Thursday, August 25, 2011

We're From the Government and We're Here to Help — Hurricane Irene Edition

This is the New York City government's idea of how to protect me from Hurricane Irene, which is expected to move up here on Sunday or Monday:

I'm in a "hurricane evacuation zone" because I live on a certain street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village.

If I lived just 3 short blocks away (one-tenth of a mile, according to Google Maps), I wouldn't be in a "zone."

(If you live in NYC, you can look up whether you're in a zone here, though I ended up getting this information by calling 311 since that website is extremely slow.)

What does it mean for me to live in a "zone"? If the city issues a "hurricane evacuation order," the government will order me to leave my home "immediately" and either (a) stay in an area that's not in a "zone" (which, again, could be as close as 3 blocks away) or (b) go to a "hurricane center." Where's the closest "hurricane center"? Oh, between 192nd and 193rd St. In order to get there, I'd need to travel almost the whole length of Manhattan.

There are 8 million people in this city. Can you imagine what the stampede coming from Manhattan and the Bronx to converge on that hurricane center would be like if people took these rules seriously?

Now, possibly the biggest risk from the hurricane is flooding. Fortunately, I don't live on the basement or ground floor of my apartment building; I live on the 3rd floor. So I'm not very worried about my apartment getting flooded. But if there is a "hurricane evacuation order," and if I happen to have a friend who lives in a non-zone — even on the basement or ground floor — the government will tell me to stay at that apartment instead of my own.

[ADDED: Some people have suggested that the zones might make sense if there's a significant difference in elevation between the area in the zone and the area outside the zone. Well, I walk to and from those areas almost every day, and it's pretty much a flat expanse of land.]

What's really going on here is that the government is trying to signal that it is taking the hurricane very, very seriously — so seriously that it has a plan for evacuating a large portion of the city. The truth is, that's impossible. So the government makes up some arbitrary rules, as if the hurricane is going to carefully observe these neat distinctions between the various streets of Greenwich Village.

Why can't the government show that it cares by releasing general advisory guidelines, and then let individuals use their own judgment based on their specific circumstances?


amba said...

Especially seeing as the subways are going to be shut down if winds exceed 40 mph.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Ah! I didn't know that. Yes, it's clearly a brilliant plan.

Terri said...

After living 40+ years on the Gulf coast ... there is a little bit of science that goes into evacuation notices. When "they" tell me to leave ... I do ... if only because the claim is easier with the insurance company. If "they" tell me to hunker down ... I do ... ditto with the insurance company. All that said ... don't take it complacently ... hurricanes can be quite the storm.

Akiva said...

The government no longer operates by assuming you have judgment. Instead, you need to be protected from yourself and follow all 100,000 government rules, regulations, laws, and instant judgments.

We're from the government and know best.

Kirk Parker said...

"Why can't the government show that it cares by releasing general advisory guidelines, and then let individuals use their own judgment based on their specific circumstances?"

You're asking this question in Nanny Bloomberg's city?? Really??????

Palladian said...

John, I'm in Brooklyn, right near the Williamsburg Bridge ramp. My place is not in an "Evacuation Zone". If you happen to need anything, or a place to hide, feel free to drop me a line.

John Bragg said...
Seems to be a better link.

They have to draw a line somewhere between Zones A, B, C and the clear zone, when in reality it's a continuum of risk. Some 16 year olds are mature enough to drink, some 30yos aren't. Deal with it.

And the PDF says, first seek shelter with friends and families. My parents, who live in Rockaway in Zone 2, are driving down today, before it starts raining and making I-95 more miserable than usual.

And according to that map, there are Evacuation Centers at Baruch College and Seward Park HS.

And, yes, I expect that they are worried about 1) elevated subway cars tipping over in the outer boroughs and 2) populated subway cars getting stuck in tunnels with electrified third rails if storm surge starts coming in.

They'd rather be the idiots that panicked over a hurricane that didn't hit NYC that hard than the assholes who kept the subways open and saw a couple of thousand people drown in sewage.

John Bragg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Bragg said...

That's the full link.