Many have criticized ‘non-evacuators’ who haven’t left their homes for Hurricane Ian — but some TikTokers say they can’t afford to leave

Downed palm fronds collect on an empty downtown intersection as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida’s Gulf Coast in Sarasota, Florida, US September 28, 2022.REUTERS/Steve Nesius

  • Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, hit down in Florida on Wednesday.

  • Officials urged residents to evacuate from high-risk areas.

  • But many said they didn’t have the money or resources to leave.

As Hurricane Ian battered parts of the Florida coast this week, some locals took to TikTok to share why they couldn’t leave — despite officials urging evacuation.

The Category 4 storm made landfall in Florida on Wednesday after passing through Cuba, and many followed the storm’s progression via the social platform. As of Thursday, the hashtag #HurricaneIan had over 1.1 billion views.

Among videos of people filling up their bathtubs with water and advising others on how to tell if food is good after power goes out, were videos from those who say they couldn’t or wouldn’t be evacuating.

Many satirized Floridians who didn’t evacuate, joking that they’d remain as long as Waffle Houses remained open, and criticized “non-evacuaters” for their perceived foolishness. But, the reality is that leaving requires resources. Senior citizens or unhoused people and those with disabilities, language barriers, or a job that makes evacuation difficult or impossible — such as first responders, nurses, or animal shelter volunteers — are often among those left behind in a major weather event.

“Evacuating requires money. Evacuating likely requires a car or some mode of transportation. Evacuating requires people to leave their entire lives behind with the possibility of never coming back,” said TikTok user @shmacked7 in a clip that’s been viewed more than 70,000 times. “I would bet the majority of Americans, especially Black and brown Americans cannot afford to take that risk.”

Economic circumstances and short notice left many stuck to ride the storm out at home.

TikToker @Jewelxcollazo, who lives in Temple Terrace, Florida, said the storm wasn’t expected to hit her area, but she and her family received a mandatory evacuation notice on Tuesday. At the time, they didn’t have the money to leave.

DO NOT try and make it seem like I was participating in the yearly Floridian pissing match of who can withstand the weather the longest. If we could’ve, we would have,” she wrote.

“We could not evacuate because we didn’t have anywhere to go. Hotels were already booked up. Shelters were full. Gas prices were almost $4 at the nearest corner store,” she added.

“Evacuation is not as easy as it may seem if you are outside of the evacuation area,” Cara Cuite, an assistant extension specialist in the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University, told NPR. Cuite studied evacuation decisions people made during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

For “people with disabilities, those with pets or simply [if] you don’t have a car or enough money on hand to leave, that can make it really challenging,” she added.

On TikTok and Twitter, people shared experiences of being unable to evacuate, asking for prayers and sharing the potentially prohibitive cost of gas needed to leave the state. Others considered leaving but missed their window of opportunity, while others worried about leaving only to get stuck in gridlock on the highway.

“In the recently predicted path… and I’m absolutely terrified,” one TikToker captioned a video. “We can’t afford to move and we’re right in beach side. Please say a prayer for us.”

Another TikToker, @this.is.meg2, said she was frustrated by claims that people who didn’t evacuate were simply “poor planners.”

“Before you decide that people should feel crappy because they didn’t evacuate and now need help,” said another TikToker. “Maybe have some compassion — some sympathy and some empathy for people.”

The American Red Cross reported thousands of people had fled to evacuation centers. To find a local shelter, go to floridadisaster.org.

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