Should I stay or should I go? Evacuating the elderly during Sandy

It would seem to me that when receiving mixed messages about storm strength, one should err on the side of resident safety. People may second guess your having evacuated but the alternative is this. Just sayin’.

The city health commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, said he and Dr. Shah believed the storm was weakening and would be no worse than Tropical Storm Irene when they made the initial decision not to evacuate the health care facilities on Friday, Oct. 26, three days before landfall. At that point, there would have been ample time to carry out a full and well-organized evacuation of the nursing homes and adult homes, which would have taken at least two days.

While the National Hurricane Center in Miami had warned of “historic urban flooding” in New York City, local National Weather Service officials issued contradictory public advisories on Friday and early Saturday that said there would be only “moderate flooding.”

Inside the city’s emergency management center, the local weather officials reported that the storm surge would be similar to the one during Tropical Storm Irene — four to eight feet.

An eight-foot surge was an important marker: after Tropical Storm Irene, Dr. Shah and Dr. Farley had said in interviews that they believed many nursing homes and adult homes could not withstand a surge of that level.

But Mr. Bloomberg, at a news conference on Oct. 26, announced: “At this point we are not — let me repeat that, not — recommending evacuations of these facilities.”

By Saturday night, the predictions were growing more dire, but Dr. Shah and Dr. Farley said they reconsidered but did not change their decision.

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