This is the first of the many reports that the Island Free Press will publish about the response to our reader survey on Hurricane Irene.
The survey was posted on our website on Sept. 12. From then until we took it offline on Oct. 24, we had 2,211 responses from Hatteras and Ocracoke residents, non-resident property owners, and visitors.
The survey asked these folks to answer questions about the preparation for and response to the storm. The questions were tailored for residents who stayed on the island, residents who evacuated, non-resident property owners, and visitors.
Survey questions explored the attitude of the respondents to evacuation and preparation and asked them to rate government bodies, utilities, and other agencies involved in the response to the storm.
It is our hope that the responses to the survey will provide information useful to the community and federal, state, and county agencies and other groups involved with hurricane response.
The Island Free Press is grateful to Hatteras Designs, Inc., the company that developed our website, for making this survey possible. Owners Jim Boyd and Buddy Swain proposed the idea of the survey to us, developed the questions with our input, and set it up with the required software that will allow us to do all kinds of nifty things in sorting and tallying the responses.
They have donated their work to us because they think – and we agree – that this is a service to our community.
The amount of information in these responses is huge, and it’s taken us some time to look at it and plan the best way to present it to our readers.
We will eventually work our way through all of it. We hope you will be patient since there is other news that we must cover while we write about the survey.
Of the 2, 211 who responded, 1,438 completed the survey. The 773 who didn’t mostly stopped at the point that they were asked detailed questions on the response by government agencies and other organizations.
In these reports, we will deal mostly with the 1, 438 completed responses.
Completed responses came from:
- 400 full-time Hatteras and Ocracoke residents, which is 28 percent of the total.
- 415 non-resident property owners, which is 29 percent of the total.
- 623 visitors, which is 43 percent of the total.
In this first part of the reporting, we will focus on full-time Hatteras and Ocracoke residents and the information they provided us about evacuation and re-entry. Some of it is factual and other responses explore the attitudes of residents about evacuation and re-entry.
We broke this part of the survey into three parts – responses from all residents, responses from those who stayed on the islands, responses from those who evacuated.
Only 34 of the respondents were Ocracoke residents, which probably reflects the fact that Ocracoke had much less damage than Hatteras and all residents, non-resident owners, and visitors were allowed back much more quickly.
Three hundred sixty six Hatteras residents responded, which is about 12 percent of the population of the island in the 2010 census.
Total resident responses by village and percentage of total response are:
- Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo. 55 -- 13.75 percent.
- Avon. 73 -- 18.25 percent.
- Buxton: 93 -- 23.25 percent.
- Frisco. 86 -- 21.50 percent.
- Hatteras. 59 -- 14.75 percent
- Ocracoke. 34 -- 8.5 percent.
Eighty-five percent of the respondents own their residences, and 15 percent rent. Ninety percent live in houses with 3 percent in apartments, and 6 percent in mobile homes or camping trailers.
Of the total responses, 135 residents – 33.75 percent – said they evacuated ahead of the hurricane, and 259 residents – 65.75 percent -- did not.
The residents who evacuated were about evenly divided among the villages:
- Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo. 23 -- 15.56 percent
- Avon. 25 -- 18.52 percent.
- Buxton. 24 -- 17.78 percent.
- Frisco. 25 -- 18.52 percent.
- Hatteras. 26 -- 19.26 percent.
- Ocracoke. 14 -- 10.37 percent.
Of the residents who answered the survey the highest percentage who stayed on the island were from Buxton and Frisco. Sixty-seven Buxton residents stayed and 61 Frisco residents did not evacuate. Combined, these two villages accounted for 50 percent of respondents who did not evacuate.
In the tri-villages, 30 residents said they stayed. In Avon, 46 stayed. In Hatteras, 32 stayed. And 20 Ocracoke residents said they did not evacuate.
All residents answered a first set of questions about evacuation and re-entry, and then those who stayed and those who evacuated answered a different second set of questions.
So we can look at how all residents responded, and we can compare and contrast the different views of those who stayed and those who did not.
At the end of this story, there are links to all of the survey responses by residents. They are divided into three parts – answers from all residents, answers from residents who evacuated, and answers from those who did not. There are also links to comments – one set for those who left and another for those who did not.
RESPONSES FROM ALL RESIDENTS
Here are some highlights:
Staged re-entry. We asked whether evacuated residents should be allowed to return first before non-resident property owners and visitors. All residents, whether they stayed or left, were together on that one – 97 percent answered that residents should come back first.
Timing of return. This question asked respondents to consider infrastructure issues and answer when re-entry should begin.
Among all residents, 34 percent said return should be immediately by whatever means could be arranged. However, 44 percent of those who left said that re-entry should be immediate by whatever means, but only 29 percent of those who stayed thought so.
An issue in the Hurricane Irene re-entry was that residents were not allowed back on the island until more than a week after the storm – when supply lines and main line power were restored.
On that issue, 28 percent of residents who stayed agreed that there should be no re-entry until food, water, gas, and main line full power are restored, while only 7 percent who evacuated responded that they should be kept away until all those services return.
How residents stayed informed. There were some obvious differences here:
71 percent of those who stayed relied on broadcast radio, which was especially true in the first days after the storm, while only 34 percent of those who evacuated did.
Both groups relied heavily on the Internet, including 61 percent who stayed and 83 percent who did not.
Practically no one relied on printed newspapers – only 5 percent of those who stayed and 10 percent of those who left. Perhaps that is because there were no newspapers on the island in the days after the storm. The Virginian-Pilot, the only daily newspaper with home delivery on Hatteras, stopped delivering the day before the storm and never resumed. The Pilot has since told islanders that it has completely eliminated home delivery on Hatteras, presumably for cost-cutting reasons. The Coastland Times and the Outer Banks Sentinel were both brought to the island on the emergency ferries.
My favorite part of this question is that a whopping 57 percent of those who stayed on the island got their news “by word of mouth.” Only 32 percent of those who evacuated got their news this way. Of course, the island rumor mill was working overtime in the hurricane’s aftermath. Problem was that much of the information that was being passed around at the post offices and grocery stores was wrong or misleading.
Attitude toward evacuation. We asked residents whether their experiences during the storm had changed their attitude about whether or not they would evacuate.
Among those who left, 60 percent said yes, while 40 percent said no. Among those who stayed on the island, only 29 percent said their attitude had been changed and 71 percent said it had not.
Mandatory evacuation. We asked the question, “If or when a mandatory evacuation is again ordered in the future, are you likely to evacuate?”
The experiences of evacuees after Irene was worrisome to many. It took residents so long to get back that many said they would never evacuate again.
The survey responses were a little surprising in that only 53 percent said they would not evacuate the next time – but that’s another 63 people who say they won’t leave. Meanwhile, 47 percent said they would leave again.
The length of time it took residents to get back apparently made a greater impression on those who stayed than the destruction from the storm. Among those who stayed, 99 percent said they would not heed the next mandatory evacuation.
Among all residents who responded, 83 percent said they would not leave in the future, while only 17 percent said they would.
Storm level. We also asked for what storm strength would residents evacuate. Among those who stayed in Irene, only 3 percent said they would leave for a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, while 25 percent of those who evacuated would do it for a 1 or 2. Interestingly, 75 percent of those who stayed said they would leave in a Category 3 or 4 storm. Irene was a Category 3 for several days and, at one point, forecasters said it could intensify to a 4. It did not, and made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane.
Reasons for evacuating. Respondents were given four choices and asked to rank them – fear or injury or loss of life, inconvenience caused by loss of utilities and services, taking children out of harm’s way, and making it easier to authorities to deal with the aftermath.
Among all residents, fear of injury or loss of life was ranked first at 53 percent and taking children out of harm’s was ranked second with 36 percent.
Those percentages were about the same for those who stayed on the islands, but among those who evacuated, fear of injury or loss of life was only 36 percent, with 25 percent citing inconvenience and 24 percent leaving because of children.
After these questions, residents who stayed and those who evacuated answered different questions.
RESIDENTS WHO EVACUATED
Here are the highlights from the 135 respondents:
- Most evacuated by motor vehicle.
- Most – 93 percent—found the evacuation routes clearly marked.
- 69 percent went 101 to 300 miles from home.
- Overwhelmingly, the evacuees felt they had not been allowed to return in a timely manner -- 61 percent said yes, and 39 percent answered no.
- 66 percent of the evacuees were away from home from 7 to 13 days after the hurricane.
- 37 percent said they spent $100 to $500 during their evacuation, and another 35 percent said they spent between $500 and $1,000. 26 percent said evacuation cost them more than $1,000.
- 70 percent did not shut off their power before they left, but I’m not sure I would have either. You always hope you will be away a day or two and you might salvage something in the refrigerator or freezer. This is a bigger issue with rental houses.
- 81 percent of evacuees said the time away from the islands during the evacuation was more psychologically stressful than they had anticipated.
RESIDENTS WHO STAYED ON THE ISLANDS
Here are the highlights from the answers of the 259 residents who did not evacuate:
Why they stayed. 40 percent said they never leave, but that was not the main reason they stay. The main reason is to be able to check on their homes after the storm – 64 percent. Another 61 percent said they wanted to get an immediate start on cleanup, and 58 percent said they wanted to be able to help others immediately after the storm. That helping others – our friends and neighbors—is something we see in our communities after all storms, and Irene was no exception. 32 percent said they stay because of the expense of evacuating, and 13 percent said they had no place to go.
Past evacuations. Of the respondents who stayed, 46 percent evacuated in the past, and 54 percent had not.
When they evacuated in the past, 22 percent stayed with family and 19 percent in a motel or hotel. Another 10 percent stayed with friends. Residents who evacuated in the past found it to be a financial burden and more stressful than they had anticipated.
Getting information. We asked if the respondents would be in favor of having a clearly designated information officer who lives in the community and would be responsible for disseminating information from Dare County Emergency Management before and after the storm.
A whopping 87 percent were in favor of this idea, and the village volunteer fire department chiefs and their personnel did operate as contact points for those in their communities. However, this was not clear to all who did not evacuate in the weeks after the storm.
Reason to have a designated point person for information. The view of residents here was quite clear. Sixty five percent say it would eliminate inaccurate information. Another 52 percent see it as a way to establish communication between the villages and Dare County.
Generators. 58 percent of those who did not evacuate had generators, while 42 percent did not.
Shelters. 52 percent would like to have a designated shelter. There are now no designated shelters on the islands for the residents. 32 percent had no interest.
COMMENTS FROM RESIDENTS
The comments that respondents have made are one of the most interesting parts of the survey.
Many folks took the time to make comments. Some of them are short and concise. A few are angry. Many are very thoughtful, and many people took the time to make suggestions for how evacuation and re-entry might work better.
We hope you – and our county, state, and federal government agencies, utilities, and other groups – will take the time to read over them.
There are many of them, and we have divided them into responses from residents who evacuated and those who stayed.
RESIDENTS WHO DID NOT COMPLETE THE SURVEY
We looked at those who completed some of the survey, but not all of it. Most stopped at the evaluations of the many government bodies, agencies, and organizations that were involved in recovery.
We can tell you from the incomplete surveys that 545 islanders answered part of it --171 evacuated and 360 did not. As in the completed surveys, the folks who evacuated were about evenly divided among the villages, while those who stayed were mostly in Buxton and Frisco, which accounted for half of all who did not leave.
Later this week we will publish Hurricane Irene Survey, Part 2: Residents’ evaluations of 14 county, state, and federal agencies, utilities, and other group involved in the storm response.
It will include their rankings and their comments.
Next we will look at the responses of non-resident property owners, and then visitors.
Other stories will no doubt come from questions we get or in following up on the many comments from all who responded.
Let us hear from you with your comments on the survey and any questions you have.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
You can click on the following links
Complete Hurricane Irene Survey responses from all residents
Complete Hurricane Irene Survey responses from residents who evacuated
Complete Hurricane Irene Survey responses from residents who did not leave
Comments on evacuation and re-entry by residents who evacuated
Comments on evacuation and re-entry by residents who did not leave