Friday, September 23, 2005

Hurrican Rita Evacuation Plan -- the serious version

I just joined in on a conversation over at Instapundit (search for "Melissa Dorman") with the following letter:



I also took back roads away from Houston. I went from Houston to Austin in five hours while the people taking 290 were making the same trip in eighteen hours.

Posted evacuation routes are established so that people who don't know where to go and either don't have or can't read good maps, will be able to follow signs to high ground. But for a person of foresight, the state's habit of labelling various routes as official evacuation routes, serves a quite different purpose: it allows you to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, which roads are most likely to be completely bogged down in traffic.

Sixteen of my friends (three families with children plus two single co-workers) had made arrangements to come ride out the storm in Austin with me. They are all stuck in Houston because (1) they waited too late to leave (though I'm not sure they had a choice since they had to board up their houses and such) and (2) despite my attempts to explain to them precisely which back roads they should take, they ignored me and tried to use the primary evacuation routes. In the end they gave up, went back home, and now have no choice left but to hunker down. So, let's compare strategies: I covered 170 miles in five hours, which is not great time but is eminently doable, even on a single tank of gas. My friends took three hours to get twenty miles, and at the end of those twenty miles they were justing getting to where the REAL congestion started.

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, then there's no reason not to devise your own evacuation route, well in advance, that keeps you as far from the officially designated evacuation routes as possible. In fact there's no reason for you not to have two or three alternate routes designed. In doing so you serve your own family's needs; but you also serve the public, by reducing congestion on the main routes.


I'm not trying to harsh on my friends, by the way; just pointing out a major lesson to be learned. When I called my buddy and left a voice mail explaining what road he should take, I don't think he had any idea that I was telling him this precisely because I knew the main evacuation routes would be hell. My friends are extremely bright people, but they didn't grow up on the Gulf Coast and simply didn't have the experience necessary to understand why I was giving them the instructions I was giving them; and it didn't occur to me that it would be necessary to explain it. It's one of those times when you make a choice that you don't even realize you're making; when you look back later you say, "Oh, man, if I'd had any idea I'd've made a completely different choice." Which is the point of this post: when the next one hits, know what you're choosing when you choose to join the mob on the official routes.


At 5:57 PM, Blogger R.Nelson said...

You make a very good point and everyone who lives in a Hurricane prone area should by all means have a personal evacuation plan. I left Houston at 4:30 am Thursday and entered the Dallas city limits at 10:00 am. I took the farm to market roads and ranch roads and ran into very little traffic. The 5 and a half hour trip was certainly better than the 24 hour drive that had been in some news reports.


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