One refrain among the distressing stories coming out of the Texas Gulf Coast is that many people wanted to evacuate before Hurricane Harvey struck. But they couldn’t leave. They didn’t have the resources necessary to go. From Think Progress:
The BBC recently interviewed residents in Rockport, Texas about why they decided to stay. [….] One woman, Judie, said she stayed because she had nowhere to go and didn’t have the money to leave.
As A. Mechele Dickerson concludes in a commentary in Fortune:
“To pay the costs—including transportation, housing, food, and other expenses—associated with an evacuation, the evacuee needs either savings, ample disposable income, or the capacity to finance an evacuation using short-term debt. [….] People stayed because they could not afford to leave.”
Evacuations in themselves can be expensive and dangerous. But given that global warming may lead to stronger hurricanes and that the current US federal government is unlikely to do anything to mitigate climate change, perhaps we should be asking ourselves if we need to reevaluate our approach toward disasters such as these.
The question that I return to (from, admittedly, my dry vantage point up here in the northern part of the Lone Star State) is what we as a state and as a nation need to do to make available resources so that people who want to leave before a storm hits can do so.
Which really is a question of how to raise this issue with our elected officials. In a state as conservative as Texas, where the ideas of fiscal responsibility and self-reliance permeate any sort of political decision, we’re not likely to find a receptive audience.
Do we really need to turn this into an argument about the cost of evacuation versus the greater cost of rescue and recovery missions?
Perhaps Harvey will spark more discussion of what we need to do to prepare for future storms. But first, we may need to figure out the ways we need to talk about it in order to get a more humane response from our elected officials who are eager to put into place discriminatory regulation because it’s the “right thing to do,” but who are reluctant to do the right thing when it comes to helping out before actual threats.