Mandatory Evacuation Means Leave!

When Hurricane Isaac made landfall in Southeast Louisiana this past week, mandatory evacuations were issued for some of the most vulnerable areas. The hurricane was the lead story for most, if not all news organizations from coast to coast. The message was loud and clear, a hurricane is coming and it is going to make landfall near New Orleans 7 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. Certainly there were people who did not have the means to evacuate, just like there were during Katrina. However, many people simply chose to not to heed the warning. Was it the thrill, overconfidence, or simply a total lack of respect for Isaac? After all, Isaac was a wimp compared to Katrina, right? Post-storm interviews of those affected revealed many reasons for CHOOSING to stay. Regardless of the reason it all can be summed up as irresponsible, particularly for those with children and elderly under their care.

Admittedly, I see these storms totally differently now that I am a meteorologist. I have learned that every storm is different and must be respected. Yet we often put a limit on what a storm can do by categorizing it before it has run it's course. I am in no way suggesting that meteorologists should not do their best to forecast these storms as far in advance as possible. But, the details and the extenuating circumstances with each storm make a big difference and must be taken into consideration. People often determine their risk without fully understanding ALL of the details with an upcoming storm.

Take Isaac for example. Isaac wandered across the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm for days. The National Hurricane Center forecasted the tropical cyclone to intensify and make landfall as either a category 1 or 2 hurricane. They couldn't have been more accurate, as Isaac continued to remain fairly unorganized until about 12 hours before landfall. Now it's time to examine the details. Due to weak steering flow in the upper levels of the atmosphere, Isaac wobbled slowly northwest across Louisiana at approximately 5 mph after making landfall. Rainfall amounts were forecasted to range between 12 and 18 inches with some areas receiving as much as 20 inches locally. This amount of rain combined with a 6 to 12 foot storm surge and an area notorious for flooding such as southeast Louisiana were ominous signs.

By the morning after Isaac made landfall the images and video of homes under 10 to 12 feet of water, people being rescued by boat, and tales of heroism were airing nationwide and could be found on social media almost instantaneously. Many people were under the impression that because this storm was only a category 1 it could not do the same things as Katrina did. Sadly, they were mistaken. Please do yourself, those you care about, and first responders a favor. When a warning is issued take some personal responsibility and plan for the worst. It just might save somebody's life, maybe even yours.