Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Choice Will Be Made For You.

We went for a drive yesterday. The temperature was approaching 90 degrees (Fahrenheit). There was no one outside except a couple of farmers. There wasn't even any traffic. We got to talking, as we seem to always do on these little trips up onto the mountain. Except for there not being any storms present yesterday, it reminded us of a time in the recent past. And that got us to talking even more.

On June 29, 2012, a derecho hit our area. We were without electricity for about 8 days. Our temperature was in the high eighties and lower nineties the whole 8 days. Our area has the water tank up on the hill, so we did have water. I have lots of honey buckets – sixty pounds of honey comes in each bucket. The empty buckets came from work. We had no electricity; so, no hot water. I filled a bunch of buckets with water and set them out on the concrete sidewalk. About 4:00 PM, I would bring the buckets in and empty them into the bath tub and then refill the buckets for tomorrow. The water felt so nice and warm. Bath time! That water felt so nice!!! Until you set your backside down into it! Then it felt like ice water! I don't know why something that feels so warm to the hand can feel so cold, but it did. Anyway, that is how we took a bath. 

Our home phone had a powered base/answering machine. We had no electricity; so, no phone service. We had gone down to the Family Dollar two or three years prior and gotten a $10.00, simple phone with no frills. It worked fine off of the phone company's electricity. We had phone service. We still keep that $10.00 phone handy.

Cell phone towers were overloaded with calls. You had service, if you could get on the tower. Basically, you had to wait for someone to hang up for you to get on. It was like the old party lines, except you couldn't listen in on their conversations.

No electricity equals no gas pumps working. No cash registers working. We had food and gas of our own. We got by.

We went to the supermarket to get some “nice to haves”. Supermarket was open, but they had no power for the freezers and lost everything. Refrigerators were lost, also. This only lasted a couple of days before they shut the doors. No restocking. Nothing to sell of consequence. It took a long time after power was restored to get restocked. As an aside: I asked them why they didn't have a generator for the freezers. They said it was easier and cheaper to file an insurance claim for the losses
instead of trying to save the food.

I work in Roanoke. After I left work, I stopped by several fast food establishments. The lines inside went from the door, down the wall, across the end of the store, up the opposite wall and out that door, and down the side of the building. Employees had not come in and they were short handed. Most of the workers were workers who stayed over from the previous shift. And the restaurant was running out of food. They didn't get restocked. This didn't last long. The restaurants ran out of food.

I never heard anything, but I have wondered about infants and formula. For Mothers who were not breast feeding, I assume, and hope, they had formula on hand or got enough from the stores or traded/begged from neighbors/friends for it.

All summer long we heard chainsaws as everyone belatedly cut down any trees anywhere near their home or power lines...we think this has impacted the power service since then as we have had very few power outages from trees falling during storms in the last few years. Nothing like a tree falling into your living room or bedroom (while you are in it), to enlighten you as to what you should have done before. The power company had been coming around for several years asking to cut down trees close to the power lines to avoid damage to the lines. They would also cut trees close to the house for you and charge it to line safety. Almost no one would permit the power company to cut their nice trees. The power company was not charging for any of this. After the derecho, tree trimming/cutting down went to $1000 to $1500 per tree. They got from free to here overnight. Thanks to a derecho. 

Fast forward (rewind) to the more distant past. When I lived in Eastern North Carolina, We had hurricane Floyd come through about ten days after hurricane Dennis. The ground was already water logged from Dennis. The water from Floyd had no place to go but to the streams. The streams went from 150 feet to 3 miles wide. But!!! The depth wasn't the biggest danger. The water came up to the high voltage lines feeding the area. They had boats out there monitoring the situation. The boats could not get under the lines, the water was so high. They had to monitor the waves. If the water rose, the wind speed increased, and/or the waves got closer to the power lines, they would shut down the high voltage lines serving from up in Virginia to South Carolina. If the high voltage lines were touched by the waves, it would short out the lines and shut down the entire East Coast of the US.

Fast forward now to the future. It doesn't take an EMP, terrorist act, computer malfunction, or whatever, to cause a major problem nationwide. Everything is so interconnected, interdependent, and “just in time”, that one hiccup can spell disaster.

And it can begin a chain reaction that goes nationwide. It can affect many more areas of our lives than just the starting point of the disaster. Preparedness has kind of dropped off peoples radar. It is so yesterday, like Y2K. We got worked up, but it turned out to be nothing. But, what if???

What if a derecho came through at the beginning of July and the summers hottest temperatures? What if it shorted out the East Coast power grid? I would be affected. Would you? What if it affected the West Coast? Or the Plains? What if...? What if it was nationwide? What if it did not affect someone else, but affected YOU??? What would you do? How would you survive? What if it took two or three months to get repair parts? A year? What if there are no repair parts?

Four things we need for survival is shelter, clothing, water, and food.

Most of us have a house, apartment, condo, townhouse, or some place where we live. We have shelter. Fine! We're in great shape! But? Are we? When the outside temperature is 90 degrees for days, what is the temperature inside that house without HVAC (air-conditioning)? How conditioned are you to no A/C? When I was aboard an aircraft carrier, we lost A/C to our berthing area. They said the temperature went to 145 degrees in there. I don't really think it went that high, but it did feel like an oven. We had no air movement. Everyone but six of us moved to other quarters. The six of us had a 160 bed “hole” to ourselves. When we went to bed, we laid on top of the sheets naked with a towel across our midsections. And we sweated like crazy. It was a fitful sleep. We drank a lot before going to bed and woke up dehydrated. We would drink quarts of water in the next hour trying to rehydrate. It sounds impossible, but it took six to eight quarts of water to get back to normal. This home of yours is going to get hot, in the extreme. And it isn't going to cool off much at night. Where is your water going to come from? I doubt if your water tank is up on the hill. You will have no water. And how is the city/county going to get water up the hill to the tank?

Let's change seasons. What if our little disaster happens at the beginning of December? How are you going to stay warm? You have a fireplace? Where is the wood? Do you have enough to last until the weather warms up? Not likely! Fireplaces aren't good for heating a home, but better than nothing. But you have to have something to burn. And the smoke? Now your neighbors see the smoke and are going to investigate, trying to stay warm. Maybe they feel more entitled to your heat, at your expense. And you still don't get any water. Now, water lines and sources are going to start freezing. You just can't get a break. Maybe you could call your neighbor or friends or family and complain about how bad things are for you? Ohh! Things are going to get worse. 


Fiona added this bit of information: Forced air furnace's need electricity to ignite and then more electricity to run the fan and circulate the air in your home. A full propane tank is not necessarily useful. Natural Gas is not much better. [***Footnotes at the end of the post.]
Disasters can occur at any time, not just on your schedule or at your convenience. They WILL occur at the worst possible time for you, when you are the least prepared or able to withstand it!

For those with an earth bermed home or with a basement, there is some hope for you. At a depth of over six meters (twenty feet), the soil temperature will be equal to your average year round air temperature. If your yearly average temperature is 55 degrees, the temperature at six meters will be 55 degrees, year round. For an earth bermed home, you will incur a varying temperature, but better than outside temperatures. A basement will generally have more dirt on one side than another, and all of it or most above grade. Better than nothing, and moderated, but not as good as six meters. There is some hope and help in both of these.

Shelter done. You take it from here.

Clothing? It is cold in the house. It is cold outside. How are you going to stay warm? We throw on a light jacket and run out to the car. But long, extended, bone-chilling cold: how can you stay warm? The roads aren't going to be cleared. How are your high heels going to do in that white stuff? Or, for the southern folks, that ice? I have seen ice storms do a lot more damage than any snow storm. Oh, the flip-flops aren't going to be much help, either.

Just remember this: As bad times are seen coming, we may put on stress weight. And after the “event”, we will start losing weight as we try to cope. Styles will go out the window. Functionality will come in vogue! Have clothing on both sides of here and now. Too big will be better than too small after the “event”. I had a teacher in high school that someone asked what her favorite season was. She said winter. She said she could always put on enough to be warm, but sometimes couldn't take off enough to be cool. I don't think she was just being modest. Learn how to dress for heat and cold.

Water. What can be said. Safe and clean or dead. No way around it. It doesn't have to be cool or warmed up. It doesn't have to have fizz or flavors. Straight up and pure. Free of contaminates. And a constant, safe supply. In summer's heat, we're talking hours. In winter's cold, days. But, either way, it isn't much time. Hydrate or die. I may be repeating a falsehood here. If so, please correct me. But, as I remember, one of the biggest winter killers is dehydration. More so than freezing.

Fuel. For heat. Where are you going to get it? For your vehicle? I am talking singular here. You might have four or five vehicles, but which one will serve your needs best? And concentrate on that one. Keep it in tip top shape. Keep it fueled up. Keep spare fuel (stabilized) for it. Keep spare parts for it. Keep good tires on it. Keep tools with it to work on it. Can you fix a flat? Do you have a repair kit to do it with? Be prepared.

Guns. I think a lot of people are going to get surprised here. A lot of people have guns now. I don't think that number will go up a lot. Guns just aren't going to be for sale. What there are will go quickly. There will be no replacements. Gun shops will lock what they have up as best as they can, or hide them. They will be charging outrageous prices for what they do have. So, I think gun sales will be small. But, I think gun theft will be high. I think law abiding neighbors, family, friends, and strangers will be trying to get guns from whatever and whoever they can. This means YOU!!! There will be the same number of guns, they will just change ownership. And there will be bloodshed on both ends of the guns. I am not as worried about inner city hoodlums as I am about that upstanding neighbor down the road whose family is starving or cold. It could be dog eat dog! The brave are not the only ones to rise to the occasion. Scum rises to the surface, also. If you don't already have a gun, don't expect to acquire one then. And, do some soul searching. A gun is worthless to you if you aren't willing to use it or don't know how to use it, or if you have no ammo. And I don't want to get into the government and confiscation topics!

Food. Almost as bad as water. We are not ruminants. We can not survive on grass. We need calories. Protein and carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram. Fat is 9 calories per gram. We need fat in our diets. Or, we need to eat over twice as much food. And this in a scarce environment. For the populace that has not planted a garden: they probably do not have stored food. To plant a garden in July for survival is not going to happen. They will be dead before the calories come out of the garden. Lettuce is a diet food for a reason: no calories. Radishes: no calories. Spinach: no calories. Fast food out of the garden means no calories. Higher calorie foods means two or three months before harvest. What are these people going to eat? To walk out of the cities means calories. Where is it going to come from? No calories, no energy. Only the worst will get out. They will take what they need/want. Potatoes need cooler weather/soil. Not a good choice in July. Most seeds will not germinate in the high soil temperatures. It is too early for a garden. And fall is too far away. There is just not enough time. Lack of preparation will be their downfall. I have lots of seeds. I can make soup. I can eat a day or two, but not long term unless I have planted them back in April or May. I need to have prepared before hand, not now. It is too late now.

Winter time is even worse. You can't start a garden in the snow. You have months of cold to survive before even starting a garden.

Animals can be a survival food. How do you kill it? How do you save the meat? Summer heat means only days of food from a 1000 pound cow. The rest will be spoiled. Do you know how to work around this problem? There are ways. If you are prepared. And without refrigeration. Winter will be a help here. The meat won't spoil as quickly. But you have to have the will and you have to be prepared. Smaller animals are more meal sized. One per meal or two.

The only choices are to start ahead and always be prepared for the worst, even if it doesn't come. Or join the scum out there. Make your choice. Or it will be made for you.

*** These excerpts are from an article about the natural gas grid after severe cold weather in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

1)   The electric grid relies on natural gas.  Over half the electric generation fleet in Texas is fueled by gas.  For the U.S. as a whole, gas drives almost a third of the generation fleet, but with the discovery of enormous shale gas reserves and low prices, that number is growing quickly.  Almost all new conventional generation on the books in the US is gas-fired.  In the February 2011 event, there were problems getting necessary gas supplies to the power plants.  According to the FERC/NERC assessment, most of the outages were directly weather related, but 12% were indirectly attributable to gas curtailments to generators and difficulties in fuel switching.
2)   The gas grid relies on electricity.  In order for the gas grid to work smoothly, pressure must be maintained throughout the system.  This is accomplished by a complex system of compressors and pumping stations.  As a consequence of the rolling blackouts, many of these stations failed and pressure could not be adequately maintained.  This in turn caused a lower supply to the gas generators and results in a feedback loop.
In the gas grid, the main compressor stations feeding the large interstate pipelines are typically fueled by natural gas.  Gas-fueled compressors could be more widely used throughout the system, but they are noisy and have environmental implications.  So in urban areas, the gas distribution companies typically use electric pumps and compressors to bring gas to the consumer.  It’s not hard to see where the problem lies here.  No electricity, no gas supply.

A Ralph Post


  1. I had never heard the term "derecho". People around here cut cord wood all summer for winter. Luckily nights are always cool in summer and we don't need air conditioning in the daytime. How different the East is from us! We used to get snowed in for weeks here, so people stock up on food and essentials. For us, feeding and watering the livestock would be the hardship...chopping ice in water troughs is no fun. Good post....points to ponder and then shore up the weak spots in our survival plan. Thanks.

    1. I haven't looked up the technical description of a derecho. For us, the storm started west of Chicago early in the morning with a bulge in a line of thunderstorms. That bulge was the key. The line of storms maintained their line and the bulge as they moved Eastward. And the line moved quickly. I would say it moved as fast or faster than you could drive across the country it was covering. It averaged over 60 miles per hour of line of sight movement. It moved from Chicago to Roanoke in 10 hours. The line hit here going Eastward while traveling 60 mph in frontage movement, but with 90 – 100 mph winds. This was not a tornado, but straight line winds. Severe thunderstorms and heavy rain were part of the storms. The rain and winds weren't that bad. The problem was the trees. Our neighbor across the road had two four foot diameter oaks that had never been trimmed or inspected for damage. The neighbors live in an old two story wood frame white house. It laid one oak between the house and the other oak. The front porch was severely damaged, but the house was fine. The house two doors down had a large limb split off onto the power lines. Three doors past that was a three foot tree that upturned onto the line. This happened all over the area, not just in our neighborhood. That is why getting power back up was such a problem. Within a half mile radius, over a hundred trees were on the power lines and down in yards. In the following two or three weeks, those trees were removed and another couple hundred were also removed and another three or four hundred were trimmed. The neighbor across the road had the other big oak taken out. Now, both big oaks are gone. We are just now getting used to the hole around their house. That is why we don't get trees on the power lines now. There are very few left to fall on the lines. And people paid a fortune to have what would have been free the year before. Those trees trimmed or cut down.

      You and some others are smart enough to prepare by cutting wood and stocking up. But does everyone? Or do some of your neighbors rely on electric or gas for heat? In a widespread blackout, what are they going to do? In all emergencies, some will be prepared, but most will need and be asking for help. And that is where the rub comes in. How much of your preparedness are you and others willing to sacrifice for those who didn't prepare? How much of your safety are you going to lose? Can you stand by and watch them pay the price for their foolish? Probably while they were laughing at your waste of time and energy and money. This is the grasshopper and ant story. You are the ant. They are the grasshopper. In todays society, you are criminally wrong for hoarding. And during this time of emergency, you will be criminally responsible for their death because you didn't share. If the government didn't come in and share your bounty for you. In our community here, about 35% of the homes have a garden, maybe less. Most are older people. I don't know of one under forty with a garden. As you get closer to Roanoke, the gardens disappear. With the country and city together, I would suspect that less than 1% of the homes have a garden.

    2. Our daytime temperatures are about 90 degrees F. here for now. As the summer progresses, it will go on up into the 90's. Not every day and night, but lots of them. As the summer progresses, nights will go from 70 to middle and upper 70's at night. In Eastern North Carolina where I used to live, they will be getting 90's to 100 degrees in the day to upper 70's at night. Again, not every day, but lots. The mass of a home holds heat and releases it at night, keeping indoor temperatures up. Homes collect heat from ambient outdoor temperatures and also from direct solar radiation. It becomes an oven. People that are not acclimated to the outdoor temperatures and work, will have heat problems and deaths. Their bodies are not able to handle the heat because they haven't been exposed to it. Our first summer here, Fiona got used to the a/c and couldn't go outside to do anything. Since then, she refuses to let this happen to her. She learned the hard way.

      Thanks for your comments. They were very good and we appreciate them. We can only speak and work on our own behalf. But look around! How many of your neighbors are really prepared? Are you as prepared as you would like to be? What else can you do? We can only work and answer for ourselves. But we also need to prepare for others and their dilemma and our responses. On an impulse, you may give away your preparedness to help a friend, relative, or neighbor. Is that something you want and are willing to do? Or, are you going to regret that action? Are you going to be able to live with your actions and their consequences? We need to answer these deeply personal and moral questions before we are confronted with the need for answers and action. It will be too late for soul searching then. Part of preparedness is preparing “us” ourselves for what we can and must do. We have to be prepared mentally for the needed actions. And their consequences.

      Thank you for your reading our blog and the great comments.


      * The above is a two part comment...the original was too big for comment format

  2. good column. didn't know about the gas dependency upon electricity.
    here in the city we can only store food, water, toilet paper and some medicine.
    don't have a wood stove but there are some trees on the property and i collect some windfalls but don't have room for more wood.
    don't own the property and cannot make changes either.
    waiting on the Lord, as usual.
    done what can be done, to the best of my knowledge.
    thanks for good information.

    1. We do what we can as our present situation allows. You may not have your land yet but you are aware and are making plans. Thats always a good thing.
      Out west on my old place, I only had wood heat, when the power went out in winter my brother always brought his kids down to sat with me and we had a lot of fun. Toasting marshmallows on the wood stove and reading by kerosene lamp. He has natural gas. Do you have an outdoor barbecue grill? They are not perfect but can help!

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