Freehold Friday: Snowmageddon, a Prepper’s tale

Howdy, muchachos!

Yesterday, I rambled on about the differences between a survivalist and a prepper and someone totally unprepared. To really see the dichotomy at play, let’s imagine a scenario and drop in a survivalist, let’s call him Ted. Let’s also have a prepper, Rose, and an unprepared person, Billy. Now, let’s toss them all smack dab in the middle of Snowmageddon 2016 to see how they react. Say hi, everyone.

“Hello,” says Ted, who looks you in the eye as he assess the situation with a calm confidence that speaks of his ability to function in any situation. He prefers denim over slacks and clothes with lots of pockets over style.

“Nice to meet you,” says Rose with a genuine smile. She doesn’t look a bit out of the ordinary. In fact, she looks like just any other of the uncountable professional adults in our society—smartly dressed but her appearance does not flaunt her wealth or status.

“Um…hi,” says Billy, distracted by his phone, but looking very trendy in his tight fitting pants and thick-rimmed fashion eyewear. It’s clear he puts a lot of thought into his personal appearance. You never know when a good opportunity for a killer selfie will pop up.

Let’s get right to it (this is the fun part!). What’s the scenario? Well, let’s pull one from the headlines. As I write this, a massive snow storm (Snowmageddon if the media is to be believed) is forming and taking aim at the Mid-Atlantic states. Living in Wisconsin, I join my neighbors in laughing at the east coasters who are about to collectively lose their shit over some snow.  It was –33 out at the bus stop when on Monday but did you see the kids crying? No, they were having snowball fights and laughing. But the difference between Mid-westerners and urbanites on the coast is a story for a another day.

Okay, let’s say it’s a Friday (well, I guess it is Friday by the time this is posted), mid-afternoon and the storm is in full force. It came on faster than the meteorologists predicted. Snowfall rates are approaching 2 inches an hour near the nation’s capital. People have been listening to the dire warnings but most shrug it off—after all, how often have the weathermen warned us of imminent doom caused by snow storms, only to have their predictions evaporate like flurries. It’s the classic Boy Who Cried Wolf syndrome—we saw it a lot in Florida with hurricanes pounding the state every other week in 2004. People just shrugged and took the attitude that the meteorologists were going to be wrong—again.

Ted, the survivalist, has been watching the weather all week with a wary eye. He’s checked his supplies and made a few trips to the local grocery stores to top off his reserves. He’s filled up his extra gas cans and double-checked his route to a secured bug-out location. His 4×4 is gassed and loaded, ready to hightail it for the foothills west of D.C. when things go south. He’s concerned about civil unrest—after all, this past summer we saw riots when police arrested people of particular skin colors all across the country.

What happens when the storm hits as predicted and roads are covered in 2 feet of snow? They can’t even handle an inch! There won’t be any deliveries to business that rely on the “just in time” resupply method because trucks can’t get through—and that means food and water will quickly disappear off the shelves in the grocery stores. If power is lost to enough people for a few days, things in the inner city could get ugly, fast. Without power, there’s no running water. There’s a lot of toilets that will need flushing in D.C. if that happens.

In Ted’s mind, this could be the long-expected spark that sets off the powder keg of civil unrest. Ted’s a survivalist. He doesn’t take chances. He uses a vacation day at work for Friday and decides to leave town Thursday after work. Worst case scenario, he’s right—the snowstorm really is Snowmageddon and D.C. implodes under the weight of snow and power loss and the resultant rioting and looting. It’s likely to be fixed in a few days to a week in Ted’s mind, but anyone stuck in the city limits during that time period will not be having an easy time.

Ted leaves town the day before the storm hits and decides if the storm fizzles, he’ll use the opportunity to practice a dry-run for when the S does HTF. He smirks as he looks in the rear view mirror and sees the traffic out of the city increase behind him. Before him lies open roads. He left early enough to beat the rush.

How long will it take to get to his bug-out location? What are the road conditions like? How long will it take him to settle in and set up camp at his cabin in the woods, stuffed to the gills with food and water and enough weaponry to stave off the Golden Horde single-handedly? These are the things running through Ted’s head as he vacates the city and heads off to the west. He stops in at the closest fast food joint before turning off the main roads and heading into the dark hills. He sets up shop, checks the perimeter of his cabin for security breeches, brings in firewood, and when the first flakes fall, Ted’s reading a book by the fireplace with a full stomach. To Ted, being prepared is a state of mind and when he’s ready, he’s relaxed.

Now let’s head back into the burgeoning metropolis and take a closer look at what Billy does—remember, he represents the person who is totally unprepared. The exact opposite of Ted. Billy, are you ready? Billy—you’re up!

“Just a sec…” he says, tapping away furiously at his iPhone.

We’re waiting, Billy.

“Dude, what?” he says, his voice registering an irritated tone. He only glances up for a second, then dives back into his social media feed.

Are you ready?

He reads something humorous on his phone and laughs, responding with his thumbs. Then he looks up as if just remembering we were still there. “Oh. Ready for what?”

The storm! You know, Snowmageddon?

“Oh,” he says, clicking to a different app on his phone. “Yeah, looks like a lot, huh? I see the radar has it already starting outside The Loop.” Billy gets distracted, answering a text from his buds about where to have dinner that night. There’s evidently some fine females going to be at a certain club (it’s ladies night, after all).

Billy thinks for a moment about maybe getting some provisions for the storm, then remembers the article he read in the day’s paper about the Mayor’s message that the city is ready and the plows are standing by. He ignored the politics section, which had an article critical of Congress for fleeing the city a day early. He also skimmed over the local section that mentioned area schools were already closing for Friday and possibly Monday. But he did read the Metro and caught up on the local nightlife.

Billy leaves work as usual with the handful of people that actually showed up. He heads home in the gathering darkness, ignoring the snow starting to fall as he watches an episode of his favorite TV show on his phone while riding the bus back to his apartment.

Unfortunately, the roads are already starting to get slick and drivers unaccustomed to dealing with snow on the roads—even a dusting—act slightly erratic. The bus driver is forced to swerve around someone who stopped suddenly when the car in front of them rear-ended a parked car after hitting a slick spot. Billy smacks his head against the bus window because he wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings in the slightest. He curses as he rubs the small cut over his eye and complains about getting blood on his favorite designer jacket. No one around him bothers to help—people are more interested in not making eye contact with strangers. Everyone is tense as the storm worsens—they just want to get home.

Muttering under his breath about the injury and his jacket, Billy gets off at his stop an hour late, trudging through two inches of snow down the block to his building. Wearing his trendy, expensive loafers, he hits an icy patch and lands on his ass, dumping his Goodwill-chic messenger bag containing tablet, laptop, and cell phone in the white fluff at his feet. Uttering a string of curses as he gets up and dusts everything off with freezing hands, Billy turns the collar on his coat up and focuses on getting through the front door of his apartment building. He’s already dreading the dry cleaning bill for his outfit. Billy dresses more for fashion trends than utility, unlike Ted, who looks like a lumberjack and doesn’t care as long as his clothes hold lots of gear and keep him warm.

Billy bursts through the door to his apartment, sighing at the warmth of his small but homey living space. He drops his soaking clothes in the bathroom and changes into comfy sweats. He’s given up on going out—the cut on his head is minor, but it looks like he was mugged. No way is he going to be able to make a good impression with anyone looking like that. He sighs as he calls his friends and cancels plans, assuring them he’ll be ready tomorrow night.
He heads to the neglected fridge in his tiny galley kitchen and looks for something to drink, only to find there’s a half empty carton of takeout, a quarter gallon of soy milk—that looks more solid than liquid—and a block of moldy cheese. He shuts the door and opens the pantry, finding a few Pop tTarts and a box of half-eaten crackers.

Putting on his winter jacket and hiking boots—it never snows like this in D.C. so Billy doesn’t have winter boots—he grumbles his way down the stairs and outside into the teeth of the storm. Again.

The snow by now is coming down in buckets. There’s more on the ground than when he got home 40 minutes ago. Billy squints into the squall and starts to force his way to the corner bodega. What he finds is disturbing, to say the least. The shelves are picked clean and the place is full of frustrated people trying to figure out where all the milk and bread went. The clerk try to calm the cold, hungry, nervous people with his heavily accented English and explain there’s no more bread and milk in stock.

Billy grabs a pre-made sandwich that doesn’t look too old and a Diet Coke—and almost had to shove someone out of the way to do so—then pays and trudges back out into the storm. There are less people out in the street now and the town looks almost deserted for a Friday night. The roads are covered in a few inches of filthy slush but only the bigger SUVs seem to be driving without issue. Billy heads home to the sound of rubber slipping on slush and horns honking over the howling wind.

Inside, Billy is almost finished with his dinner—it takes him an hour to eat the sandwich as he’s also texting with his friends and playing on the Playstation. The lights flicker and he’s plunged into darkness. Instead of looking for candles or a flashlight, Billy grabs his phone and pulls up his social feed to announce to the digital world he’s lost power and how bummed he is. He publicly wonders when the power will get turned on and decides to peer out the window.

Washington, D.C., is dark and slowly being buried by the snow. The streets are deserted, there’s nary a plow to be seen. As the temperature drops with nightfall, Billy starts to worry. He can fill the cold through the window glass. He doesn’t have a lot of winter clothes to stay warm…

You get the idea of where this is going.

We’ve see the ultra-prepared survivalist and the completely unprepared citizen, whom many in the movement label “sheep”, because they bleat and wait for someone (i.e. An authority figure) to tell them what to do and how to act. This label doesn’t have much to do with what I’m writing about, but in a later post we’ll go into what makes a Sheep Dog.

Back on topic. Now, lets take a look at whom I consider to represent the vast majority of the prepping movement—the moderate middle, in political terms—the person who exemplifies the term “prepper”.

That’s Rose—remember her?

So. We’ll throw Rose, our average prepper into the same situation as Ted and poor Billy. Rose pays attention to the weather, just like Ted. But she doesn’t have a bug-out location fully stocked with supplies. Instead, Rose has decided to bug-in, so she’s taken pains to make sure she has an adequate supply of canned food and dry goods, clean drinking water and first aid supplies in her modest townhouse just inside The Loop.

She doesn’t have a basement, so instead she converts one of the three bedrooms in her home into her prepping HQ. She’s got shelves of canned goods with a plan for rotating the older stock into her normal cuisine so nothing expires and goes to waste. She has gallons of bottled water stored in the small closet, stacking more dry goods on top. She keeps track of all her food supplies on lists—handwritten, in case the power goes out and she loses the use of her computer—and takes monthly inventory to stay on top of her cache. She has backup copies of all her important documents in a Life Binder, stored in a fireproof safe. She has a small bag filled with a 3 day supply of food and some rudimentary camping items (a knife, some rope, some toilet paper, a metal cup, some alcohol tabs and a camp stove, along with a map of the area and a compass, among other things). This is her 72-hour kit. Should something happen that’s so drastic she absolutely cannot stay in her house, she’ll take this bag with her and leave, ready to do so at a moment’s notice. This is her go bag.

Rose rides the bus to work as well, but in her purse, she carries a pocket knife among a few other items she could use for self-defense (like pepper spray) along with a small first aid kit (just some Band-Aids and a little Neosporin tube, plus some Tylenol and Advil travel packs). While Billy sat with his eyes down, locked on his phone and was injured on the way home, Rose keeps her eyes up, always looking for what’s coming down the road and what the people around her are doing—without making it look like she’s staring. When her bus slides into a parked car, she’s alert and braced for impact. She walks home unscathed.

Rose also prepared for the weather—she has a full set up of winter clothing, rarely used but much appreciated when Washington does get the odd snow storm. She took a backpack with her to work, bringing her tennis shoes and rubber covers, her gloves and scarf, and a bottle of water with some Powerbars to work the day of the storm. She can’t afford to take off work so she does what she can to be ready.

Before she leaves work (a little early, but nothing out of the ordinary for a weather event) she replaces her modest pumps with tennis shoes and rubber covers. She looks a bit out of fashion, but the first time one of her co-workers slips on the snow-covered sidewalk wearing heels, Rose feels justified.

She makes it home after a stop off at the corner market, arriving when the first rush of panicked Washingtonians realize the storm is upon them. She suffers through the crowded store, but manages to make it home with some last minute items, including fresh milk and a hot cup of soup for dinner. When the power goes out, she fills up her bathtub with water for washing hands and dishes and flushing the toilet, then fills up whatever bottles she has available in the kitchen before water pressure in the building disappears. She’s got a fairly stocked fridge and makes a quick note of what’s in there so she doesn’t have to go looking and let out the cold later…

You can see where Rose is headed. She’s going to go through the same experience as Billy, only she’ll be a lot more comfortable and a lot less hungry and cold when the storm clears and power is restored 3 days later. Ted will fare the best by far, snug and secure in his bug-out location a hundred miles from the city—but not everyone has the dedication or capability (financially or otherwise) to devote that much to being prepared.

I suspect most people who consider themselves preppers are closer to Rose than Ted. I know I do.

That said, I hope this was illuminating—and at least entertaining—for those of you who wanted a better understanding about my rambling post from yesterday.

Now…Snowmageddon should be hammering the east coast by the time you read this—or maybe not, if the forecasts have changed…again. Either way, I intend to sit back and take notes on what happens, how people react, what the government does (or doesn’t do), and how long it takes (both for the mess to happen and for the mess to be cleaned up).

Even though I’m 1,000 miles away from this event, the next time I might not be. So, I can still use Snowmageddon 2016 to learn and better—you guessed it—prepare!



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