Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Vision, Part II, The Pause

Day 1.

Upon waking in the morning, I dashed to the window to see if the light was on from the power pole indicating the power from the grid was restored. No such luck and off to the generator house. Passing the 250 gallon tank that feed the diesel generator, I stopped briefly for a moment. I thought about all the countless trips I had made filling it, was it just fallacy?

No sooner than I got back to the house and sat down there was the neighbor at the door with two 5 gallon water containers. They had flushed their toilet twice and had lost all pressure from the well. I had faintly heard their RVs generator earlier when I was out and figured that's where they must have spent the night, staying cool. The neighbor and I sat down to watch the news most of it was local, how people were making do without power, grilling outside and such. When it came to reports on the hurricane, there was very little footage or clips of the actual destruction. Apparently almost all the oil refineries were either destroyed or severely damaged. There was no mention of the situation in the Western states, what so ever. The neighbor mentioned that he was happy to have topped off the tank in his truck and hoped the power would soon be back on as he only had 5 gallons of gas left for his generator. He thanked me for the water and left.

The phone lines were still up at this point, however I couldn't get on the Internet with my PC. Guess my server didn't have a power back-up or something. Deciding to go down to the mailbox, I noticed very little traffic on the freeway which I can see from my place. It was a pretty much a laid back day for my wife and I, as we just hung around the house doing what chores we could in the midst of the howl coming from the generator...

When our local news came on it was reported that most people were treating the day like a holiday. Much as the day before, going to the beach to cool off and having backyard cookouts. Gas stations and banks were all closed but some businesses remained opened. Some hardware's, restaurants and grocery stores were open, however most were refusing credit card transactions. Clips were shown of bare shelves by the end of the day in some stores.

When the national news came on there was more coverage of the devastation this time. A clip was shown of survivors passing a bottle of water between themselves. One reporter said they had a difficult time reaching the area because fuel was hard to come by with the power being out. Again the President briefly came on at seven, this time she looked like she hadn't slept for days. She started out by urging everyone to stay put especially in effected areas and that everything that could be done, is being done! She toned down a bit explaining that the damage was estimated in the 100's of billions of dollars, as clips of aerial footage was shown. The President was clearly shaken when she let on, although there had been no confirmation, the death toll would likely be in the 100's of thousands, if not millions. After a long pause she went into some kind of plan where nuclear vessels would provide power at unnamed ports and that by hard wiring into the system, this could restore some grids. However, many were deployed halfway around the world and it would take time. Again she urged everyone except emergency personal to stay home until help arrives.

Day 2.

Again, no power and there was the neighbor with his two water jugs. After taking care of him, I thought I'd go for a bike ride, this time there was almost no traffic on the freeway. When I came to an area where the freeway and another major highway intersected, there was the State police, blocking traffic. When a vehicle did approach it was turned around and sent in the direction it had came from. A little further up the road was a restaurant, I'd rest there before returning home. I mentioned to some people there what I saw down the road and they looked at me like I was stupid. Didn't I know that all main highways had been closed? Already there was a highway filled with "parked vehicles" six miles long coming from the Detroit metro area! While leaving the restaurant I thought to myself, at least I didn't drive there.. On my way home, I thought of a route we would take through the back roads to avoid the police, en route to our "bug-out" destination.

As soon as I got back, I began to assemble all my survival gear and food stuffs that we had stored. It was soon all loaded in the van, I wanted to be able to leave at a moments notice and was even thinking about fleeing at that point. Of course, this shook up my wife quite a bit, but I assured her, we'd at least give it one more day and see what happens. I had found the crank up radio while going through the gear, now was the time to use it.

The local radio station was also urging people to stay home and not to drive anywhere, as stranded vehicles were beginning to pile up, especially at gas stations. It was also being suggested that there was no point going to grocery stores, as there was nothing left and they would not be restocked until after the power was back on line. The county and city commissioners were to have a joint meeting to discuss any ideas if the power were to remain off for any length of time.

The local news at six o'clock was much the same. Stories of local officials making plans of better coping with the situation, however there was no word from the federal government, as of yet. On the national news there were more stories about the devastation the hurricane had caused and heroic efforts of some people. It was also reported that other countries around the world were experiencing weather related tragedies of their own. The President would be back on tomorrow at seven.

Day 3.

As I went out to start the generator, I could hear the neighbor's humming right along not missing a beat. Most people were certain that the government would restore the power soon, it was only a matter of time. When he came over to get water, I inquired where was he getting the gas to run the little generator? He was taking it from his vehicle...

Today, I would bike to a lake that was next to a small community, not a far drive from home... Within this community of 3,000 people is a large prison facility, housing about 4,000 violent criminals. Coming into view of the small lake, there were rows of tents maybe three deep where the small park was! Children were playing in the water cooling off, splashing around having the time of their life. I rested near a group of women sitting on a picnic table and started to eavesdrop on their conversation. One woman's husband gave another man 15 dollars for a pack of cigarettes! All the women were very concerned as they were running out of food and what they had was spoiling fast from the heat. There was some concern stemming from small talk, that the guards were having to put down small rebellions at the prisons. They openly wondered how long it would be before something big might happen? All the guards were ordered not to leave the grounds and had been put on double shift rotation, covering for ones who had not reported for work. Mounting the bike, I asked them why there were so many tents in the park? Apparently there was little or no water pressure in some areas of the community and it was just easier camping at the park with water and outhouses... No shit! I thought as I pedaled away.

Of course, my wife wasn't too thrilled after hearing this information. Turning to the radio, the situation in town wasn't much better, "tent cities" were springing up in all the waterfront parks. Again, certain parts of town were receiving little or no water at all. Food banks such as the Salvation Army were being overwhelmed with people looking for something to eat. A drive was put on by groups going house to house pleading for food for those that had none. Another problem had cropped up, the county morgue was now "overflowing" mostly from seniors living at high rise complexes. The commissioners promised there would be diesel fuel to keep the back-up generators going at the water treatment plant, the hospital, and one radio station. Another story was that firefighters had put out two small fires but the department was wondering if they would have enough water pressure to put down a big fire if one should arise. It seemed the local radio station had more than enough local news to report and reported very little from outside our area.

When the national news came on TV, it was much the same. There was plenty of news to report from New York city. "Great crowds" of people were forming, who had no where to go. Conditions from high rise apartments and certain neighborhoods had become "unlivable". A clip was shown of Central Park, literally filled with people. The stench from rotting food and human waste was becoming unbearable. All roadways looked like huge parking lots, making it impossible to get fuel delivered at some essential back-up power plants. Bodies of those who had expired from the heat or dehydration, were being stacked behind buildings. The situation there was described as deteriorating quickly and close to being chaotic.

As promised, the President did come on at seven. What a night and day difference! This time she looked rested and refreshed. She was now reporting from another location, not the Oval Office. She sounded optimistic when she reported that the Northeastern part of the nation's electrical system had been restarted, only to be shut down due to mounting problems once it started. However, she assured us that this was a start and more attempts would be made soon as possible. System designers were now being contacted and the power would be restored as soon as possible. She said they were having their problems organizing due to the circumstances, but would soon begin efforts in stabilizing the situation. We were to remain calm and hopeful through this crisis, that soon relief would be on it's way! She would again address the nation, as soon as she knew more.

Day 4

Our neighbors came over this morning to shower and fill their RV with water. They were pretty shaken after hearing a report of someone who flew over Tucson, Arizona. Apparently thousands of people were fleeing the city on foot, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind them! Furthermore, it looked like the entire city was engulfed in flames. Similar reports were coming in from amateur radio operators near Las Vegas, Nevada. Many of those people out West had been without power for over six days now.

The neighbors came by for more water and were wondering if we were going anywhere after seeing that our van was all packed? I told them , that we'd not be sticking around long should the guards be overrun at the prison or for that matter, just letting the prisoners go. They hadn't thought about this possibility at all...

Turning to the radio, the conditions in town were worsening. Vehicles were being abandoned everywhere that this was creating problems and people were being urged not to drive anywhere. Already there were four abandoned vehicles that we could see from our place on the freeway. There were reports of people breaking into "summer homes" in search of food and other supplies. We wondered what our relatives in town were doing, if anything at all. There was no way of knowing since our phone line had gone down. I certainly wasn't going to risk a trip into town to find out either.

It was time to flee before we could be trapped in. Both my wife and I, cried as we knew we were leaving family and friends behind. Thoughts of leaving this home were overwhelming, we had come to love this place that we built together. Clearing the land, building the house and the many happy times that had come with it. Feeding and now abandoning the wildlife that had become our friends. Neither one of us could look back as we drove away. We stopped by the neighbors and offered the use of the house and the food we had left. They seemed somewhat happy accepting this offer. They too, were wondering if they would soon flee in the RV, but would give it a couple more days anyway. I told them to take anything they wanted from the house, that we'd likely wouldn't be coming back anytime soon. At least the fueled generator was there, that way they wouldn't have to use theirs...

Our destination was over 50 miles away and I definitely wanted to make this trip in the daylight, so I could see as far down the road as possible. We took the back roads through a lot of farmland, crossed one major highway and bypassed a small community, about 15 miles from the house. We hadn't come across another moving vehicle and at that point, I knew we were home free. The rest of the trip would be made through the wilderness with very few homes along the way. We would have to drive through another small community where I was raised and then a little more than ten miles beyond that. I could tell people were scared and were not just venturing out, as we only passed one moving vehicle during the entire trip.

We were both just relieved having made the trip without a hitch however I was armed, just in case. At least I didn't have to worry about that part anymore, I don't know what I would have done if we were confronted. We sat up camp just inside the woods on the shore of Lake Superior. Here, I would be able to defend us or have more than 40 miles of wilderness to retreat to. It was also here that we could sustain ourselves from the land itself, if it came to that.

My wife has some serious misgivings about leaving home and the security of it. A lot of people would have given the world to have what we had left, plenty of fertile land, water and house in the country that was paid for. However this home was somewhere in the middle of a town with a population of over 10,000 on one side and a sizable prison population on the other. I couldn't risk my life or that of my wife, trying to defend this home on land that couldn't sustain us especially under these conditions...

After our camp was set up, my wife and I, sat on the beach and watched the sunset just living for the moment....

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