Ignoring a hurricane evacuation order and riding it out is a very risky and potentially fatal decision for a number of reasons. Hurricanes are a very serious storm that should never be taken lightly. If local officials are telling you to evacuate, it’s best to take their advice and get out of harms way, regardless of how big the hurricane is or what type of house you live in.
Hurricanes can travel great distances and have very irregular paths. As an example, in 1995, hurricane Roxanne had one of the most bizarre paths recorded in recent times. It’s very uncommon for a hurricane to move in a forward direction, the reverse course, only to move forward again. But that’s exactly what Roxanne did.
Although the National Hurricane Center sends out projected paths a hurricane may take, there are probabilities tied to these projections. With each hour that goes by, the projections change as do the probabilities of landfall locations and intensity. Just because someone isn’t in the 72-hour projected path doesn’t mean they are safe. The conditions 3-days out probably indicated the hurricane would miss them, but say the next day comes around and some other influences have now entered the equation (high pressure ridge over the mid-west, or shift in the sub-tropical jet stream). The 48-hour projection may now have their location as a direct hit, and instead of a the hurricane being a category 2, it’s now a category 4. Don’t think this doesn’t happen … it does and has. Hurricane Wilma intensified from a Tropical Storm to Category 5 Hurricane in just 24 hours with a wind speed increase from 70 mph to 155 mph.
If at the last minute you realize the storm has greatly intensified and you don’t want to ride it out anymore, getting out of town may be near impossible. To the left is a picture of the evacuation during hurricane Rita. There will most certainly be traffic jams and finding a place to stay will be impossible. You may find your family sleeping in the car on the side of the road someplace exposed to the weather, and without food or water for days. Even though the self-pay gas stations might be open for business, that’s not to say they will have gas.
If the overall wind speed is around 105 mph, that doesn’t mean the wind will never exceed that. Hurricanes often have mini-tornadoes embedded within the eye wall where the wind speeds are considerably higher. Extensive destruction can happen on a very localized scale despite the fact the hurricane is only a Category 2. There is no way to predict where these localized wind will occur which is almost always why there are tornado warnings associated with hurricanes.
So it’s best to watch the news closely if a hurricane is approaching your area. Evacuating only to find out the hurricane missed you is far better than rolling the dice, sticking around, then wishing you hadn’t. Don’t gamble your family’s life.