1999 FIU/Florida Poll
Preliminary Report #1

© Institute for Public Opinion Research
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Florida International University

Hurricane Floyd Evacuation


Data from the FIU/Florida Poll indicate that almost 800,000 Florida households evacuated as Hurricane Floyd approached.

The data point to some important issues resulting from the Floyd experience:


Report prepared by:
Dr. Hugh Gladwin
Director, Institute for Public Opinion Research, Florida International University
For information please contact:
Hugh Gladwin, (305) 919-5778, e-mail: gladwin@fiu.edu
Walt Peacock, (305) 348-2242, e-mail: peacock@fiu.edu

The 1999 FIU/Florida Poll

The FIU/Florida Poll is Florida International University's annual statewide random sample telephone survey of approximately 1,200 respondents done late each fall. 1999 is the twelfth year of the poll. Interviews were done from October 7 to November 8. While the majority of questions in the poll track issues important to Florida citizens and decision-makers and are repeated from year to year, important events in a year rate special questions in the poll.

Such an event was the alert and evacuation for Hurricane Floyd as it approached Florida and then passed north by the east coast. This report covers a set of questions asked about the Hurricane Floyd evacuation.

These questions are part of the history of FIU's research on hurricane preparation behavior done since Hurricane Andrew. The evacuation research group here includes Dr. Hugh Gladwin, Dr. Walter Gillis Peacock, Dr. Betty Morrow and Nicole Dash at the Laboratory for Social and Behavioral Research at the International Hurricane Center (IHC), as well as Dr. Christina Gladwin at the University of Florida. The IHC is the Florida State University System center for hurricane effect research based at FIU (also located on the FIU campus is the National Hurricane Center).

As analysis of FIU/Florida Poll data proceeds, other reports from the FIU/Florida Poll will be available on the IPOR home page. These reports will primarily cover issues Floridians responding to the poll say will be important in the 2000 state and federal elections. The page also draws on the twelve years of the Poll to document the major trends in public opinion during a time of significant economic and political change in Florida.


"X" marks on the maps are interviews located by zip code
If you follow a link to see graphs or more information click on the back button on your browser or "return to index file" to get back to this page.

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12.6% of the people interviewed said they did evacuate. This corresponds to 782,360 households in Florida. Given the margin of error for the survey, this means the actual number should be between 770,000 and 800,000. For details on and exact results of calculations click on: Evacuation data table

5.2% of the respondents lived in households which took in evacuees, corresponding to 325,377 households taking in evacuees (with margin of error, about 320,000 to 330,000). For the wording of the question, click here.

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Evacuation data table
North: [blue]

36.8% of sample evacuated, corresponding to from 150,573 to 182,922 households given the margin of error.

Evacuation destinations of persons in the sample: 3% stayed in the area, 43% went to inland central and north Florida, 14% went elsewhere in Florida, 40% went to Georgia, Alabama, and a few other destinations outside Florida.

Central: [yellow]

26.8% of respondents evacuated, corresponding to from 209,812 to 238,089 households given the margin of error.

Evacuation destinations of persons in the sample: approximately 10% stayed close to home, 52% went to another location in inland central or north Florida, 33% went elsewhere in Florida, 6% went to destinations outside Florida.

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Evacuation data table
South to Broward: [yellow]

12.2% of respondents evacuated, corresponding to from 123,101 to 134,162 households given the margin of error.

Evacuation destinations of persons in the sample: approximately 50% stayed close to home, 11% went to the west coast of Florida, 29% went to location in inland central or north Florida, 11% went to destinations outside Florida. No one in the sample went to Miami- Dade County.

Miami-Dade County: [blue]

6.4% of respondents evacuated, corresponding to from 55,614 to 59,873 households given the margin of error.

Evacuation destinations of persons in the sample: approximately 73% stayed in Miami-Dade or Broward, 18% went to the west coast of Florida, 9% went to destinations outside Florida. No one in the sample went to central or north Florida.

click to see full size chart
Evacuees were asked where they went when they evacuated. These open-ended responses were coded to determine whether they stayed in the local county (or in some cases coastal adjacent county) area or whether they traveled away from this local area.

The chart shows a significant increase in the percentage of evacuees staying in their local area in south vs. north Florida (lower blue part of bar shows percent staying local). This result is probably evidence of the experience Floridians in the southern half of the state have had with evacuations for hurricanes Andrew and Erin. Experience says that it is much better to have an evacuation destination planned ahead, to a safe location in one's local area.

For Miami-Dade County there were two likely additional factors. One was the restriction of evacuation orders to coastal areas (and mobile home parks). This could have given a sense of security about evacuating to nearby areas away from the coast. The other factor was that Floyd was projected to go north. Evacuating out of the area to the north thus would not have made much sense.
data table

click to see full size chart
This chart shows a higher percentage in north Florida selecting hotels and motels as a destination (blue section of bars). In south Florida more destinations were other homes (green) and shelters (red).

The south Florida selection of homes or shelters over hotels was probably a result of hurricane experience in two ways. One was that people probably had a plan for what to do in the next hurricane. The other was that they had faith in the forecasts, that the hurricane would turn north. Late Monday and early Tuesday many of the more affluent residents of the south Florida coast who might have gone to hotels no longer had that option. The next step in analysis of the data will be to see if there is evidence for this.
data table

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Respondents living in coastal areas (the zones on the maps above) were asked:

How would you evaluate the decisions made by officials in your area concerning Hurricane Floyd? Would you say they were completely correct, mostly correct, partly correct and partly wrong, mostly wrong, or completely wrong?

Overall, most said the decisions were correct or mostly correct. 79% felt official decisions were correct or mostly correct. There were some variations from zone to zone, but they were not statistically significant.

Respondents who were not happy with official decisions were asked in an open-ended what they disagreed with. These data are still being coded and analyzed.
data table

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Annual evacuation question data table
This question was asked:

In the future, if you had two days notice to prepare for a hurricane of the intensity of Hurricanes Floyd or Andrew, which of the following would you be most likely to do? Would you leave the area completely in order to get out of the path of the storm, would you go to a shelter, would you go to stay with family or friends in the area, or would you stay in your home during the storm?

This question has been asked every year since 1992 (right after Hurricane Andrew -- only change is mention of Floyd added this year). Since it is a hypothetical question, it shows evacuation rates much higher than can be expected to actually happen.

The three years after Andrew saw a drop in the percent of people who would evacuate (not stay home). That percentage then stayed at approximately the same level from 1994 to 1998. In 1999 after the experience of Floyd there is another decrease in the percent of people who say they will evacuate.

Two interpretations of this are possible. One is that experience of a hurricane or a near miss by a hurricane makes people more aware of the problems incurred from evacuation and more likely to think they can survive a big one. The "cry wolf" phenomena fits in here. The second interpretation stems from the fact that hypothetical questions about some future possible hurricane tend to elict much higher evacuation estimates than one would see in a real hurricane. In this interpretation the "experience effect" simply says that people get more realistic about hurricane evacuation once they have some experience. Probably both interpretations play a part in producing this data trend.

This "experience effect" is even more pronounced for people who live in areas which experienced hurricane force wind from Hurricane Andrew. Click here to see past results comparing people in areas of south Broward and Miami-Dade counties which experienced Hurricane Andrew winds..

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e-mail: gladwin@fiu.edu

revised November 28, 1999