Local officials here, seeing that we are in the highest probability zone and the center of the probability projections for landfall of hurricane Rita this coming weekend, have ordered a mandatory evacuation of the suburb of Houston in which I live and all of Galveston County.
Problem #1: Though we're in the "highest probability" strike zone, that probability would be 13% at latest estimate. If you add in roughly another 12% for striking elsewhere but still too close for comfort, that still leaves a 75% chance of a miss.
Problem #2: The probability is only marginally lower than 13% for the entire Texas coastline all the way from Brownsville to Beaumont, a stretch of several hundred miles. A hit in Corpus Christi, much less Brownsville, would hardly affect us.
Problem #3: But if we're going to evacuate that many people in time, it means starting several days early. Starting several days early means there's a high probability that it's a waste of time.
If any of you outside of hurricane country have ever wondered why it's so typical to ignore warnings to leave, the reason is really very simple: most of the warnings are unnecessary. Playing the odds, people have won more often than not.
As for me, I expect to be evacuating. It's one thing to suspect that the current leaders are just a bit paranoid in the aftermath of Katrina; it's another to defy a mandatory evacuation order. I hope to be back before the start of next work week.
Update 09/21/2005 9:40pm
The above was written while Rita was category 2. Now Rita is category 5. This time, the call for evacuation seems to have been justified. As for me & mine, we're planning to head inland shortly. Our evacuation order calls for us to be underway by noon. Additional problem: roughly 1 million people are evacuating. The roads are parking lots. The inland cities receiving us probably do not have a combined population of 1 million themselves. And my original plan to head across town to stay with a relative on higher ground are now scrapped because she is also now under evacuation order.