Why didn't Houston evacuate before Harvey?

By: Gerald Hanks, Rare.us

Updated:

HOUSTON - The images of daring water rescues and homeowners stranded on their roofs in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey are drawing the world’s attention to Houston, Texas.

The storm and its aftermath are also highlighting a conflict between Gov. Greg Abbott in Austin and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

On Friday, just hours before Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast as a Category 4 storm, Abbott, a Republican, urged residents to evacuate, despite the lack of an organized evacuation plan in place:

“Even if an evacuation order hasn’t been issued by your local official, if you’re in an area between Corpus Christi and Houston, you need to strongly consider evacuating,” Abbott said at a news conference, according to CNN.

The following day, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner contradicted the governor’s advice, according to the Washington Post:

“Quite frankly, leaving your homes, getting on the streets, you’ll be putting yourself in more danger and not making yourself safer,” he said in a statement. “And so, we’re just asking people to hunker down.”

In his address, Turner, a Democrat, referred to the chaos Houston endured when residents attempted to evacuate prior to Hurricane Rita in September 2005 following the devastation and viral imagery of Hurricane Katrina only three weeks prior.

Thousands of cars were stranded on the freeways, while at least 60 fatalities ensued, including 24 elderly evacuees who died when their charter bus caught fire.

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“Remember the last time we evacuated, there was a great deal of confusion, great deal of chaos,” Turner said. “There were people that were going to Austin that were on the road 10 to 12 hours, if not longer. There were people who ran out of gas on their way — a great deal of confusion.”

Some families reported 17-hour drives to Dallas from south Houston, and the population of the Bayou City only grew since then.

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“You literally cannot put 6.5 million people on the road,” Turner said further defending his decision to not issue evacuation orders. “If you think the situation right now is bad, you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare.”

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 water rescues for citizens trapped in their homes were performed by first responders.

As of this writing, the Houston area is expecting more rain throughout the week.

 

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