for the National Evacuation Conference, approximately 350,000 people did not evacuate the area before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Foremost Insurance examines why people choose to ride out the storms and the impact that decision can make. 

“There are many reasons people decide to ride out storms,” says Chris Dyer, catastrophe manager at the Grand Rapids location. “However, it’s dangerous for anyone to stay behind and I don’t recommend it.  You never know how bad a storm is going to be.  A hurricane could start off as a Category 1 or 2 and, at the last minute, jump to a 3 or 4 and take your life.”

Below are some of the top reasons people choose to stay behind during hurricanes, how this affects others and suggestions on what to do during an evacuation.

Ignoring the Warnings

Strong Enough

Many people think their home is structurally sound and can withstand damage from a hurricane. However, hurricanes are powerful and damage is usually widespread, knocking out entire neighborhoods. Plus, most people have never been without power and water for days at a time and believe they can handle it.

Protection

Some people are so concerned about their home and belongings they stay behind to try to protect them. However, having home insurance provides coverage for the things that are important to you. You can repair or replace your clothes and furniture, but you can’t undo harm to a family member.

Denial and Trust

Not believing the severity of the hurricane is also a reason for staying behind. Some have already safely survived a hurricane before, so they think they’ll be fine for this one, too. Also, trusting the weather predictions can be a factor. If residents don’t believe a storm is as severe as it’s described, they’ll ignore the warnings, especially if forecasters have been wrong before. It’s the ‘cry wolf’ factor where they’ve already been told to evacuate for every tropical depression and believe this storm will be just the same.

Traffic

When everyone is being told to evacuate, highways and roads can become congested. In some hurricanes, it took families 12-18 hours to evacuate. People may weigh the pros and cons of fighting traffic.  Do they want to be stuck in their car when the storm hits or in the comfort of their homes?

Adventure

There are thrill-seekers who may want the adrenaline rush, think it’s cool or want to prove they can ride out the conditions when no one else can. Many have claimed that they quickly changed their minds when the storm hit.

Unable to Comply

Illness and Age

Those who are sick or elderly may be too fragile to handle an evacuation.   The stress of the situation could affect their health and well-being, so staying may seem like the better option. During Hurricane Katrina, there were several people hooked up to life support systems who didn’t have a medical vehicle to get them out, so there really was no choice.  

Financial Situation

Some people find themselves with no transportation because they don’t own a car or know any friends or relatives who have one. They may not have anywhere to stay and can’t afford a hotel room. When money is an issue, many people refuse to miss work for any amount of time, especially if evacuating turns out to be a false alarm.

Impact of Staying Behind

The Claims Process

Staying behind can affect more than just the lives of those willing to take the risk.  “Rescue operations come into these hurricane situations first, trying to either get everyone safely out of the area or saving those who chose to ride out the storm,” says Dyer.  “Then the search team comes in to assess the number of casualties and look for missing people.” 

“Insurance companies and other groups trying to help can’t come in to the area until these two teams are finished.  If more people stay behind and have to be rescued or found, this slows down the entire claims process. People have to wait longer to get any money to help them with their needs.”

Partially Evacuating

“In a lot of cases, people may evacuate, but only go inland 50-100 miles,” explains Dyer.  “While this may get them to safety, the hurricane may reach that far.  It also tends to fill the local hotels up, which makes it difficult for outside help like the Red Cross and insurance companies to get in to offer assistance.”

Suggestions

“It’s hard to tell people what to do,” Dyer says.  “You’re never going to get 100% of the people evacuated, but you hope you can, because you never know how bad a storm’s going to be.  People should keep in mind that most homeowner policies offer coverage for evacuating and extra expenses when ordered by government authorities.  I would recommend people:

  • Be prepared - discuss evacuation plans with friends and family before a hurricane hits so you can get everyone to safety, including those without transportation or who are elderly.
  • Listen to evacuation orders – they are given because forecasters believe there is a chance the hurricane could be severe enough to cause harm or take your life.
  • Be safe rather than sorry – ask yourself if the risk is worth your life or your family’s lives.
  • Evacuate early to avoid as much traffic as possible.
  • Go as far inland as possible – hurricanes can change directions very quickly, so your best bet is to head away from the coastline.
  • Remember that home insurance is there to provide coverage for your house and belongings, which can be replaced if they are damaged.
  • Know that those looking for an adventure quickly regretted staying behind once the hurricane hit.

“In my experience, everyone I’ve talked to who chose to ride out the hurricane said it was worse than they thought it would be,” summarizes Dyer. “They also said they were scared to death.”

Foremost Insurance Group (“Foremost”) is your source for personal property and casualty insurance. A part of the Farmers Insurance Group of Companies®, Foremost® has been a leader in the insurance industry since 1952. Foremost is headquartered in Caledonia, Michigan. To learn more about our products or share your feedback, visit www.Foremost.com, our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/foremostinsurance or our Twitter page at www.Twitter.com/foremost.

Christy Heilman
(616) 956-4289
christy.heilman@foremost.com

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