As promised- and even on schedule- I have returned to regale all and sundry with Our Adventures In Evacuation.
Background: Way back in the depths of time, we decided not to Bug Out when hurricane Isabel was bearing down on us. We were without power for the better part of five days, but we were fairly well prepared for the ordeal by virtue of possessing open minds and modest amounts of ingenuity. We jury-rigged a barbecue set-up out of an old gas-station display rack and a couple of cheap aluminum turkey pans, so we had hot water and some method of cooking the food in our freezer before it went bad. We pulled the car up close to the apartment we lived in at the time and used it to power our internet and TV; collected and chopped up fallen limbs to keep the fire fed; and relied upon oil lamps and lanterns for lighting after dark. Basically, while we were living in the 18th century, just about everyone around us was living in the 1st. Bear in mind that Isabel was only a Tropical Storm by the time she reached us here in the Shallow South.
As we watched Irene chugging toward us with evident malice aforethought, we decided that our trigger date was about 72 hours before she hit our area. This would give us plenty of time to change our minds if she weakened or changed course while still allowing us to avoid the bulk of the dain bramaged imbeciles infesting the area who cannot drive on calm, sunny days. This proved to be a good choice- traffic wise- because the mass exodus on Friday immediately clogged every available highway, interstate, street, and cattle trail leading out of the area. While the region’s Jethros were feverishly stampeding into massive traffic gridlock, we were already safely ensconced in a nice hotel suite in a modest metropolis in Hither Carolina which we had estimated would be at least fifty miles outside the hurricane’s widest possible reach. As a result, we got to watch the talking empty heads on TV gibber and panic and throw their feces about as the MOST HORRIBLE NATURAL DISASTER EVER™ rapidly consumed the nation’s airwaves. In other words, I caught up on some reading and watched a lot of Showtime on the hotel’s cable system.
The hotel had a pool and an exercise room, which turned out to be useful. Our suite had a small kitchen (complete with cookware and cutlery) and a 42in flat-screen TV. My only real hardship was the lack of internet access. We did some shopping, lounged about a lot, and generally had a good time wondering whether or not we’d have a house to return to.
Monday morning, we checked out and started driving home through what passes for civilization in Hither Carolina. Not long after we crossed the border into the Shallow South, we quickly found ourselves driving through a post-apocalyptic, dystopian wasteland populated by extras from Road Warrior- but with fewer teeth. Whenever we stopped to scrounge up some fuel, I could swear I heard banjos playing faintly in the distance. This was all the encouragement we needed to keep moving.
To our considerable surprise, the roads heading homeward were all unobstructed by downed trees, a significant departure from the swath of devastation caused by Isabel a few years earlier. There were lots of downed trees visible, mind you, but the DOT crews had apparently been working non-stop to keep the roads open. We saw huge piles of downed trees which had been cut into manageable segments and hauled off the roadway throughout the last hundred miles or so of our trip. The power company crews had also been doing yeoman’s work. Most of the towns and villages and squalid encampments we passed still had electricity, and several dozen work crews were seen laboring to restore power to the remaining areas. This was also a stark contrast from our experience with Isabel, where DOT and the power company had been basically overwhelmed by the scope of the damage. Apparently, even bureaucracies can learn from their past mistakes.
Arriving home Monday afternoon- less than 36 hours after Irene had buzz-sawed through the region- we were overjoyed to discover that the house was still standing. We hadn’t even lost any shingles, which stunned me. Our pecan tree out back had lost a few branches- as well as every single pecan it was growing- but they hadn’t injured anything more than the grass. Our porch lights were still on, and so was the AC. It’s hard to describe our emotions- a strange mixture of happiness and let-down. Tropical Storm Isabel had been vastly more damaging than Hurricane Irene. Aside from the roughly 30mph wind-speed difference, the only other major variable was the fact that we had decided to evacuate this time in lieu of riding it out. I’ve been telling the neighbors that our absence is the reason Irene did so little damage in our area. If we had stayed, the hurricane would have doubtless plowed through the region like a 400-mile-wide bulldozer. I probably ought to think about charging a fee to bug out in the event of natural disasters. Our absence is obviously the major deciding factor in how much damage the area suffers.
Lessons learned: We’re still gonna bug out when a storm predicted to be Cat III or larger gets within 72 hours of us. The few items we had neglected to take with us this time have been added to our Bug-Out Kit (basically a large Tupperware tub with a lid and wheels crammed full of survival necessities), and we’ll use the same destination in Hither Carolina. We enjoyed our little sojourn away from the Jethros so much, we may do it again when non-natural disasters loom on the horizon- such as Congress going back into session.
Current status: Relieved
Current music: I Hate California by Jonathan Coulton