Hurricane Florence--Why didn't people leave?


Sterling, VA - After Hurricane Florence ravaged the east coast, the Carolinas have witnessed flooded roads, ruined homes, and the deaths of vulnerable people. These are just some of the results from a terrible storm, but it might get worse in the weeks to come.

The destruction from Hurricane Florence has already caused 18 deaths and trapped hundreds of people behind floodwaters. Even though the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical depression as of Sept.17, the slow-moving storm still dumped a dangerous amount of rain on the Carolinas.

Since Hurricane Florence made landfall Sept. 14, residents and first responders have been dealing with flooded roads, mudslides, polluted drinking water, and felled trees. While coastal cities like Wilmington, NC saw some of the worst flooding, inland areas were also hit hard. The reason? River flooding. In fact, some areas of the Carolinas were so hard hit that additional evacuation orders were issued up to one week after the storm had passed.

One gallon of water weighs around eight pounds, meaning your home's gutters can carry thousands of pounds of water. Combined with rising rivers, many homeowners are dealing with basement flooding, water damage, and roof damage. Even worse, sewage and other contaminants make the floodwaters especially dangerous.

Why did people choose not to evacuate before Hurricane Florence?

Even though more than 1 million people were ordered to leave their coastal homes ahead of Hurricane Florence, some Carolinians stayed behind. Inevitably, that makes first responders' jobs more difficult. By Sept. 14, about 200 people had been rescued from a single town, New Bern, in North Carolina.

As a result of Hurricane Florence, the National Weather Service recorded "Catastrophic and historic river flooding" in North and South Carolina. In the wake of the hurricane, many people wonder why some residents choose to stay in their coastal homes. To them, it seems silly; you're told to evacuate but you stay behind. Many residents are being criticized for their decision, but not everyone has the ability to stay with family or go to a shelter.

Even if you have the car, gas money and health privileges to get to a family member's home or a shelter, countless more people cannot risk missing a week of work or abandoning their property. This is even more difficult for immigrants, the elderly, and those with disabilities, particularly those who need specialized equipment. When over one-third of Americans have difficulty paying their medical bills, sometimes relocating is not a viable option.

In North Carolina, more than 15,000 people moved to 150 emergency shelters across the state. For those who are struggling and need shelter, the state plans to open more when those fill up.

Assessing the economic impacts of Hurricane Florence

While hurricanes can cause untold disaster for individual residents and business owners, there's light at the end of the tunnel: hurricanes actually don't damage the U.S. economy long-term.

Even though the property damage caused by Hurricane Harvey resulted in $125 billion the U.S. economy actually grew during this time.

Business will slow during the immediate aftermath of a hurricane, of course. Once rebuilding starts, however, this activity will often bolster the local economy. Property damage alone accounts for 36 percent of remodeling jobs in the home.

"Within just a few years, Katrina victims’ incomes fully recover and even surpass that of controls from similar cities that were unaffected by the storm," claimed research from a 2014 study by economists who studied the economic impact of Katrina.

Though the population density of the Carolinas will result in significant economic impacts, there's still hope that the areas will recover quickly. For now, saving the hundreds of trapped individuals and managing floodwaters is the top priority.

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