Eintime Conversion for education and research 10-20-2007 @ 07:24:19
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Poll: Little 'hurry' in hurricane zones

By Patrick O'Driscoll, USA TODAY

Nearly one-third of residents in U.S. coastal areas vulnerable to hurricanes say they won't obey orders to evacuate if a major storm threatens, according to a new survey on preparedness released today.

Despite the nightmare experience of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the poll also found that almost two-thirds of New Orleans residents don't know the location of an evacuation shelter. More than half have not prearranged with their family where to meet after a storm. In other states, lack of a post-storm meeting plan is even higher: 66%.

HURRICANE PROBABILITIES:What's the chance your town will be hit this year?

"Our surprise was we thought the power of Katrina would leave a longer legacy," says project director Robert Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health. His team surveyed 5,046 adults within 20 miles of the coasts in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, the Carolinas and Texas.

In a survey last year, only one-fourth of hurricane-zone residents said they would not evacuate.

The Harvard survey comes about a month before the normal peak of Atlantic hurricane season.

Two tropical storms have formed so far this year: Andrea in May and Barry in June.

Blendon says safety and security concerns rank highest among those unwilling to flee. More than half fear overcrowded roads. One-third fear danger during evacuation and theft or damage of property left behind. Shelter conditions also are a worry. Two-thirds of respondents think shelters would be unsanitary, too crowded and short of water.

Among those reluctant to leave, three-quarters say their houses are sturdy enough to withstand hurricanes — even residents of mobile homes, which are considered the least-likely structures to survive.

Blendon says his team was "really taken aback" that a quarter of mobile-home residents who would not leave believe that their houses can withstand a Category 3 storm, with winds of 111-130 mph.

Blendon says New Orleans leads in one positive category: It boasts the fewest number of respondents who say they would refuse to evacuate, only 14%. "But they have the highest share of people who don't know where a shelter is," he adds.

New Orleans and Louisiana officials downplayed the shelter issue, saying details about where to take cover depend on the path of an approaching storm and specific needs of those seeking shelter — families, the disabled or people with pets.

Terry Ebbert, the city's head of homeland security, admits concern that 51% in New Orleans haven't arranged for family meet-ups afterward. "Responsibility for individual planning rests not with government but with individuals," he says.

(Original Len: 2901 Condensed Len: 3186)

10-20-2007 @ 07:24:19