MIAMI - As the hurricane season gets underway, experts at the American Automobile Association are warning that not everyone who lives in a hurricane impact zone is prepared for a disaster.
Results from Florida and South Carolina were more encouraging, with more than three-fourths of the population estimated to take preparedness steps before a storm.
Just as concerning to the association were participants who said they would ignore warnings to evacuate in the event of a hurricane.
According to the survey, more than half said they would only leave their homes if an approaching hurricane was a Category 3 or stronger and 24% of Floridians said they would ignore warnings to leave altogether, regardless of how intense the system was.
During previous seasons, coastal residents cited gas prices and pandemic concerns for not leaving, but this year Floridians said wanting to stay close to their property was a priority. Staying with their property gives some homeowners peace of mind that they can quickly attend to damage during a storm without having to wait days or even weeks to return.
Other reasons cited for ignoring evacuation orders included concerns over pet shelters, errors in the forecast track, not knowing where to go, fear of looting after the storm and finances.
"Staying in the path of a potentially deadly storm is just not worth the risk," Mark Jenkins, a public relations manager for AAA, said in a statement. "Take steps now to develop an evacuation plan for your family and pets. If you’re worried about property damage, contact your insurance advisor. Having adequate coverage will give you the peace of mind in knowing that anything damaged while you’re gone can be repaired or replaced."
For years, emergency managers have stressed the importance of residents knowing their evacuation zone, but even with Public Service Announcements, easy-to-use online maps and other outreach campaigns, not all who live in a threat zone know when it is their time to leave.
The last time parts of the Southeast faced major evacuation orders was during Hurricane Ian in 2022. More than 2 million people were placed under an evacuation order, making it the largest event since Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1, and right on cue Tropical Depression Two formed and strengthened into Tropical Storm Arlene during the first two days of the season. The system formed well off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico and did not trigger any evacuations in the U.S.
Tropical cyclone season runs through Nov. 30, and due to an impending El Niño, tropical weather experts warn there are more uncertainties than average with seasonal predictions.
Colorado State University released an updated outlook Thursday that called for as many as 15 named storms, 17 of which could become hurricanes with winds of at least 74 mph.