Harvey Has Many Asking: How Hard Is It to Evacuate a Major City?

It’s the million-dollar question in disaster planning: Do you order a city to evacuate before a hurricane hits land, or do you tell residents to shelter in place?

The question has been before big-city leaders several times in recent years, and it was the question Houston faced as Hurricane Harvey barreled toward the fourth largest city in America.

Mayor Sylvester Turner decided not to order an evacuation, a decision that’s come under scrutiny since the storm landed, flooding large swaths of the city and leaving thousands of people stranded on top of their water-filled homes. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, on the other hand, urged people the day the storm made landfall in the Houston area to leave, adding to the political fallout from Turner’s decision.