Sunday, July 7, 2019

Disasterpiece Theatre: 1994 Edition

h/t Commander Zero

Mind the gap. Meet the five luckiest people in CA in January 1994
without winning the Lotto jackpot. Underwear resupply inbound.

Thanks to Commander Zero (who should already be on your blog-read list), you get this to make up for the post I just wasn't feeling yesterday.

For those who haven't delved back six years ago, when I put up a post a couple of times a week, I commend to you the four-parter regarding the Northridge Earthquake of 1994.

It will be germane to a lot of people, including anyone west of Yuma.

BTDT, got the t-shirt.


Also entitled:
How I Spent The New Extra Week Before The Start Of Third Semester Of Nursing School in 1994.

There are lessons there. If you want some lessons particular to quakes, and some applicable to all disasters, give them a peek.

I only bring them up because they're germane today, and just sitting there in the catacombs of my blog collecting dust. And they're free. So if you learn anything, you're welcome, with my compliments. That's why I wrote it all down.

The formerly brand new Student Parking Structure at Cal State Northridge after
Mother Nature redecorated. Five stories tall, now only two. The vertical beams
were 1'x4' steel reinforced. If this had been at 8:31AM on a weekday,
the death toll there alone would have been hundreds. And parking still sux there.


1) No one is coming to help you. YOYO. Plan accordingly.

2) 72 hours of supplies? AHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Try 14-30 days, minimum. Yes, really. IMHO, if you're not ready for 60 days totally self-sustained, you're selling yourself short.

3) Northridge utilities/situation overview:

*Power: Nada. For 11 days. They weren't even sure they could reboot an entire city from scratch when they flipped the switches, but it worked. That time.

*Water: Boil water orders for 30+ days, thousands of breaks in water mains (18" from sewer mains, btw). 25 years later and L.A. still hasn't found and fixed them all. (Doubt me? Google "L.A. sinkholes" since 1994-yesterday. The prosecution rests, your Honor.)

*Heat: It was sunny the day after, even in January. If this had been cold, wet winter, like anywhere in 49 other states, or half of even this one, we would have started loosing people to exposure within two-three days.

*Communication: Ha. Pre-cell era. No POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) for a week. Now, >50% of people don't even have landline POTS. (Might want to rethink that clever strategy, kids.) And cell towers have far less capacity, and maybe 24-72 hrs battery back-up. Maybe.

*ATMs: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Cash in hand, or do without.

*Retail business: AHAHAHAHAHA. For two weeks. Only when the power came back on.

*Transportation grid: Hundreds of normal overpasses condemned.
The I-5 down to one lane in each direction for a month, and 300 yards of 100-foot-tall overpass gone.

*Gasoline: Did I mention there was no power for 11 days??
You had the gas you had, until it ran out, or you drove 50 miles away to fill a tank, out of the affected area.
So, imagine that was not possible, or a lot farther away than 50 miles.
And remember, hundreds of freeway overpasses were out.

*General destruction: they were still pulling bodies and victims out of rubble two days later, and that was with less than 100 actual rescues or fatalities, and everyone within 200 miles helping out.
Now imagine 1000, or 10,000 victims.

It's bad when your third floor apartment is now on the second floor. It's
even worse for the people who lived on the first floor. And who are now pate.

I repeat: YOYO: You're On Your Own!
If you have gloves and a shovel, you're the only rescue squad you're going to see for days to weeks.
Also the only fire department.
And police department.
And EMS.
And hospital.
And pharmacy. (How many days of your meds do you have for back-up?)
And restaurant.
And market.
And building contractor.
And garbage collection.
And so on, ad infinitum.

Welcome to the real Day After.

Now tell me what's in your kit.

Best Wishes.


Tal Hartsfeld said...

As an urban dweller getting by on a limited monthly income this sort of scenario would be my "swan song", for sure.
But why stop with earthquakes? There are also tornadoes, ice storms, blizzards, floods.

Aesop said...

I haven't been through most of those.
But the preparations for any one of them look remarkably like the preparations for all of them.

Red Forman said...


Enjoy the blog immensely and hope you are O.K. I have often wondered exactly how one is able to stock up on meds. I am on several (as is my wife). As you are in the medical profession, perhaps you can tell me how we can do this within the confines of the law.


Roy said...

Not too long; Did read - all four.

That was very interesting and good advice. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

Lergnom said...

Sir, I read your quake posts and thought them well worth posting to Facebook. Hope you don't mind.
Stay safe.

Anonymous said...

" how one is able to stock up on meds"

Ask your doctor to write you extra for your "vacation trip".

There is usually a couple of days grace on even the most restrictive scrip so if you ALWAYS reload those days early you can save 3-4 doses each time.

Tell your Dr you dropped the bottle into the toilet. You may have to pay the realxxxx retail cost out of pocket, but it's better than seizing on the 3rd day without....

Ask your Dr if there are any samples you can have, "just in case you have trouble refilling one time."

Less savory, there are "sharing clubs" organized by churches, mail order, or purchases outside the US. Avoid indian producers.

I used to buy my prescriptions in MX for cash because I didn't have insurance. Same sealed boxes, holograms, and made by Schering Plough in NY. 1/10th the cost of US stores. The one time I tried the "lower cost but just the same" indian import, US Customs stopped me and told me I could throw it away or take it back to the farmacia' and get something that wasn't chalk and poison... I took it back and got my normal brand. At least back then, Customs wasn't concerned, especially if you actually had a scrip for the meds. Haven't tried in a while.

There may be restricted stuff where these techniques don't work, but you can always try honesty with your Dr... "Doc, I'm concerned about access to my meds during an emergency, what if it happened when I was near the end of the month? I'd like to have XX amount on hand, just in case so that a bad situation doesn't get worse." Given the state of insurance in the US, you will probably have to pay for it, but as stated above, if you NEED it, you should be willing to pay for it.


Anonymous said...

@tal, as a human who wants to live, there are ways to prep no matter what your circumstances. It doesn't have to be time consuming, life altering, or expensive. There are lots of articles about doing it on the cheap.

The easiest and cheapest is incrementally -- just buy more of what you buy anyway and put it away for later. There are other ways to trade time for money too, yard sales, estate sales, gleaning clubs, home canning, coupon use, smart shopping, etc. Canned food is cheap, nutritious, and packed for long term storage. It may not be what you would PREFER to eat, but it's a lot better than being hungry.

Water is free and coming out of your tap. Storage for it can be as simple as recycled juice bottles, or food safe 5 gallon buckets with lids. Or buy the cheapest onsale bottled water and use the back 6 inches of your cupboards to store it.

30 cans veg
30 cans beans
15 cans fruit
30 cans meat
3 cardboard packages instant oatmeal
50 pounds rice (5 ten pound bags)

That's food for 2 adults and 2 kids for a month for $150.

Add some koolaid mix and coffee, a bag of hard candy, sugar/salt/pepper from your table, and you're GTG while your neighbors are looking at breadlines.

To cook it, a table top butane burner, common and cheap at asian markets or walmart.


Anonymous said...

BTW, all that should fit in a couple of buckets and the equivalent space of a flip top storage bin.


Tina said...

Red Forman, re prepping prescription medicines:

When my husband first starting having to take medicine without which he might not live, we asked our doctor for an extra prescription for 30 days. He replied that he'd rather he have 90 days worth on hand, because most of our meds are made in China or India, and that California dockworker strikes were the biggest danger to supplies! He said in event of a strike, the containers might sit unloaded for months.

So he wrote out a prescription for the essential medicine. We paid for it out of pocket (in fact, the pharmacy didn't fill it at first because they thought it was a duplicate... we had to tell them to go ahead and we'd pay instead of Medicare.) Others, the advice of Anon. Nick on July 7, 2019 at 2:40 PM covers the options.

One extra thing I have done is research how to replace that medicine with some plant-based alternative, just in case. Most cannot be adequately subbed, but it made me feel better to have the knowledge in hand.

Sherm said...

It's useful to keep in mind that the people who style themselves in charge are the same ones that rebuilt the VA hospital damaged in that quake in another location pretty much on top of the San Andreas Fault. I suspect they got a good price on the land.

Anonymous said...

Check out BISON Prepper on Wordpress for how to prepare for next to nothing. He provides his book for free.

Anonymous said...

"Now tell me what's in your kit."

We live in a suburban area of a county with about a half million people, in a four-seasons region. Our earthquakes have been in the 4 ish range, are rare, and new faults have been discovered in the past 15 years.

We get serious summer and winter here, by our terms. A couple weeks of 100º plus is not out of the ordinary, nor are a couple weeks of below zero temps with three feet of snow on the ground.

The "kit" is more about multiple redundancies at home. The home was built as a farmhouse before I was born, but domestic water was always part of the place. Long-life power-failure lights are in every room in the house and key areas of outbuildings. Redundancies include a couple of generators, extensive quantities of hand tools, enough firewood to heat the house for four months, substantial amounts of stored liquid fuel, kerosene lamps, LED lamps and extensive rotations of batteries, a minimum of 6 months worth of stored food, not including home canned/preserved food, commercially-bought 'emergency food' for a two month period, extensive stores of clothing, spare parts, sleeping bags, building materials, tarps. Each building has at least two commercial-type fire extinguishers. Communications includes several mobile CB radios, a half-dozen multi-band radios, a couple large 'base station' radios and antenna setups, and a scanner. A travel trailer is fully equipped nearly year round with a twenty-minute get-out-of-Dodge capability. Stored drinking water is a minimum of 100 gallons, and in the summer could be up to 5000 gallons with water from an above ground swimming pool. It's also possible to set up the above ground pool inside one of the outbuildings, which will keep it from freezing. . Water filtration procedures include slow sand filter and a Berkey. Water catchment is already in place on the house, garage and two outbuildings, where water is used in the summer to augment irrigation of the garden and fruit trees. One of the outbuildings can serve as an emergency shelter, with kitchen, wood heat, stored supplies, and camp toilet. Enough stuff lying around to build an outhouse if needed. Things that go bang are also part of the setup, and the ability to slow casual predators down when trying to access the property. All family members have a car kit, regardless of where they are. I also have a small kit secured at my employers location.

Anonymous said...

I was living in the "University Tower Apartments" at CSU Northridge some 15 years prior to the earthquake, and I was "concerned" about the possibility of what eventually did come down the whole time I was there. The wife I was with then (no dummy her, other than the marrying me part) and her folks who lived in Lancaster were definitely into prepping long before such a thing was a "Thing", so we had emergency supplies etc., and a plan to get to the folks place should all hell break loose. Lucky for us it waited until we were many hundreds of miles to the north in my home territory. It was quite the shock to find that our old apartment complex was declared uninhabitable from the earthquake, and of course the brand-spanking new parking complex becoming so much rubble was pretty inspiring too. Never figured out why her sister still lives in the area. Yuck.

I don't worry about earthquakes much anymore, just volcanoes...ah, the joys of the West Coast! so I try to prepare for pretty much anything. Still beats hell out of a tornado or hurricane though.

Great story, thanks for re-posting and bringing back memories.

Light Dragoon

Anonymous said...

We're rural, with the biggest danger wildland fire. The biggest threat from that is air quality; we had a 2000 acre fire crosswind from us a few years back, and one morning was pretty grim. Survival supplies are the pantry and fridge/freezer. The pantry is large, though tiny by the standards of the Mormons who live around here. I have solar systems to keep stuff cold. If we lost power in the dead of winter, we'd have to rely on propane or move into the shop/barn where wood heat is available.

I've been refilling my meds as soon as allowed (7 days early on a 90 day script), and the two key meds now have a minimum 90 day supply. One other has the drug it replaced as a backup, with a few weeks worth of that.

San Jose in the Loma Prieta was a bit different. Several old buildings semi-collapsed, and most of the chimneys in my 1930s neighborhood got wrecked, but little housing got trashed. With power out and SJPD busy, some yahoos decided that the 4 lane main street would make for a great drag strip. That went on for a while. POTS exchanges went into meltdown, and didn't get much better until the next day. Power came back about 18-24 hours later in SJ; other places were a lot worse hit.

RCPete, rural rightwing Oregon

Anonymous said...

For a while after 9/11 I even had a bug out bag at home, and another in my semi-private office which was 30 miles away. Then I had to move back inside the security fence at work. My at work bug out bag necessarily became a 30 day supply of meds and vitamins, and three or four hormel ready meals and a box of candy bars.

One thing to keep in mind, you may want to keep some supplies outside of the house. What if the house collapses or starts on fire? A bucket or two of absolute essentials in the garden shed, or a deck box can get you through 36-72 hours.

Anonymous said...

94 quake, darn it, my Tv fell on me. not the slender flat screen type of today. worse yet was my girlfriend getting caught sleeping over. epi center was roughly 25 miles away. my house was old and just rolled with it. I could watch the landslides from the aftershocks in rocky peak and hills north of North Ridge. we dodged a bullet on that one, few hours later and it would have been thousands dead. a motorbike HP officer died by riding off that over pass near the Old Road, i5 and i14 intersect. shity day. post event, gallon of water going for 10 bucks.

Anonymous said...

No looting? Maybe society has degraded a lot in 25 years.

How fortunate his store which doesn't have earthquake insurance will be reimbursed by his business insurance for the robbery...

Anonymous said...

There's always looting, it's just not in their interest to report on it.


Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of the aftermath of the hurricanes in Ohio almost 10 years ago.
(Yes, Columbus Ohio got hit by the tail of a hurricane...noodle on that)
I live on the northeast corner of Columbus in a suburb.
It was out of power but barely a day.
Now the city of Columbus...
That was almost a week.
Going to gas stations powered by generators, with big plywood painted signs reading "cash only" and people still tried to pull in and use credit cards.

I was sitting in the dark at work and a guy pulled out a credit card...then he laughed.
"I'll just go to an ATM".
4 hours later he came back.
"I had to drive (over an hour) to Newark to find an ATM that had cash!"
My son's mother (at the time just the girlfriend) had her entire family on the South End of Columbus, which was out of power for a week.
Spent the week driving down to visit (okay it was mostly "bring her Dad beer and ice for said beer") and leave at dark...and it's spooky when the 20+ traffic lights aren't even blinking, and there's maybe one business with a flashing sign and that's it.
(Reminded me of the diner scene in Escape From New York just before the manholes started opening)
At $4 a gallon no less.
"Cash in hand" went fast at that rate.

Yeah, that's not what I want to do.
I'm working on "supplies" and have been ever since parting ways with the son's mother (thankfully keeping said son)

Anonymous said...

Modern people seem to forget one lesson our ancestors knew well: The Universe is out to kill you. It's no more personal than it's personal for you to kill a bacteria when you wash your hands after you use the bathroom. It's more a case of you're just THERE when God decides to rearrange the furniture. The ancients didn't practice human sacrifice for the fun of it, they did so because they believed it was the only way to maybe keep the Universe from giving them the finger.

This goes at least double, probably quadruple, if you're on a body of open water larger than a bathtub and more than waist deep.

You can do everything right, have all the preps and safety provisions and still end up deader than canned tuna. Or you can screw up by the numbers and draw the long straw which keeps you looking at the grass from the green side instead of the brown. During the actual event it's probably a matter of luck more than anything else. AFTER the event you're preps and abilities matter (but as you note in your four-part on North Ridge, stupid people can still get you killed by being stupid).

Mark D

AuricTech Shipyards said...

Tal Hartsfeld,

The biggest difference between earthquakes and the disasters you mentioned is that weather-related disasters (including hurricanes) have at least some level of advance warning. Minutes for tornadoes, and hours to days for the rest. Earthquakes are very much a come-as-you-are kind of party. That being said, as our host pointed out, if you're ready for a come-as-you-are party, you're pretty much ready for a party that gives you a bit of advance notice.

As for improvised water storage, clear PET plastic bottles of up to 2-liter capacity are suitable both for water storage and for solar disinfection of the stored water.

Anonymous said...

We're in a relatively safe rural location. Our only plausible natural disasters are tornadoes and while we've seen them, we've never suffered a direct hit or even damage in the 190 or so years my family has lived here. I can't think of too many scenarios where we don't just hole up on the farm and stay put. My kin didn't even leave when the Yankees overran the area and we were under enemy occupation for most of the lamentable unpleasantness of 1861-1865.

Like others have mentioned, my more difficult planning is to keep a supply of critical medication. I've tried skipping doses here and there to build a buffer but it takes forever to amass any really useful quantity. I have benefited from a few clerical errors, changed and re-changed meds to get some extras. I'm careful to rotate new for old. I wish I could just walk into a pharmacy and buy 6 months or a year of meds otc but the nanny state just can't have that. If an emergency cuts off my access to meds I'll have a month and after that it's going to be quite unpleasant. I will likely die in weeks, maybe a month two and be in agony while I do so. I'm not a drinker but I keep a few cases of high proof pure grain alcohol socked away in the emergency supplies so maybe it'll take the edge off, you know, dying.

Aesop said...

YMMV, but if you can buy your meds OTC in Mexico or Canada, even ICE isn't likely to notice if you were to travel in with two half-full bottles, and return with two all-the-way-full bottles, all labeled and dispensed in the U.S.

Three to four weekend trips per year, and you could accumulate a respectable emergency stash, and enjoy a few worthwhile vacations.

Just saying.

Alternatively, cash-for-service among health care practitioners is becoming quite a thing.

There's nothing preventing you from travelling to another city or state, setting up a temporary domicile, pleading cash payment only, and getting a duplicate PMD. Tell them your old history and former meds, but now you've moved, and need to continue
your meds.

Expensive initially, but once you're established, then you'd be getting the same meds from both doctors, and paying for the privilege, avoiding any charge of insurance fraud, etc.
(Hint: Do not try this if any Schedule narcotics are involved, or you are in rough shape, requiring a shit-ton of interventions and prescriptions.)
But for routine RX meds (heart, BP, thyroid, diabetes, etc.) you could have a year's supply of meds within a year.

You then have a year, in case of disaster or long-term problem, to make alternative arrangements.

Also, no more than once every few years, consider the possibility that you took your meds on vacation (again, not including Schedule drugs), and then telling your doctor they were "lost with your luggage". Pay for the replacements out of your own pocket. Now you should have 90 days sitting around, to rotate into your normal usage.

And if your doctor's not a complete jackass, consider the easiest solution: TELL THEM THE TRUTH.
"Hey, Doc, I love ya, but how about writing me a paper scrip that I'll fill with cash out of pocket, (thus no insurance fraud for either one of us) for an extra 90-day emergency supply of all my meds, so that if your office or the whole town gets blown away in a tornado/hurricane/Big Bad Wolf attack/Zombie Apocalypse, I won't be one of the 500 people beating on your non-existant door for an emergency refill. I'll rotate them in with the regular refills so I always have 90 days extra on hand, and you and I can both sleep easier knowing I'll covered in case of a disaster."

Most of the practitioners I've dealt with would send you candy (unless you were diabetic) and flowers for even thinking that many steps ahead.

And frankly, if your doctor is too big a jackass to say yes to that common sensible pitch, fire the stingy fucker and go get a better doctor.

And just to drive the point home, if you have to do that, do it the minute they say "No." Maybe learning will occur, and the next time one of their patients shows a little common sense, perhaps they'll do the right thing. You might save a life.

But still fire them, and get a new doc.

lineman said...

People are lazy though and don't want to take the extra time now to do that they just want to rely on it's never happened to them before so it isn't going to happen in the future... Normalcy Bias at it's finest...

lineman said...

Why oh why would you stay in a city unless you were making bookoo money...

Reltney McFee said...

When I was a nursing supervisor, I tried to preach the same excess capacity/reserves against surge demand/planning for contingencies gospel to my own PTB.

Got nowhere.

No longer a nursing supervisor. (although, if you people KNOW that you will take care of them [food, travel arrangements to get them home, other] it's heartening what they will do, to care for your patients, when problems do arise!)

Indeed, no longer a nurse.

Anonymous said...

Make sure you have herbs/spices to add to your canned food, so it won't be boring. If you have a health food/nutritional store in your area, you can buy, in 1# bulk, different herbs & spices, and even baking powder, baking soda. You can also buy in 25# and 50# bulk grains, legumes, sugar, flour, salt, etc. And don't forget your critters. Stock up on their food, too. Kay Doo

Anonymous said...

"Hunger makes the best sauce."

Yep, you can add and add and add to the list, and I encourage everyone to do so. Prepping is fractal by nature, in that the more you look the more you see that needs doing...

I kept my list simple because it's only meant for short duration local or regional disasters with a hope of return to normalcy, and to make the point that it doesn't have to be hard, complicated, expensive, or rocket science.

It's a starting point, and a solid foundation to build from, not the end.


Jonah said...

TBH, I'm far more worried about a political or riot situation than with natural disasters, particularly once the Democrats take over the presidency and both chambers of Congress. If they do that, there is nothing to stop them from implementing some serious crap that will undermine my ability to survive if I'm in the wrong place. In this case, any urban or suburban area will be subject to the mess.

Sucks, but that's the most likely scenario that is more likely to happen to more areas than all the natural disasters combined in the next ten years.

H.J. Halterman said...

When *Hurricane Elvis* hit Memphis on 22 July 2003 [never mind that it wasn't technically a hurricane but *a progressive derecho with straight-line winds in excess of 100 miles per hour* and that it was thus never officially named; that's what Memphis people called it] it had continually rained for around 3 weeks and the ground was waterlogged. Add in winds that were recorded at 108MPH, and about one tree in three came up, planes in a nearby airport overturned, and grocery carts were blown off their lots. Think for a moment about how much surface area a wire basket shopping cart has to catch the wind, and you'll begin to catch on. In my case, I was on a motorcycle, saw the clouds coming and expected more driving rain, and hid under a railroad underpass. After the wind had passed, I returned home, zigzagging between the trees blocking most of the four and two-lane streets, and bringing utility wires with them. It was a week before streets in our area were passable, and 45 days before power was restored. 72-hour bag? Great, for about the first 73 hours.

You need AT LEAST that 72-hour kit AND a full food-and-water kit; mine is a full rucksack of canned goods plus a duffel bag full of resupply for the ruck. Simple enough to pitch in a closet, garage or yard storage shed, also easy enough to toss in back of any available & operational auto or pickup. My own truck got one of those yard-across in diameter pre-civil war trees right across the hood and windshield, still runable but unhandy when it was raining.

I don't ever expect to have the exact same set of circumstances come my way again. But I'm as ready now as I was then in the more-or-less immediate aftermath of Y2K and 9/11, and the *Elvis Farewell Appearance* taught me more.

I'm now in a rural farming community in Southern Indiana, MUCH better off than in urban Memphis. But we're only a gas tank away from Chicago and Gary, and about 3 1/2 hours from St Louis or Cincinatti. I have land in Wyoming and intend to head there ASAP and as soon as my personal situation will permit. And I'll still keep my *short* and *long* food reserve kits. It snows in Wyoming and they have tornadoes, and earthquakes, and volcanic activity too.