Case #

07.3.12

Researcher

Subject

News, Research

Society Is Not Ready For An Apocalypse

If there is an actual zombie apocalypse, we’re screwed.

On Friday night, there was an epic storm in my area, sweeping from Indiana to Delaware. I do not use the word “epic” lightly. Five hours of unremitting, strobe-like lightning that never let up. Winds that hit 70 MPH (that’s roughly 113 KPH, for those of you in places that teach the metric system). Torrential rain.

Basically, it was like a hurricane with one important difference. With a hurricane, you get lots of warning.

Four hours before the storm hit my town, the weather report said there was a 10% chance of isolated thunderstorms.

An hour before the storm hit, I was hitting refresh on my brand new forum like a deranged lab animal in a Skinner box. My priorities were in line with my day to day life, not the apocalypse that I didn’t know was coming.

Hundred year old trees were uprooted and flung by the wind.I lost power almost immediately, so I sat in my living room and watched the weather instead of the forum. The wind threw my grill into my container garden, which I thought was a problem right before I watched the wind pick up two, hundred year old, tulip poplars by their roots and fling them… away from my house, a lucky break I’ll never forget. A total of six gigantic trees were uprooted from my backyard alone.

Saturday morning, we discovered the damage wasn’t just in our neighborhood, or even our county. The power was out everywhere. The only stores open for a twenty minute drive in every direction were running on generators. McDonald’s was literally the only food place open on a fifteen mile stretch of a major business route. The wait to order was 45 minutes. They cooked everything they had and shut down.

Probably for the best, since there wasn’t a single working traffic light for miles, and people turning in to the parking lot were causing near-wrecks.

Gas ran short. The heavily computerized gas stations simply couldn’t open.On Sunday, things were getting a little… sketchy. No traffic lights had been restored, and the cops were stretched too thin to handle everything. (They blocked every intersection to prevent left turns. Clever. Inconvenient, but clever!) Grocery stores in my town were only open in the sense that their doors were open so their employees could throw away thousands of pounds of unsaleable food. We tried to make calls, but between downed cell towers and everyone in the state trying to make calls, it was a challenge.

Generators were running dry, and the heavily computerized gas stations simply couldn’t open. Only the most antiquated pumps could function at all, and the stores with those were charging premium prices.

With no power, no internet, and no cell service, I actually found out the extent of the damage from a newspaper. Like, the kind on actual paper. The storm hadn’t just hit my town, or my county, or my state. That’s also how I found out the power might be out for a week.

(I promptly decamped to my mother in law’s house. She doesn’t have internet and her power is still sporadic, but the generous neighbor’s wifi works when the power does and at least there’s some power every few hours… and when the temperature is 97 degrees with 60% humidity, sporadic air conditioning is a damned sight better than none.)

Things are getting back to normal (assuming this pressure system doesn’t shift and we don’t get hit with another storm before the grid is back up), so I guess this isn’t the apocalypse, after all. But it made me think. What would you do with a disaster that comes with no warning? Like… right now. You have to survive with what you’ve got and nothing else.

The problem wasn’t really the conditions. The problem was humanity.The problem wasn’t really the conditions. The problem was humanity. Gas was briefly scarce, but people were still using it up to run their cars so they could sit in air conditioning. No one really believed the scarcity would last and burned gas accordingly. The folks with generators were just as insane – they didn’t just power their freezers and fans, but their AC, their DVD players, and reading lamps all night long.

Where do you get the gas for your generator when the pumps don’t work and the trucks stop coming?

Never mind the shortsightedness, there were some people that couldn’t think at all. With my own ears, I heard a grown man ask how he was supposed to eat with no frozen/refrigerated food and no microwave to cook it in.

Don’t think going country is a total solution. Being at the rural end of the county wasn’t an advantage in this storm – they were at the bottom of the power restoration priority list, and most of them are on well water. With electric pumps. No toilet flushing for them!

How would you survive? Are you ready?Also, while yes, knowing how to shoot and butcher a deer is a post-apocalyptic advantage… what do you do with a few hundred pounds of deer meat when it’s 97 degrees outside and you don’t have a freezer?

I’ve got a small garden. Not only did the storm flatten everything, but nothing was ready to harvest anyway. So what do you eat when the vegetables are still growing?

Canned food is nice. I’m actually the only person I know on my block who has a manual can opener, one that doesn’t plug into the wall. How do *you* open your cans?

Rice and pasta and beans in storage are all very well, but have you ever tried cooking them over an open fire? (Trick question. You don’t. You cook over coals. But do you know how long it takes to create a good bed of coals with gathered wood? Do you know how fast you’re gonna run through wood? Twigs won’t cook anything but s’mores.)

Let’s say you heat with a woodburning stove in winter. You have, therefore, a stock of seasoned hardwood stove lengths and a place to burn them. What do you do with all the neighbors who are not so equipped?

How do you get in touch with family members to find out who has a shelter and a food supply when the phone lines are down and the cell towers are out?

How do you make water safe to drink when your upstream neighbors are rinsing out their deer carcass and their filthy hunting clothes in your shared river?

How would you survive?

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