In response to my post on the riots in Egypt, a reader sent this:
Today I saw a small example of what WILL happen if social unrest comes to our shores. I went to Wally World [Wal-Mart] to kill some time (with no intention to buy anything) while my husband was at the doctor's next door. We are expecting a rather nasty winter storm in my area of North Texas. The crowds were crazy and enormous! There was not a single gallon of milk or a loaf of bread on the shelves. A friend of mine saw me and asked "Are you here to stock up too?" My answer to her: "Nope, I already have!" If one little winter storm sends out the Golden Horde in droves... just think what a greater calamity will do!
I thought this was a fascinating insight. So here's what I'd like to do: if you've experienced a similar situation - social unrest or bad weather or some other situation which caused a panicked reaction in your area, please send me your story (not as a comment but as an email to firstname.lastname@example.org). I'll add your story to the body of this post so people can see what happens during unrest or chaos. (Also check out comments for those who leave stories there.)
For a tongue-in-cheek look at rioting, reader Maria sent this link to her blog.
From reader Mama Crow:
Just received this text from my aunt - she is a manager at Walmart - we live in West Texas so this sort of snowstorm thing is basically foreign to us.
OMG The crowds at Walmart. Looks worse than the day after Thanksgiving . Big snowstorm on the way so everyone has headed to the store to buy tons of food. Guess it will make our end of fiscal year go out with a bang. ( yeah, its thundering also !)
From reader Rox:
Hi, I am a regular follower of your blog and I wanted to share the short story that happened to me just last night. I live here in Illinois just east of StLouis and we are currently getting freezing rain with a major storm coming down on us the next few days. They are telling us it may be "historic". Last night we went to town to fill up the car gas tank and to eat out. I saw my neighbor, an older woman who lives alone, there with another lady having coffee. I asked her if she was prepared for the coming storm. I had planned to check on her anyway so it was good to run into her. What really got me was her reaction to my question. She asked me what was she supposed to be ready for. I said there is a predicted ice/snow storm. She lightly scoffed and asked me what did I think she needed to have ready. I suggested an alternative heat source to her electric furnace because of the high possibility of power outages. She said she could pick up a propane tank for her little gas fireplace. Then she said what all of us preppers have heard..."If things get bad, I will just walk up to your house." Like I said, she is one of the people I would have checked on anyway and will do so if this storm progresses as I expect. I had to shake my head though. Besides her, just how many other people besides my family would just assume that they could come to my house in time of disaster.
From reader Chad:
Since you asked.... We have had a few "winter" storms here in the south and I agree with Texas. People go "nuts" when the first hint of winter heads our way. Most often it's the "bread" & "milk" that go first. Makes me wonder what those milk sandwiches taste like? MM'MM GOOD! We are beginner preppers! I too have many fears that chaos will come and quickly to those who are unprepared. NO ONE, will be totally ready! Jesus warned us that we don't know the time of his return. Of course, some "wag" church (in California of all places) has predicted it for I think May 21st or something like that. The shtf will also be like this, I just hope we are "ready" enough! Keep your "powder" dry, because I think we will need it!
From a European reader:
I live in Denmark but am visiting the States right now and you're right, the queues at Wal-Mart were very long yesterday! I stay in a hotel and am OK on supplies for "just me", the rental car has a full tank of gas, I won't be venturing very far over the next few days and basically, there is not much more I can do right now as I wait and see what a North American blizzard is like.
From a prepping-for-3-days-of-bad-weather perspective, I found it a bit funny to see what people were stocking up on. Milk and bread are winners, followed closely by beer, dog food and sadly my new favourite American apple juice :-( this is a very un-scientific study, based on the queue I was in. The thing is, I have visited quite a few American homes and while I should be careful not to generalise, I will say this: the average middle-class American family already has plenty of supplies to last them 2 or 3 days. True, they may run out of milk and their favourite breakfast cereal but then they have eggs in the fridge and bacon in the freezer. Your refrigerators/freezers are generally way bigger than in Europe and I would say they generally hold enough food to feed the family for at least a couple of days.
From reader Greg:
Here is an experience we had somewhat recently that helped underscore the need to be prepared. We moved to a rural area on the Kitsap Peninsula of NW Washington State in the spring of 2008 from North Carolina. That December we had two weeks of snow which is unheard of for this area. It seemed to shut the entire Puget Sound down. Between Christmas shopping, emergency shopping, and the difficulty of transportation, store shelves were bare before the end of the first week. Eventually the snow began to melt, Christmas and New Year's passed, and things returned to normal.
...until the flooding began. About a week into January the snow melt created flooding that closed twenty miles of Interstate 5 to the south. Interstate 90 to the east was closed because of snow on the mountain pass. To the north is Canada, to the west is The Pacific Ocean. This time no trucks could get through and stores were empty by day three.
Fortunately supply lines were reopened after only four or five days. Either one of these situations could have easily been extended had the weather been just a little nastier. I can only imagine what that might look like.
That July the area had a record-breaking heat wave. 24 hours into it there was not a single fan of any size available for sale within thirty miles.
I have learned not to count on the stores and not to wait until the news says something is on the way.
From reader "R":
Just last week we had a snow storm that struck at about 3:30pm on Wednesday, it was forecast. The Federal govt let everyone go home just as the storm hit the area. The snow dumped record amounts in record time - I think about 3 inches in 1 hour, 8-10 inches total. Plows couldn't get through the traffic, we had gridlock. We had a road, the GW Parkway, which leads out of DC which was basically shut down. People just ABANDONED their cars right on the road, more than 100 were abandoned, People took 12 hours to get home on a commute that would normally take maybe less than an hour. The biggest issue? Cars ran out of gas and the idiots around here couldn't be bothered to gas up in advance. Even though this was forecast no one bothered to prepare. And the Federal govt decided to not fine or charge any of the cars abandoned on the GW Parkway (4 lane road) they just towed the cars to the scenic overview areas, sorry, I think these people need to learn a lesson and they should be charged for the tow and fined for abandoning their car (these cars were NOT pushed off the road - IMAGINE !) Here in VA they did fine people charge for the tow for those that abandoned their cars and there were many abandoned cars.
In the aftermath of this interesting event the media is playing up the story line that the govts in the area should have done a better job in clearing the roads, there are no stories about people being poorly prepared and having made very bad travel decisions.... No suggestions on how to be better prepared the next time or alternatives to driving in bad weather conditions. Here's an article.
The stores clear out quickly here and everyone seems to wait until the last minute. After a storm it seems my neighbors can't wait to get back on the roads and out to the stores thinking the magic restocking fairies have already restocked the shelves. Too many people here don't understand the supply chain.
I live here in the land of idiots.
From reader Bob:
Our local grocery store has a gas station out front and runs a program based on how much you buy gets you X amount off your gas per gallon, i.e. $100 worth of stuff = .10 cents off your gas per gallon.
My wife and I get must our food stuffs from there for that ever reason and my truck holds 30 gal.;) We made the mistake of waiting till the last day before the "points" expired to fill up. When we came around the corner the cars were three and four deep at every pump. No big deal for me but my wife is a bit impatient, but she tuffed it out. There were no big conflicts but you could feel the tension in the air people inching the cars bumper to bumper to keep someone from pushing through, etc.
The funniest thing come as I was filling my truck. I overheard another person telling the attendant that “you need to have pumps set up so people with gas tanks on the other side can get to the pumps.” He was so clueless he didn't even think to get in a line going the other direction (standard station set up 8 pumps). There will be so many sheeple lost confused and lacking the basic skills needed to live.
I just could see the implications on a WSHTF. My wife thinks I over think things too much, but when we're warm, dry, and safe she'll thank me.
From reader Lisa:
A couple of years ago we lived through Hurricane Ike. The storm was not supposed to hit Houston, but turned at the last minute giving about 36 hours lead time for city residents.
Prior to the storm, I did go to the store. It was a nut house. I had my two sons with me, and we each waited in a line to get a basket and get into the store. Of course the basics were well picked over – bread, milk, ramen noodles. Fortunately I was there to stock up on fresh fruit/veg and other non-refrigerated staples. It took hours and hours to get through the store. Within hours the gas stations were out of gas. No store had basics like duct tape, batteries, flashlights. I didn't even brave Wal-Mart! I went to Dollar Tree and managed to get enough plastic paint dropcloths to at least cover all our windows in case of breakage.
AFTER the storm, the power to the city went out - many areas had no electricity for up to a month. Because of this, all water from the utility district was contaminated and we were on boil restrictions for safety. Fortunately I had a gas stove. My sister's house was all electric, they ended up coming to stay with us. There was no AC, but it was hot (80-90 degrees, almost 100% humidity). Our area wasn't heavily damaged, but roads were flooded and fences were down. Our home backs up to open space and all kinds of people were walking/wandering at all hours of the day and night - I really wished we had a guard dog then!
Most grocery stores were not open, but the few that were had armed guards who would let 4-5 shoppers in at a time. Food was rationed - 1 dozen eggs per household, for example. No bread, milk, etc. of course. I live in a newer neighborhood and many powerlines were buried, so our electric came on within a few days and I just made bread. Making food without eggs was difficult, and of course there was no meat (it spoiled after days of no refrigeration, and the stores didn't have any either).
Last September, I had a lengthy store tour of a Kroger as part of my blogging. I spoke to the store manager and he confirmed that they carry 3-5 days worth of food for their area at any time, but when a storm is predicted they'll stock up to a week's worth (of average weekly receipts, NOT the amount of food the surrounding neighborhoods would actually eat). Wal-Mart is very proud of their supply chain efficiency, which is "real time" inventory. They no longer keep lots of stock in the back - it comes in daily on trucks.
From reader Mary:
The day after hurricane Wilma hit Fort Lauderdale, the lines formed 'round the blocks at the gas stations. Most were initially shut down – unable to pump the gas, period, or they had run out. We were blessed beyond imagination to have a small cold front pass over - I sincerely believe that prevented riots; as people were standing for hours, waiting for the allotted couple of gallons. On top of it, most were thirsty and not sure what they would have for their next meal.... Typical south Fl heat would have caused major problems!
The next few days, as some trucks arrived at those few stations that had working pumps (because they had back-up generators) the lines were RIDICULOUS!!
The sad truth is, in south Fl, hurricane awareness is huge!! Everyone hears over and over ad nauseum “have at least 3 days food and water per person” plus a myriad of supplies. Lists are posted everywhere for months...grocery stores plaster the lists on the grocery bags – even hand out hurricane to-do lists. Local newspapers have complete hurricane sections. You get the picture. Nobody ever believes it will be that bad.
But the number of people crying out to FEMA and whoever else would listen - THE NEXT DAY - for water, batteries, the afore-mentioned gasoline, etc. was staggering. They did not expect this one to be so bad - they did not expect that almost all electricity would be knocked out. They did not expect not to be able to get the basics they needed and wanted by just hopping in their car and going to the corner store!
Now, since then, most of the gas stations have generators and a heck of a lot more people, also. But as far as being prepared - probably not. It won't be pretty if South Florida gets another Wilma and it will be downright ugly if we get another Andrew or Katrina!