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Texas A&M Researchers Collect Data on Hurricane Harvey Evacuations

When a massive storm is approaching, sometimes the most important thing to do is know when to leave. Hurricane Harvey’s waters brought unprecedented amounts of flooding to portions of Texas and Louisiana in summer 2017. Some areas flooded for the first time in decades. Recently, FEMA updated its insurance map to add thousands of homes to floodplains. It’s the first time that the map had been updated in 20 years, and more than 3,700 homes are now required to carry flood insurance because of it. That’s a 300-percent increase from the 1,200 homes initially listed.

While the federal government and local officials work out new insurance and response policies, researchers are examining how evacuations were handled during Hurricane Harvey.

Why Researchers Want This Data

Texas A&M researchers sent 6,000 surveys to residents throughout the Gulf Coast region. They did this out of a desire to understand when and how decisions were made to evacuate residents. The data will be useful for emergency preparations during future storm surges.

Researchers want the data to update the evacuation plans for areas that did not have a mandatory evacuation order during Hurricane Harvey. In Nueces County and Corpus Christi, residents received a┬ánon-mandatory evacuation order notifying recipients to find higher ground. Areas such as Port Aransas and Rockport received mandatory evacuation orders and about 14,000 people from these areas evacuated. Had Corpus Christi and Nueces County received mandatory evacuations, about 362,000 people would find themselves displaced from their homes. While Harvey was significant, it didn’t even test the evacuation procedures of some of the most populated regions it affected.

Hurricane Harvey Wasn’t the Last Big Hurricane

Experts stress that residents need to remember that making it through Harvey without evacuating does not mean that they can shelter in place during the next big storm. Officials want residents to be ready to leave their homes, even if they did not suffer any damage during the last big storm. When and if the big one hits populated areas, this data should provide a plan for those who need to evacuate.