The Hamptons are beautiful, historic whaling villages at the east end of Long Island where a considerable number of affluent Americans enjoy their summer; some stay year-round. Nothing is supposed to go wrong there. And when it does, people get very upset.
So imagine how steamed some Southampton folks got last week when they sat in traffic for 7 hours because the only two roads in and out were both clogged due to a relatively minor traffic accident and cleanup of oil and debris. It wasn't pretty. The backup on two local roads leading into Montauk Highway stretched for 20 miles.
And after it was all over, local residents expressed anger and fear about their ability to evacuate if a hurricane or other major weather event were to approach... They asking a lot of questions and village police and other officials are short on answers.
The story got plenty of attention and it didn't hurt that CBS-TV reporter Jennifer McLogan was one of the thousands who was stuck in the traffic herself.
As the hours passed, Village police referred McLogan to the state police, who told her it was town police that closed the highway to clean oil and clear debris from a two-vehicle collision. Motorists complained the authorities were passing the buck, keeping them uninformed.
McLogan reported that most residents she interviewed agreed that if a simple event can bring traffic to a halt, then "we're in a lot of trouble." One person said "If there's ever an evacuation, are we just supposed to camp out?"
Undoubtedly, steps will be taken there to ensure improved police management and swifter resolution of traffic problems, but it raises legitimate questions about evacuations in all coastal areas.
In the United States, coastal counties constitute only 17 percent of the total land area (not including Alaska), but account for 53 percent of the total population. We have high densities of population along coastal regions, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and, by 2025, 262 million Americans are projected to live on or near the U.S. coastline.
If you had to evacuate today do you think you'd have enough road options available to find a way out, or would you be standing in traffic too?
As we approach hurricane season it's especially important. If you live near a coastal area, have a plan. Have a "go bag" ready of water, food, emergency supplies and be prepared.