Many of you may not be aware of the nightmare emergency that is confronting Northern California. Yesterday evening (Sunday February 12th, 2017) around 5pm, Mandatory Evacuation orders were given to over 165,000 residents in Oroville California and surrounding cities. Warning was also sent to other people living further away that more flood waters could be heading their way if the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway collapsed. Residents were warned that a breech could occur within the hour and they must immediately evacuate or face a potential 30 foot wall of water rushing down on them. If you were given Mandatory Emergency Evacuation orders would you be ready? The vast majority were not. I want to discuss some of the lessons learned that might effect many of you someday.
There is already severe flooding and road and bridge collapses throughout Northern California due to heavy rains after so many years of drought. This is a ranch my sister tried to get me to buy a few years ago……..Yikes! Photo from The West Stanislaus Journal.
Here is another ranch my friend Marijanne Nichols of Windmill Photography photographed.
Facebook and the internet are full of pictures of the destruction. Thankfully my homestead was not personally effected by this mandatory emergency evacuation, but warnings were sent out saying those in the delta area could be effected in the next 48-72 hours if the spillway collapsed. I am effected by that, so it really got me thinking.
There is always a lot of discussion (arguments?) among Preppers on whether they are going to Bug-In or Bug-Out (meaning stay in their homes or leave in the event of an emergency or SHTF situation). There are pros and cons to both options, but that is for another post. Just last week on a Facebook prepper group there was a discussion where the poster did not feel he needed a Bug Out Bag (BOB). His point was that in winter, the cold Finland winters would kill you if you tried to Bug Out. One of the points I made was that you may not have a choice to Bug Out. There could be a nuclear accident or attack and radioactive fall out could cause you to have to leave the area. There could also be an out of control fire that could threaten the building you lived in and require you to leave quickly (like a gas main explosion here in California a few years back, or a gas main leak that effected my sister’s city last year). He wasn’t worried about earthquakes, but those of us in California sure do and we know that we might not have the option to stay in our homes if an earthquake destroys them. Wildfires are a huge concern in drought ridden areas. Many of my friends have had to evacuate due to out of control wild fires. Now California, and other parts of the USA, have had to deal with flooding. Are you ready if they call for a mandatory emergency evacuation?
Lessons learned from the Oroville Emergency Evacuation:
1). Have a Bug Out Bag packed and ready to grab at a moment’s notice. You may not always know how much notice if any that you may receive in an emergency. Always have something pre-packed and ready to grab and run in the event of a no notice or short notice emergency. You can always pack more if you have the time. You should keep copies or a flash drive of important documents like deeds, insurance policies, etc in a waterproof bag. Update: Evacuees are now asking for underwear. Evacuation centers are asking for donations of new underwear. This is typical at the 3 day mark as noted in previous evacuations. One recommendation was to buy a pack of new underwear and keep it in the plastic in your bug out bag. Many Preppers also have soap in their bug out bags so they can hand wash their clothes. There is water and electricity available so I am at a bit of a loss in what to think (especially since I live without both). Do people actually not realize you can hand wash clothes? LOL
2) Keep at least a 1/2 tank of gas in your vehicle at all times. The radio last night was reporting huge lines at all gas stations as people panic’d. There was even talk that some stations were going to have to ration how much gas people could purchase because so many people swamped the gas stations. Try to image what it must have been like for over 160,000 people to try and get gas at one time. A radio show I was listening to had emergency evacuees calling in to give updates and statuses of road conditions, etc. When asked if they were able to get gas they answered that the lines were too long and they just wanted to get out of the path of the possible 30′ wall of water that could have come rushing down on them if the dam spillway broke. They reported they were now in stop and go traffic (more stop than go) and only had 1/3rd of a tank of gas. I am betting that some people ran out of gas last night as they tried to evacuate the area. I would also suggest having as a minimum a couple full 5 gallon gas cans stored at home that are easy to grab and fill your tank or to take with you. Rotate often or use fuel stabilizer.
3) Learn alternate routes out of your area. Even though they closed the highway to southbound traffic to allow all 4 lanes to be used for evacuees heading north to escape the area, the traffic was still a nightmare and soon became stop and go. A news reporter covering the evacuation was also stuck in the traffic and he stated that as the van was stopped he looked out the window and realized he was right next to a levee. He wondered what he and the thousands of others stuck on that road would do if the dam spillway broke and a 30′ wall of water rushed over them. A local congressman who had grown up and was a farmer in the area called into the radio station to provide alternative routes to escape that were not well known. He actually mentioned that certain neighborhoods could head east to higher ground instead of heading north to higher ground in the Chico area. All they had to do was ensure they were above 901 feet since that is the height of the dam. That leads us to the next lesson learned.
4) Have topographical maps of your area. In the event of flooding (or even nuclear fallout), having topographical maps of your area may be life savers. Actually any type of Bugging Out would be benefited from topographical maps. On my Facebook Blog Page I have posted the link for free downloads of topographical maps. By the way, I post lots of time sensitive offers on my Facebook Off Grid Homestead Prepper page that is not evergreen and thus not appropriate in most cases for a blog post, not to mention links to lots of other great homesteading and prepper articles that are out there. The topographical maps will show not only alternate routes, but the elevation of hills, etc. In the case of flood, by cutting my north or south fence I can move my horses and other animals onto hilltops that are 100 feet higher than my highest hill. Topographical maps can also give you hints of routes that might be effected by low elevations that might be prone to flooding. Keep downloads of your topographical maps on your smart phone or tablet. Print them out and laminate them and include in your Bug Out Bag.
5) Have a way to transport your pets. There were Facebook messages asking for people to transport 3 dogs, and other pets and livestock. Have a bunch of animal crates and pet carriers that can be stacked. Granted people with large numbers of animals often can’t evacuate with them all, but in the case of flood take the small animals (dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, chickens, etc). Let large livestock out into pasture. Do not lock them inside barns.
6) If you refuse to evacuate: The news just showed some interviews with people that have refused to evacuate the area. One mother with children was shown in the Walmart parking lot and she was upset that all the stores in town were closed and she couldn’t buy food for her family. The entire city is evacuated, so don’t expect any services if you decided to remain behind. The fast food restaurants are closed. The gas stations are closed. The Post Office is closed, but did state that if the evacuation lasted more than a few days they would set up temprary distribution locations at evacuation centers. EVERYTHING is closed. If you leave the area you are probably not going to be able to get back home again. Police are keeping people out, so don’t expect to be able to now go back and get belongings you missed during the initial emergency or to get pets or livestock that you did not leave with initially. This is causing high tension between citizens and police as you can imagine.
I have now discovered that the absolute worst thing to deal with is a MANDATORY Emergency Evacuation. You have no time to plan, and often no choice whether you go or stay. If you do go, you may not be able to come back which is a huge issue to many of us.
My friend Sally Hugg has been forced to evacuate many times due to wild fires. Here are her words of wisdom.
I learn something new from every evacuation. You can plan all you want, but nothing compares to that moment when you realize “Holy shit – this is the real deal and we have to leave NOW!!”, knowing you may not have a home to return to. One of the very BEST things that people can do is write everything on a bulleted list in bold type, and laminate it. Put a copy on the fridge, one in the vehicle, one on the wall in the barn for the animals. Having a checklist that you wrote yourself helps organize your thoughts as you try to keep the adrenaline in check and think clearly.
For those of you who have dealt with this, what lessons have you learned? Let us know in the comments below.