August 29 is my wedding anniversary. It was the same date that Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf South Coast. I try not to attach any connection between the two. Though I lived 150 miles north of the landfall, our community was greatly impacted by the storm. High winds and driving rain took down scores of trees and power lines along with them. Roofs soared off homes, glass blew out, and highways became cluttered with storm debris and escaping vehicles.
All the local motels and eating establishments quickly jammed up with “refugees” coming in from the coast. Within a week supplies began to dwindle. Gasoline was in short supply creating long lines at the few open stations to only be able to buy ten gallons. Even many people lucky enough to have a generator, could not get gas to run them. All the generators were sold out the first day anyway. I did not get one.
On the Home Front
So, here was the scenario at home. I was there off and on because my work site was open. My wife’s was not. Schools were closed so my young child was home. We had no electrical power. City water pressure continued and we had natural gas for cooking. In many ways we were better off than a lot of other folks. We had meat and frozen food in the freezer we could get out quickly that would last a few days and the same in the regular refrigerator. We had lots of canned goods to last a couple weeks. We had filled two tubs with water and 12 gallon milk jugs filled when the news came just in case.
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We used the shower for bathing, which was often with the daytime temps above 90 with equal humidity. It was hot. Sleeping at night was very uncomfortable. I had stocked up with plenty of flashlights and batteries. We had several big candles and a Coleman lantern with two gallons of fuel. I have a similar camping cook stove in case the natural gas cut off. We mostly used the candles.
Home security proved no issue. I had my tools ready but since everyone in the neighborhood was in the same mess, as it were, there was no real advantage to rummaging around or looting, etc. It did not happen in my area. Frankly I think the bad elements simply could not get the gasoline to be roaming around. We do know what happened in New Orleans so there is a lesson to be learned. Be prepared, equipped and ready. We were.
Work was down completely though the facility I manage was the only one in the whole area with electric power. It was only coincidental that the regional power company was using the site as an emergency Bug Out location. It became the central hot spot for all the employees and other groups seeking accommodations for overnight rooms and meals. We were booked. Many of my in-house employees could not get to work, which was a good thing.
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We had a stocked walk in freezer and a good supply of other food stuffs. We had no tap water so bottled water had to be used to cook. We made a lot of sandwiches and set up a “buffet” each day in the lobby for employees and guests only. We turned away walk ins that learned we had some supplies. College police guarded the facility each day.
The ‘tough” part was toting buckets of water up the hill from the nearby lake to flush toilets. Some of the residents were not able to do this or unwilling to do it. People failed to realize this was an emergency situation and continued to be demanding. I recall one obnoxious guest screaming about not having her cable TV. She was evacuated.
Life without the Power Grid
I recall quite vividly just how tough it was to be without electrical power. We are all creatures of comfort, and I have to admit my own weaknesses just as all preppers will have to do under real practical aftermath conditions. When it is 90+ degrees during the day and the house is hovering in the 85+ range, it is decidedly tough to go without air conditioning in the south.
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Had it been 30 degrees I could crank up the gas log fireplace. However, I have long wished we had put in a wood burning fireplace or heater instead of a gas one. There is a trade off for everything since a wood fireplace or wood heater would mean acquiring an ample supply of good firewood each season. Think about this if you build a new house or add on.
We were able to manage otherwise quite well at home. I did not miss the electrical lights though I did miss the television for news and weather. The FM radio sufficed, but make sure you have one. It is amazing but many people today including preppers simply forget to have on hand an old fashioned battery operated dial radio. Don’t forget either than your vehicle likely still has an AM-FM radio to catch news and weather.
Cracks in the Infrastructure
Preppers need to be thinking well in advance and planning for the breakdown of every common source of infrastructure that we have become reliant upon. Storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, other natural disasters can shut everything down. We could very well be without any support service or utility option. We might lose electrical power, natural gas, public water, and sewer.
Public resources could be hampered or gone altogether. Police, fire, rescue and ambulances may disappear from service. Hospitals may offer restricted service or could be vacant with no source of doctors, nurses, or other employees. Airports could be closed and interstate highways either totally congested or locked down with abandoned vehicles. Remember the scenes of highways in Atlanta on Walking Dead.
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The usual supply outlets like grocery stores will be quickly sold out and then likely completely looted. The same could be true for hardware stores, home supply outlets, gun and ammo shops, pharmacies, general merchandise stores and even “7-11” type convenience stops. It will all be gone in very short order. Most businesses may be locked up or simply abandoned. Hence, this is the definition of prepping and survival planning. You will have to become totally self-reliant at least until order is re-established and the supply lines flow once again. It could be a long while or it might be never. Let’s all hope and pray that our species is above total annihilation, but given the politics and lunacy among the Arab nations, anything could happen on this earthen body.
Storm Interrupted Not a Marathon
In our case of this SHTF created from natural causes our local down time was only three days at home. Some people out in the rural county areas lost power for 2-3 weeks. Fuel supplies remained sketchy for a while but refilled within a month. Life got better quickly when the electricity came back on line. Ya just gotta love air conditioning.
Storm damage clean up took a year in some places. It was a lot longer along the coast. Some home sites and business will never be rebuilt. Blue tarps still cover buildings in New Orleans even after billions were spent on recovery efforts. Some residents still do not understand why Uncle Sam’s buses never did come to evacuate them along with a free wine and cheese basket.
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Had this been some other kind of SHTF it could have been an exercise in fighting off the end of society as we know it. Personally, I cannot image trying to tough it out in a remote woodland location living under a tarp lean-to, a tent, or out of the back of an SUV for two weeks, six months, or a maybe a couple years. You younger folks can likely manage it for a while anyway.
The aftermath is not going to be a picnic. Even a temporary discomforting event like Hurricane Katrina teaches us the stark realities of just how inconvenient these SHTF events can prove to be. So preppers plan and plan wisely. Plan to survive the aftermath or at least until society become redefined again.
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