Texas continues to experience a massive influx of population, resulting in a proliferation of coastal construction, including single-family residential buildings, condominiums, hotels and motels. This has increased the potential for storm-induced damage and personal injury or death. In the past, Texas has been hit with many major hurricanes, including the 1900 unnamed hurricane, Bret, Carla, Beulah, Celia, Allen and Rita in 2005.
Hurricane Evacuation Planning
Recent experiences with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have underscored the importance of a well-planned and dynamic strategy for effectively evacuating large metropolitan areas. Severe as they are, the social and economic impact of such natural disasters could be devastating in the absence of a well-planned and well-executed evacuation plan. The Rita experience, for example, can be characterized by a massive traffic congestion resulting from simultaneous evacuation attempts by millions of residents coupled with significant shortages of fuel, sanitary, medical and other basic necessities and services.
In light of that experience, a task force report to the Texas Governor emphasized, among others, better management of traffic flow and adequate plans for evacuating people with special needs. To these ends, research is needed to develop a methodology to assess how best to utilize the available roadway capacity, including the extended network capacity and to design an effective evacuation plan. Such a plan should include, among other things, sequential evacuation plans with designated evacuation zones and routes, pre-designated collection points and related logistics for evacuating persons with special needs, and coordination of logistics and support services along evacuation routes for traffic control, food, fuel, sanitary services, medical services, shelters, etc. There is also a need for a unified command and control and development of evacuation drills involving the public.
A decision support simulation tool to evaluate various disaster scenarios and associated evacuation strategies should also be developed. Such a tool could be of significant value in devising evacuation drills as well as in other preparedness and response efforts. These would include estimation of evacuation times under various evacuation strategies such as evacuation by priority zones, conversion of various roadways to one way operations, optimum locations of collection depots for bus evacuations, spatial distribution of shelters for pets, and procedures for evacuation of special facilities such as hospitals, prisons, assisted living centers, etc.