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Mass Exodus Due to Incoming Storm Holds Peril


Floridians are no strangers to catastrophic weather. With multiple hurricanes heading our way every year, we’ve become pretty adept at battening down the hatches and hunkering down. Sometimes evacuation orders force hordes of people to leave their homes in search or safer terrain. And while leaving home can be a traumatic decision for many, the majority of people ultimately make the decision to pack up and leave, at least temporarily. As you can imagine, when evacuations involve thousands, and even millions of people, getting out of town can hold its own dangers.

Lessons from History

In 2007, Houston highways experienced the worst gridlock in the city’s history as Hurricane Rita approached. Although the storm ultimately was far less devastating than anticipated, 2.5 million Texans frantically tried to escape the incoming storm.

Ultimately, the number of fatalities related to evacuation was nearly as high as the number directly related to the storm itself. That’s right: over 100 deaths occurred on highways as masses boiled over in gigantic traffic jams. Many others suffered injuries related to the trek.

  • Dozens of evacuees died of heat stroke while stuck in cars for more than 20 hours;
  • When one bus of senior citizens started billowing smoke, it pulled over to attempt to get people disembarked. Unfortunately, flames came in contact with an oxygen tank and caused a fiery explosion. Twenty-four individuals were killed;
  • With tempers short, multiple altercations broke out among drivers who were stuck side-by-side in traffic that was crawling.


Looking back, it’s clear that a lack of preparation resulted in unnecessary mayhem, drama and disaster. The city itself had only a haphazard evacuation plan for citizens. Two key problems were the  lack of contraflow lanes only minimal  policies to keep gasoline available & flowing. Facilities like nursing homes and hospitals had to slap together last-minute procedures to address patient evacuations, sometimes relying on second-rate equipment. And individuals were short of necessities like water, gas, and travel rations.

Be Ready

Time has passed since Rita, and a lot has been learned.  Here are some tips experts shared to help families be prepared in the event a major storm takes down power lines in your area:

  • Make sure your gas tank is full before the storm hits;
  • Get your hands on cash, because credit card machines and ATMs may be out of service;
  • Charge cell phones, and avoid using them in order to save them for emergency calls;
  • Store as much fresh water as possible;
  • Put food rations in a cooler, along with a box of non-perishables for long-term use;
  • Bring playing cards or other small items to entertain yourself and the kids and keep things mellow;
  • Once you hit the road, keep your cool and remember that we’re all in it together.

If an Evacuation is Necessary

 At the Law Offices of Robert W. Elton, we hope that every Floridian gets through hurricane season with minimal damage, injury and death. Working together and caring for each other will go a long way toward keeping us all safe. This hurricane season, use your head and your heart to enhance the security of yourself, and the next guy.