The urge to get home meets a blizzard

There’s really only one question to be answered in Minnesota news today:

If weatherpeople gave us a three-day warning about a blizzard (they did), and authorities told drivers in southern Minnesota to stay off the road (they did), why were so many people stranded and had to be rescued by first responders who had to assume the risk of doing so?

At least 88 people had been rescued in Freeborn and Steele counties, the Star Tribune said. Waseca County reported 40 travelers were stranded and weren’t rescued until Sunday night, the Mankato Free Press said.

Some travelers stopped at the armory in Owatonna, which had been set up as a shelter, and still had to be stopped from trying to go out and drive again.

“They just think that they should have been able to make it,” the head of the emergency response team said. “They think they’re going to leave, but we keep telling them ‘no.’ ”

What’s going on here? Likely it’s a version of the malady that tends to kill pilots: “get-home-itis.”

There’s no logic to it, but it’s a powerful pull to get home, our perception of the safest locale, even if we need to become more unsafe to get there. (Here’s my own story of when I nearly succumbed to it)

It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re stupid; it means as humans we are bound by psychological forces that overwhelm our capacity to exercise judgment. About the only antidote is to recognize when get-home-itis is at work.

Rescue stories: Weather makes rescue challenging in Cook County (Duluth News Tribune)

Archive: Why we drive through standing water (NewsCut)