Keywords: refuge of last resort, RLR, parking garages, wind patterns, wind speed, gusts, shelter, preparedness, hurricanes, severe storm evacuation, planning, hurricane sheltering, USA, United States, hurricane Isabel, emergency management, disaster management, multi-storey car parks, safety
Use of a parking garage as a hurricane evacuation 'Refuge of Last Resort'
When a hurricane evacuation is halted, large numbers of motorists may be stranded without official shelter. Multilevel aboveground parking garages may be feasible 'Refuges of Last Resort' (RLR). Our goal was to assess the relative safety of using a parking garage as an RLR through fieldwork on the wind patterns inside a parking garage during hurricane Isabel. Mean wind speed inside the second floor of the garage, 6 m (20 ft) from upwind openings, was 26% of the outdoor mean. Gusts averaged 33% of outdoor gusts. Wind measurements on the second floor of the garage showed that gusts inside the garage were 10% to 30% of outdoor gusts. These results were supported by testing a model parking garage in a wind tunnel. Motorists inside a vehicle using a parking garage as a 'refuge of last resort' during a hurricane are relatively safe with respect to wind.