Do you have a 72-hour preparedness kit? If not, you better get on that, because I don’t think your latest Pokémon Go acquisition is really going to help you during a flood, even if it is a water type. Natural disasters can happen without warning, and what they leave behind can be absolutely crippling. A recent study looked into the 10 most populated urban metro areas in the United States and rated them based on their preparedness levels in regards to evacuation.
Below you’ll learn more about the results, as well as about some of the most impactful events that have ever hit that area. You might think it’s hot out now, but do you know how many people died in the Chicago heat wave of 1995? You also may be planning on taking that freeway out of town in case of an emergency, but what you’ll see in #8 may make you realize you need a backup plan.
These are 10 of the most populated U.S. cities and their plans for evacuation in case of a natural disaster. Is your city on here? Let’s hope it’s closer to the top! If you’re closer to the bottom, well, maybe your preparedness kit may come in handy a little sooner than you expected!
10. New York
New York may be known as the city that never sleeps, but clearly they don’t spend all that time awake properly preparing for natural disasters and making sure they have a strong evacuation plan. New York was labeled as the worst city on our list when it comes to being able to handle the elements. Easy to see why when you consider New York was ranked as the worst city for exit capacity, auto availability, roadway intensity, and overall land area. They’re also #9 in bottleneck traffic, yikes! Essentially what that means is you have a lot of people trying to get to the same place, and nobody is going to be getting there anytime soon.
New York has been hit by several devastating natural disasters, perhaps most prominently Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The hurricane flooded all of the New York Subway System, shut down the New York Stock Exchange (for two days) and led to the death of 53 people. It was reported that the storm cost the city of New York roughly $18 billion in damages.
Let’s hope if you’re going to be stuck in Chicago that you thought ahead enough to track down some deep-dish pizzas. Chicago was ranked number 9, but don’t worry, apparently the city claims they have an official “Chicago Emergency Operations Plan.” What is that plan? Well, they’re not going to tell you, because it isn’t available to the public. Because you know, why should citizens be prepared? Like New York, Chicago suffers due to poor exit capacity, the overall intensity of the roadways and it suffers from the 9th highest amount of internal traffic. Makes sense when you have an average population of 2.7 million people in the city, and an estimated 9.5 million people live in the Metro area. Overall, that huge population number makes it the 3rd largest city in the United States.
8. Los Angeles
If you thought Chicago was big, it doesn’t have anything on Los Angeles which boasts a population of roughly 18 million people. Los Angeles was the worst city in America in regards to internal traffic, overall density and the amount of bottleneck traffic. Thankfully they did report the least amount of congestion, so at least you probably won’t be wasting too many hours in the car.
Los Angeles has had no shortage of disasters and often needs to be prepared for both wide-spread fires and earthquakes. In 1994, it was the Northridge Earthquake that severely impacted LA. 57 people died, and literally entire sections of the freeway collapsed. Might make it a little harder to get out of the city!
There are a lot of really appealing reasons to move to Miami. One reason to not move to Miami would be the chance that you are going to be caught in a flood or hurricane. Miami even has “Storm Surge Zones” which are at a specific high area of risk, so hopefully the people living there are prepared.
Miami does have the best overall land area in America in terms of evacuation preparedness, but sadly their lack of exit capacity, road congestion, and population density all drop them to number 7 on the list.
The deadliest storm in the history of Florida came back in 1919, when the Key West Hurricane took the lives of more than 800 people. More recently, Hurricane Wilma struck Miami in 2005 and ended up causing roughly $16.8 billion in damages. The above photo was from Hurricane Andrew which hit South Florida in 1992 and caused $26.5 billion in damages.
It may always be sunny in Philadelphia, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be prepared for evacuations! Despite having received top marks for internal traffic, Philadelphia ranks #9 for overall auto availability and level of congestion. What that means is that hey, you might get out of the city if you have a car, but good luck tracking one down! Thankfully for residents, their overall public transit ranked #4 which means at least they may not be completely hopeless. Philadelphia also received the highest marks for geographical barriers of any city on this list, so at least they have that going for them.
Philadelphia’s most impactful storm came in the form of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The storm cost roughly $3 billion in damages, took the lives of 128 people, lasted 9 days and impacted several prominent areas.
If you want to get out of Atlanta, Georgia, you better be prepared to wait at least a little while. Back in 2009, it was reported by the Atlanta Region Evacuation and Coordination Plan that an evacuation of the city would take 24 hours. If it makes you feel any better, they claim they can evacuate a specific area in at least 12 hours, and a CBD evacuation would only take them 8-10 hours.
Atlanta, like Philadelphia, is praised for its lack of geographical barriers. It also has no shortage of available vehicles, and the roads are set up to try and prevent bottlenecks. It doesn’t mean there won’t be cars on the road, as they were also given a 9/10 in congestion (not good), but you can imagine that people are at least comfortable in their air-conditioned vehicles.
4. Washington D.C.
There are a lot of places on here that really suffer from their lack of cars on the road, or in some cases, too many cars. For Washington though, the biggest thing that they can claim is they have the best city when it comes to overall public transit. This definitely helps with the congestion, as Washington has the 4th best level of congestion of any city on our list. Another huge factor behind people being able to get out of Washington is that it was ranked #3 on our list for overall exit capacity, and is also tied at #1 for overall geographical barriers.
Washington is at risk for several disasters, including severe winter storms, landslides, mudslides, and tornados. There were also significant wildfires in 2015 that covered over 1 million acres, cost $253 million and included 1,541 fires.
If you want to get your booty out of Boston, have no fear because at #3 on our list, you can imagine they have several things set up to make you feel prepared. Boston isn’t the best in any category, but it does stand strong at #2 for internal traffic, density, roadway intensity and overall public transit. The only kind of knock you can make on Boston is that they are #7 in terms of auto availability, but is that really so important when you have such a good public transit service?
It was also reported that 34% of people from Boston regularly use public transit, so you can imagine that at least in the case of emergency, they would know what was going on.
Above you read about an awful heat storm, now be prepared to learn about the opposite. It was in 1973 when Southern New England suffered an awful ice storm. Over 4,000 homes lost heat for up to 24 hours and subsequent flooding ended up costing Massachusetts between $500,000 and $5 million in damages.
Houston may be one of the bigger cities with an estimated population of 2.239 million, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t prepared when it comes to their evacuation plan. Definitely don’t be worried about bottleneck traffic, because Houston was #1 on our list for their ability to cut down on it. Unfortunately, you better be able to drive, as public transit drops down to #7 and it is expected in an overall sense, that people have their own personal cars to use for their own transportation. An accessible way to leave the city is also apparent, as Houston is #2 on our list in terms of exit capacity.
In 2001 when Tropical Storm Allison hit, Houston was one of the largest areas that was impacted. It was reported that 30,000 people became homeless and 70,000 homes were flooded while another 2,744 were outright destroyed. Overall the damages from the storm got up to $9 billion and took the lives of 41 people.
Maybe it isn’t so much Houston and Dallas that are amazing, but the state of Texas! Despite being the 2nd largest U.S. State, they clearly have their s**t together when it comes to being prepared for natural disasters. Dallas has two states of evacuation, voluntary and mandatory (I’m guessing you can decipher the difference). Dallas was able to rank in tied for #1 in exit capacity, auto availability, geographical barriers and overall roadway intensity. They had similar issues to Houston in terms of public transit, but they were #3 for internal traffic, so at least they’re taking care of those on the road.
The most recent forced evacuation in the state of Texas, came back on March 15th when parts of Deweyville were flooded following storms. It was reported that 17 counties in Texas were impacted by the storms.
Check out the following infographic by ptclwg.com for more details on all 10 of these cities and their evacuation plans.