L.M. Otero/AP

Many Galvestonians Defied Hurricane Ike Despite Dire Warnings

September 19, 2008 12:58 PM
by Isabel Cowles
More than 140,000 residents refused to evacuate the Texas coast in the days leading up to Hurricane Ike.

Galvestonians Defy Ike and Orders

Authorities and news reporters claimed that residents who remained in Galveston and nearby cities and towns across the Texas coast would face “certain death.” Nevertheless, more than 140,000 residents decided to take the risk.

After Hurricane Ike passed through, rescue personnel began what Governor Rick Perry called, “the largest search-and-rescue operation in the history of the state of Texas.”

Although authorities worried about what would happen on the evening of the storm, they were equally concerned with its aftermath, fearing that the storm would become a “slow-motion disaster” as rescuers attempted to help people stranded in their homes.

“When you stay behind in the face of a warning, not only do you jeopardize yourself, you put the first responders at risk as well," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said. "Now we're going to see this play out.”

But some Texas residents preferred to wait and see. Many have expressed distrust of the government in light of past mandatory evacuations and political disputes over rebuilding.  “There’s a different mind-set, a different mentality with these people out here,” remarked Brad Lester, an emergency medical technician in Hackberry, Texas. “There’s a lot of people who’d rather die than be rescued by the government.”

Hurricane evacuations can prevent some Texans from returning home early enough to minimize further damage to their property. Others simply find evacuating too much trouble. “I ran from Beulah, and it was the biggest mistake I ever made,” said Ray Wilkinson of Surfside, Texas, referring to the large storm that occurred in the 1960s. “I’m tired of running from these damn things. If it’s going to get you, it’s going to get you.”

“I’m just a crazy, old hardhead,” added Wilkinson. “I didn’t say I had all my marbles.”

Reference: The Toll of Hurricane Ike

Related Topic: Houston residents told to stay home


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