Prepping for a hurricane is expensive. There’s the hurricane shutters and plywood for the windows, the sandbags to prevent flooding, bottles of water, non-perishable food, gasoline for your car, batteries — the list never ends. CBS estimated the cost of fully locking down your home for a hurricane to be around $4,000. And then there’s flood insurance, which between 2003 and 2013, rose to more than $1,000 a year, an increase of 69 percent.
But time is the most precious commodity of all. Finding the time to brave the long gasoline lines. Finding the time to visit store after store to find water. Finding the time to put the shutters up and board up the house. If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck and working overtime, time is a luxury.
“[Evacuating] is not easy or simple. There are so many barriers, people don’t think things through before they speak,” 28-year-old Alecia Deon told ThinkProgress from her South Florida home. “One person suggested I walk to the airport. Which is not possible when you’re disabled and live in South Florida.”
As Hurricane Irma continues on its collision course with South Florida, numerous evacuation orders have been issued. But evacuating presents another set of costs that many low-income residents simply can’t afford.
Not everyone has a car that can handle up to 12 or more hours on a congested highway, and many low-income residents in South Florida don’t even have access to a car to begin with. Areas like North Miami, Overtown, and Culter Bay are close to evacuation zones, but also have higher poverty rates and more residents without cars.
— brad plumer (@bradplumer) September 7, 2017
Flying out of state is even more costly. A number of Floridians reported price gouging among airlines earlier this week. And even though some airlines like JetBlue capped flights out of Miami at $99, those are still only one-way tickets. Additionally, the parking garages at Miami International Airport (MIA) are at capacity, so evacuees would need to find alternative methods of arriving at the airport.
Both Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale Hollywood-International Airport have halted flights starting Friday and going into Sunday, making an evacuation via plane, even for those who can afford the ticket and have somewhere to go, even less likely.
— Leigh (@LeighDow) September 5, 2017
So when Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) warns repeatedly that this is “not a storm you can sit and wait through,” what happens if that is your only option?
Deon lives in the Broward County city of Tamarac. After mentioning on Twitter that she, and many others, are unable to evacuate, she was criticized. Twitter users asked her why is she begging for pity, and why she waited so long to prepare.
WE CANT FUCKIN LEAVE!!!!!! All gas stations outta gas. Traffic is outrageous. Flights are $1000+ It's not even possible at this point. https://t.co/Q3vdHRDQRb
— #BlackStudiesBae 🎓 (@msdeonb) September 7, 2017
I'm not still in Florida because I want to be. I am poor. And I am stuck. If I survive this motherfucker I'm writing a blog bc seriously. https://t.co/fMtt5oDxUw
— #BlackStudiesBae 🎓 (@msdeonb) September 7, 2017
Deon’s parents are both nursing assistants who frequently work 12-hour shifts. The energy, flexibility, and time required to prepare a home for an approaching hurricane just isn’t there when you’re already treading water financially. Deon said she’s heard of some people taking out credit cards or payday loans just to pay for supplies, worrying about the consequences later when the storm has passed.
“It’s the feeling of being in an emergency situation even when there’s no emergency,” said Deon. “I really don’t think people understand that.”
Deon and her family plan on riding out the storm in their Tamarac home. Fortunately, they already have a lot of water stocked up, due to Deon’s sickle cell anemia. She worries about having a sickle cell crisis, which requires hospitalization, if she is forced to evacuate to a shelter. For now, she just wants to be comfortable in her own home.
Anyone in the path of a hurricane is susceptible to property damage. Time and time again, however, it is the neighborhoods of low-income and minority residents who are disproportionately affected by natural disasters like hurricanes. Just days ago, when Hurricane Harvey bore down on Houston, it was the low-income neighborhoods that saw the worst of the severe flooding. Last year, up to 31 percent of North Carolina residents affected by the flooding from Hurricane Matthew lived beneath the poverty level.
“Those who are poor and marginalized often suffer disproportionately from the effects of disasters, in part because they tend to live on marginal land and their houses are more weakly constructed,” wrote Elizabeth Ferris in a Brookings Institute blog post. “They are also less likely to own their homes, which means that it is less likely they are eligible for assistance to rebuild.”