Recent tropical weather threats have given rise to a need for me to express once again those things I’ve said over the years that may encourage others to evacuate before a major storm.

It simply makes no sense to remain behind when others have avoided the dangers associated with the storm and the immediate aftermath. You will not like what you see before, during or after the event.

I’ve had the unpleasant experiences of dealing with almost a dozen of these storms, here on the island and in other states including Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana. I’ve never had the experience of evacuating because I worked these storms as a law enforcement officer and saw the very worst.

I know about the immediate danger of these storms, but few ever consider the aftermath and it’s the aftermath that can make you most uncomfortable — and even kill you. I’m now retired and I’ll evacuate ahead of a major hurricane because I can do that now — and it makes good sense to do so.

Forget about the survival kits necessary to sustain life during a storm. Prepare an evacuation kit and leave the island soon enough so as to avoid being caught in the congestion that’s sure to happen in advance of a hurricane. Decide where you want to go for a week or so, and hope that you can return sooner. Coordinate a visit with relatives or book a hotel, but do either inland. Don’t follow the coastline east or west. Evacuate inland and consider a route inconsistent with the tracks of previous storms, northwest is a good choice.

Secure your property as best you can and leave at a time that you feel most comfortable doing so, but do it early enough to avoid that traffic congestion. Expect that you may be denied access when returning, and if that happens you should know that the danger of your return is far more than just the damage to property.

It’s most likely that there’s a major power outage, contaminated water, debris in roadways, power lines down, telephone and cellular service interrupted, television out, flooding and even looting. Police know full well that returning residents will check on their property and tour the island thereafter.

Traffic jams in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike were an unwelcome reality. News about conditions cannot be usually accessed on the island because of power, cable and dish damage/outages. Such is the case in every hurricane I’ve had experience with. You’ll know more about what happened in a safe place with all the amenities and comforts away from this place.

A failure to evacuate or a premature return requires the attention of local police and detracts from the mission of protecting life and property. It’s precisely why there will most likely be a checkpoint at or around Exit 5 on Interstate 45 South. That’s the perfect place to ensure against a dangerous early return, looters, price gougers and the miscreants that such a thing attracts. I hope you make the right decision.

Charles Wiley is retired as chief of police for the city of Galveston and served as chief of police for several other communities in his career.

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(7) comments

Steve Fouga

I lived elsewhere when Ike struck Galveston, but had already decided to retire here. When Mayor Thomas denied residents access to their homes in the wake of the hurricane, I determined I would never leave the Island because of a storm. A strong enough hurricane might persuade me otherwise, but my going-in position is to stay, despite good advice to the contrary.

Don Schlessinger

I made the mistake of evacuating for Ike and paid the price. Taylor's keeping residents off the island at the most important point, being able to save things, was a big one. Every homeless bum on the island (with nothing to lose) stayed and was well cared for. My wife and I lost 30 years of our lives, that could have been saved, because of that. I never forgave the mayor for that. And no, I'll never leave the island during a storm again. All that could have been avoided if homeowners had a way of being identified that would allow them back on the island. If the city cared about homeowners they would have solved that problem by now.

Charles Wiley

The decision to evacuate should be your own. You apparently decided to leave. The decision to let you back on the island was made for the greater good. I happen to believe it was a goid one. I lost everything as well but had to stay for the greater good.

Robert Braeking

Living on a barrier island has its risks. But evacuation 'orders' should be considered to be suggestions. The habit to deny of access to one's property in the aftermath of storms is going to get people harmed who would evacuate were it not for past policies. If evacuation suggestions include statements of non-denial then more people would heed the warnings.

Bailey Jones

I like air conditioning too much to try and ride out a hurricane. I spent Rita in Missouri City and Ike in Dallas, staying with family. In both cases I left at a time that largely avoided traffic.

David Smith

Another thought .. Do not evacuate to East Texas.. 80 ft tall pine trees being blown over will kill you just the same.. ( hurricane Rita)

Gary Miller

My evac plan is a phone number of the hotel I stay at during storms. I leave a day early and stay a day late. Living in TC I have no worries about flooding and know city services can keep an eye on my property till I return. Calling my home phone tells me a lot if I get my voice mail.

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