Louisiana was hit on Aug. 20 by Hurricane Laura, one of the strongest storms in over a century. Laura made landfall as a Category 4 storm, with winds of up to 150 mph. There was a predicted 20 feet of storm surge and the National Hurricane Center determined that the surge would be “unsurvivable” in many areas CNN. Hundreds of thousands are still currently without power. Yet, many chose to stay home. Despite the evacuation warnings, several refused to leave. They were told by Louisiana officials to put their names, addresses, social security numbers and next of kin on a piece of paper, and to keep the paper in their pockets.
Unfortunately, when it comes to evacuations, the scale is somewhat skewed. Some people just can’t afford to leave their homes. In fact, most people who stayed behind did so because they had no other options. Evacuating requires residents to have a place to go, and many simply do not have that option. In fact, the storm primarily hit the industrialized parts of Louisiana, and the people living closest to these “are typically the poorest, and tend to be communities of color” nytimes. This is not always the case, however. Many families actively chose to stay home.
One family that decided to tough it out during the storm ended up without a roof over their heads. Mrs. Thompson described her experience saying, “We thought we were safe. We had generators, and we had windows boarded up.” accuweather But around two in the morning, the family moved to hide under their kitchen table. Within minutes, the roof to their home was gone. The family had to flee their home and ended up breaking into a nearby house under construction, where other local families also took cover. They remained unharmed, but even Mrs. Thompson admitted that things were much worse than expected.
Another family, the Palmers, decided to ride the storm out as well. They described it as “one of the scariest things [they’d] ever been through … and would not recommend it to anybody.” Patty Palmer claimed that the worst part was the wind, which “would just not go down” accuweather. Others have described the winds as sounding like a freight train. In a Motel 6 where 15 guests and staff members were taking shelter, the roof of the third floor collapsed under the pressure of the storm. Many who decided to stay behind have admitted to their mistake, but not everyone. In fact, though it may be difficult to understand why some people would choose to stay behind, many are being considered heroes.
In Lake Charles, La., the NICU hospital staff stayed behind to care of 19 babies. The hospital was running on generators with water leaking in several places, yet still the nurses and respiratory therapists managed to keep all of the babies safe. Dr. Juan Bossano praised their work, saying, “The dedication of this staff, to keep taking care of the babies — when they didn’t even know the condition of their homes —- is so important.” abc But still, the hospital itself felt the effects of Hurricane Laura. In the middle of the night the air conditioning and water went out. All of the patients had to be moved out of their rooms when the winds got bad. Nurses and patients were sleeping in the hallways together. Many of the babies were on ventilators, and several others were sick. And yet, everyone made it through the night safely. It’s a true miracle, considering that Lake Charles was one of the worst towns hit.
Although it’s difficult to refrain from judgement in situations like these, everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do. It’s difficult to say if I would be willing to abandon my home during a hurricane like Laura. And although many of the residents who refused to evacuate have now stated their regret, it is also true that some of them are real and selfless heroes.