Title

The role of regional cultural values in decisions about hurricane evacuation

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-1-2019

Abstract

Copyright © 2019 by the Society for Applied Anthropology. This paper explores perceived risk within the context of regional cultural values. We describe aspects of local culture in Galveston, Texas, as emically defined, which affected response to a mandatory evacuation order for Hurricane Ike. Since over the past two decades about a third of residents failed to evacuate for hurricanes, we focused on understanding why residents would choose to stay. We used a matched-pair design to control for socioeconomic status and resources that might affect evacuation. Thus, pairs of neighbors were interviewed (one person who evacuated and a neighbor who did not evacuate). Using a new technique (qualitative comparative analysis) to find clustering among people and themes, narratives from in-depth open-ended interviews revealed two distinct groups of people with separate motivations for not evacuating. One group focused on the hazards of leaving because traffic hazards could be greater than storm risk, combining traffic risk with past experiences and concern about delay in reentering. These people were well-prepared with supplies and equipment to survive for a week or two without services. A second group focused on media "hype;" they simply did not believe news sources about the danger the storm posed. Unfortunately, in this case, the media warnings were correct, and the storm fooded the town with about thirteen feet of seawater, sewage, and debris. The historical pattern of official warnings, response actions, and media warnings considered to be "hype," may actually be encouraging a culture of non-compliance with future mandatory evacuation orders.

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