Hurricane Evacuation Survey of Outer Banks Begins

July 15, 2013

State and federal emergency officials will survey hundreds of Outer Banks, N.C., residents to find out if they would ever evacuate for a hurricane so they can estimate how crowded roads will be when people are told to leave ahead of a storm.

“People always hesitate to leave,” said Allan McDuffie, hurricane evacuation study manager for the Army Corps of Engineers. “It’s hard to get a high participation rate unless people believe a very big storm is coming straight at them.”

Lisa Marley told the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., that she never leaves her Colington home when a hurricane approaches because it’s too hard to get back into Dare County afterward, and pets and property need care.

“There’s no good reason to do it,” she said.

The information will be given to local emergency management officials by October, McDuffie saud. Officials will use the information to calculate evacuation times.

A 2002 study showed that fewer than a third of Outer Banks residents evacuated before some of the largest storms of the 1990s. When Hurricane Emily struck in 1993 with winds of 115 mph, prompting a countywide evacuation order, only 32 percent complied. For Hurricane Floyd six years later, it was 20 percent.

Dare County officials have called for storm evacuations eight times in the past 20 years, including for Hurricane Irene two years ago. About 95 percent of the approximately 250,000 visitors on a typical summer day leave as requested, said Sandy Sanderson, director of Dare County Emergency Management.

The county calls for a mandatory evacuation for Hatteras Island, its most vulnerable area, at least 48 hours before a significant storm, Sanderson said. About 6,000 residents live full-time on the island, and about 40,000 tourists are staying there on a given day, he said.

For Hurricane Irene, about 25 percent of the year-round residents left, he said. “We got a poor response,” he said. “They didn’t take into account the sound-side flooding.”

The telephone survey begins Monday and will include questions such as whether the resident evacuated in the past or would in the future. Respondents will be given a chance to voice their concerns about leaving.

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