Barren

September 22, 2005 | 39 comments
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Let me describe to you what the grocery store was like today.

No bananas, not one, not even a squished, blackened runty one.

Only a few loaves of bread.

Virtually no canned fruit, canned chili, or peanut butter.

No bottled water. A line of people extended from the bottle-your-own water machine.

Extremely limited soda, juice, cereal, granola bars, soup, paper products, and eggs.

And this, my friends, in a city four hours from the coast, where we are not actually expected to have any rain, and in a location with at least eight major grocery stores within a two mile radius.

We all know that the grocery stores are restocked every night. But unless you do your shopping at two in the morning, you have perhaps completely internalized–as I have–the picture of perfectly full, nicely arranged shelves as the normal order of things.

Let me tell you that I was there today for my normal weekly shopping, not needing any of the things that were missing, with almost a year’s supply of food in my home already, and it was viscerally, breathtakingly scary.

39 Responses to Barren

  1. Russell Arben Fox on September 22, 2005 at 9:58 pm

    The stores around D.C. would be the same way, or nearly so, whenever the local weather reporters would start to bang their drums about an approaching ice storm or something. The milk would go first, then the bread. It’s astonishing, and not a little embarrassing, to see how completely civilized human beings, when their easy-and-reliable food chain is even theoretically threatened, revert to a herd mentality. (I’m hardly immune–why do you think I visited those grocery stores and am able to report on their condition?)

  2. Steve Evans on September 22, 2005 at 10:07 pm

    Take care of yourself and your family, Julie! We’re thinking of you and the saints in the Gulf Coast.

  3. Kelly Knight on September 22, 2005 at 10:09 pm

    Julie,

    You are right that the shelves are stocked every night. However, it is my understanding that in the local distribution centers for the stores, they have only a couple of days worth of food anyway. So if they did stock tonight, and then sold out, very shortly they would not be able to restock. This is, of course, assuming that traffic is cut off and there is no way to move the food to the distribution center.

    As the ward emergency prep guy, I have a great interest in food storage and what the members of the ward are doing. We are often preached to about the pending doom for which we need to be prepared, which discussions are really depressing, and seldom effective.

    Two weeks ago, I stood up in Sacrament Meeting and in PH opening exercises, and decided to talk about obedience as the guiding principle to food storage. That same day I went home with over 1,100 pounds of food on my dry pack canning order for October.

    Obedience is the key, and if we are obedient, as you have apparently been, we have no need to fear. If we begin is one can of green beans, with a commitment to buy another can for food storage every time we go to the store, the Lord will bless us for that obedience, whether we are fully stocked or not.

    Just my thoughts on the matter.

  4. GeorgeD on September 22, 2005 at 10:36 pm

    I can tell you absolute certainty: At the peak of the crisis the church can do nothing for you. They may be able to respond in days or weeks after the crisis but there is no food, gasoline or water in the local meetinghouses. The Bishop’s storehouses typically have a small supply of food for the poor. It would be exhausted in no time (if it can even be distributed.) Members may consecrate some of their own preparation to the support of others but don’t count on a lot.

    If you expect to evacuate consider what everyone else may be doing. No major city in the US can evacuate everyone in 24-72 hours. We couldn’t build enough roads or store enough fueld to do that. You need to be prepared at home and you need to plan short evacuations that may only get you out of immediate danger not to absolute safety.

  5. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 22, 2005 at 10:48 pm

    Well, they’ve been pushing the 72 hour buckets.

    Contacting people to arrange to take people in for the weekend from Houston.

    No gas stations closing like they did during the New Orleans hit.

    But I’m in Plano. In Dallas all the water is gone from the stores.

  6. D. Fletcher on September 22, 2005 at 11:00 pm

    Interesting Julie; my first thought tonight, watching all the traffic jams around Houston, is that I might have traveled west, or even south. Why everybody had to go north seems a bit of a mistake, to me, though I don’t know (from your post) whether or not I might have made a wrong move, too. It would be terrible to travel for hours, only to find little possibility of food or shelter.

  7. Julie in Austin on September 23, 2005 at 12:06 am

    D. Fletcher–certainly more people are going north, but plenty are going west–to Austin. They may have been scared off by the Austin City Limits music festival, for which most (all?) of our hotels are already full. But shelters in Austin are filling up. According to tonight’s local news, people who left Galveston 30ish hours ago are getting to Austin now (it should be a 4-5 hour drive).

    What I am afraid will happen: Houston will be fine. Next year, people won’t evacuate, and THEN a big storm will hit. That’s precisely what happened to NOLA with the false alarm of Ivan last year.

  8. Mike B on September 23, 2005 at 1:14 am

    My brother and his family live in Houston. He had me make hotel reservations for them in Tulsa, Oklahoma. However, he has not been able to make it out of Houston (and his wife does not want to leave). I think at this point he may be planning to simply drive east or west out of the path, which he estimates will take 2-3 hours. He’s hoping traffic will have thinned out in time. I hope he’s right.

  9. Peggy Snow Cahill on September 23, 2005 at 6:40 am

    Yeah. Indeed. Reminds me of the talk that says being obedient to the counsel of the Lord through His prophets to be prepared by storing food and other necessities may be as essential to our temporal salvation as boarding the ark was in Noah’s day. Looks like it’s starting to rain…..

  10. Tim Grant on September 23, 2005 at 8:13 am

    That reminds me on me old friend who used to poin out the things in the same way.
    Now she is a depressive maniac.

  11. b bell on September 23, 2005 at 10:25 am

    I have two families in my house right now from Houston. One got a call at 1AM on Thursday morning to leave Houston from their bishop. They left and beat the traffic to Dallas. (via Austin)

    The other family lives south of Houston and their ward evacuated on Wed and they got here in 6 hours on I-45 the road that is so slow these last couple of days.

    We have food in the stores here in Fort Worth

  12. Geoff B on September 23, 2005 at 11:31 am

    A note from hurricane alley in Miami: most people here have stayed put during recent hurricanes. If you don’t live in a flood zone, the best bet is to shutter your home, clean your yard, put your car in the garage and hunker down. There are obviously exceptions and reasons for different people to leave (the Keys are always evacuated, for example), but during a fast-moving storm, your best bet is to stay put if you’re not in a flood zone.

  13. Mike on September 23, 2005 at 12:41 pm

    Be obedient and have nothing to fear?

    First look at the idiots in N’awlins who refuse to leave the worst of situations and are scounging like rats to survive and will probably die from diseases or other toxins. They have no fear. Fear is not the problem, it is the lack of correct action that fear can (but does not have to) bring. I fear but I choose to allow it to motivate me towards correct action. Stupidity is far worse than fear.

    We have recieved general advice to prepare for disasters, but we have to really think about exactly what disaster is likely to hit us and what the challenges will be. A severe earthquake during a bitter winter blizzard in a Utah mountain valley might need different preparation than a hurricane on the muggy Mississippi Gulf. I wonder how much of our thinking and preparation here among Georgia Mormons is influenced by anticipated problems likely in Utah?

    One of the most difficult isues for me is the Christian ideal of sharing or bearing one another’s burdens. Will this be abandoned or will it be the key to survival during the crisis? Mormons will take care of their own, but will they take care of anyone else? Can we?

    I live in an affluent area with few Mormons or other people inclined to prepare for disasters. (What does the typical suburban Atlanta house wife make for dinner? Reservations of course, at a nice restarant). I think of the 600 children in the nearby grade school where my children were the only LDS to attend. Which of them would I be able to turn away from my door if I had food and they did not? Two years food storage for my family would not last a day and I can’t reconcile the idea to store guns and ammunition to protect it from my neighbors. But then I see the recent looters and wonder maybe bullets should go back on the list.

    I lived in Biloxi for 4 years and heard all the old hurricane Camille stories. The things that actual survivors said were needed most were: clean water to drink, diapers, and batteries. Food could be scrounged, cans of were scattered everywhere and was easily brought in. No one starved but many were seriously dehydrated by the heat and lack of AC. I stored hundreds of gallons of water while living in Biloxi and hoped to barter it for whatever else I needed. Another thing the survivors said is that some people made enormous amounts of money in the aftermath of the destruction selling items like that. People would and did trade jewelry worth thousands for a cup of clean water.

    We had a tornado in our ward that tore up 300 homes a few years back, but the disaster was only a few hundred feet wide and help came in from the sides within minutes. Not much you can do to prepare for that one, except practice running real fast. We are plagued by these ice storms and once lost electricity during the winter for most of a week. It was only down in the low 30’s F. Laughably warm by Northern Utah winter standards; but when the inside of your poorly insulated drafty old colonial home reaches that temperature it is extremely uncomfortable. Pine beetles had destroyed a dozen 100 foot+ tall trees on my yard the prior year and they had been cut down but (lazy me) the wood had not been hauled away. the wood was fairly dry and I spent most of that time splitting wood. I am good at splitting wood and considered it as sort of a hobby. I must have given 20 cords of firewood away that week mostly to my neighbors to heat one room in their expensive houses. I could have charged them thousands of dollars and they might have paid, but that didn’t feel right. If I needed any food they would have given me some of whatever they had in exchange for the firewood, especially as long as a spirit of brotherhood prevailed.

    Several years ago I took my dad up to the place in Big Cottonwood canyon (which is within long walking distance from his house) where they quarried the rock for the “Supernacle” or the new conference center and the Salt Lake temple. My elderly dad was not much interested in the quarry site but he did find a gate open in the fence and he wandered over to the old power plant. He is a retired plant production manager and expert of sorts on old factory equipment. He was surprized to find that the generators in that old plant were of the highest quality and still in working order, as if one day they just shut them off many years ago. He thought that with the help of a few worker bees he could have that plant producing electricity in one or two hours, using the nearby flooding creek for power. Probably not enough to supply the entire city but enough for several hundred homes. The big problem would then be distribution. I imagined him after the big earthquake walking up there and having electricity available almost immediately and quite a bit of it. For the record, storing food in the basement never made any sense to him as long as he had the keys to a warehouse with millions of pounds of food that would likely be left there in a crisis.

    This experience taught me that I have a fundamental flaw in my thinking about disaster preparedness. I used to think it is going to be me against the world and all the elements combined. I am going to hole up in some safe place with my food and water and gun and wait it out. But the reality is that it will be us, yes us, against whatever comes. What we need to preserve and develop is networks of social associations and resources that are likely to be useful in a crisis.

    Neighborhood block parties might be as important as bushels of wheat in the basement in a crisis. We really don’t know each other any more in the modern suburban neighborhood. Wards where everyone lives within an easy walk have a distinct advantage, but wards with members scattered over wide distances, especially in densely populated cities of mostly non-LDS have a different kind of problem.

    Three years ago we returned home from a several week Christmas vacation to a house with a basement full of hot water and the most incredible mold overgrowth you can imagine. We lived the rest of the winter with only a small amount of heat from the supplimental second heater in the attic and no kitchen for 9 months. The insurance company is out at least $70 grand that we know about, not including attorney fees fighting contractors who are fighting amongst themselves.

    The cause of this problem was a broken plastic pipe to the dishwasher. The pipe should have been copper but the plumber I hired (to fix the mess I made trying to install the dishwasher myself) took a brilliant short cut and used a flexible pipe. The plastic pipe worked fine for 14 months but was ruptured by an investation of rats in our basement. Rats chewed through the plastic pipe. The rats came into our house by the hundreds through a poorly constructed foundation and were attracted to our basement by the enormous amount of food we had stored there. I had been fighting and thought I was winning a war against them when we left for Christmas. When the food was hauled out all of the rats left.

    Almost all of our stored food was destroyed in the flood. Even intact cans with moldy labels I was told were not worth saving. (I did rescue the skiis, why I do not know but the mold busters said anything made of wood had to go including skiis as they might harbor deadly mold spores). The risk of the mold making someone sick while handling the intact cans of food was not worth it and the cost of one day in the hospital would pay for more food than most people have room for in their basement.

    So in an indirect way I was punished for storing food or rather for improperly storing food with our own personal and family disaster. This forced me to discover the construction flaws in my house and correct them. If I store food again it will be in rat proof concrete bunker, not in the standard way envisioned by most Utah members. (If anyone thinks their stored food is rat proof and is interested in the creative ways that rats can get to your food in the basement then let me know and I will elaborate on some of my rat war stories).

    Bottom line is that this preparation for disaster needs to be a group effort and well thought out and not just a response to authoritative directives and fear.

  14. GeorgeD on September 23, 2005 at 12:55 pm

    If we are consecrated people we will do our best to share in a crisis but if only a few people are prepared whatever is shared will be a drop in a bucket. You can’t consecrate anything if you are not prepared.

    I know very prosperous people who have no food storage.They claim that they don’t eat it so they can’t rotate it. My rejoinder is that they should rotate it to a foodbank before expiration date so they can consecrate it at some future date.

    I have a hard time envsioning a general crisis that would require a year supply of food for one family but it is easy to imagine a crisis of a few weeks duration that consumes a food supply.

    The best support network I have ever seen is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  15. Jay S on September 23, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    Rotating to a food bank is a great idea for those with a little extra income. I wonder what an approximate cost would be per year?

    Does anyone know about how much space would be required for a year’s supply of food?

  16. Eric Russell on September 23, 2005 at 2:29 pm

    Geoff B. just verified what I was thinking but didn’t have the knowledge to affirm. I wonder how different this Texas reaction would have been if there were no Katrina. Aren’t people aware that the principle damage to NO was due to flooding and not the hurricane impact itself? Seems to me there’s some sort of mob-fear mentality going on.

  17. GeorgeD on September 23, 2005 at 2:47 pm

    Lot’s of mob fear mentality whipped up by the mayor’s office and the local media.

  18. Harold Curtis on September 23, 2005 at 3:40 pm

    Julie

    I have hoped that someone would post something relative to the real world that is whirling about us. The phrenentic pace with which all things begin to be in motion is a marvel of this the dispenstation of the fullness of time. That whirling is taking place in a remarkable fashion is evidenced by this National Weather service website that is monitoring all the current hurricanes and tropical storms. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

    I feel helpless here in Idaho. In talking with others I sense their frustration also, we all wish to help. I have a son in San Antonio who with his wife and child feel the urgency with which you have spoken. That city to is far from the huricane, and yet it reaches out to touch their lives in a very real way.

    There is a sense in my own heart however that our time will be coming. Many sermons are being preached by the God of nature, and the angels which manage that nature. And each in our turn will be subject to them I am sure.

    The very real question that I have wondered about recently is what shall be rebuilt first, the city of New Orleans, or the city of the New Jerusalem. I have privately felt it would be the New Jerusalem. No prophecy here, just hope.

    This is a time for faith
    this is a time for hope
    this is a time for patience
    this is a time for obedience
    this is a time for love
    this is a time for service
    this is a time for repentance
    this is a time for prayer
    this is the dispensation of the fullness of times.

    God speed to you and yours and good people everywhere, both in and out the church. You are in my prayers.

    Harold B. Curtis

  19. D. Read on September 23, 2005 at 4:17 pm

    I wonder if we haven’t entered a new disaster paradigm in which we have to face the awful truth that there are cities and even parts of our country that are so overbuilt and overdeveloped — and yes, even overpopulated — that they are essentially unevacuable. Unless we can get the Lord to give us more advance warning than the National Hurricane Center, all the food storage, 72-hour kits and righteousness in the world won’t help us much. I saw what 9-11 did to the Washington, D.C. area. I am not optimistic about the future.

  20. Mike B on September 23, 2005 at 4:56 pm

    As far as food storage is concerned, we do not store anything that we don’t eat in the normal course of our lives. That’s the best way to rotate your storage. We buy it and we eat it. When something goes on sale, we buy extra. That being said, we have some work to do on our food storage. We would last a while with what we have, but we would probably wish we had planned better.

    On another note, being here in Utah, we are not susceptible to hurricane. Therefore, our likely disasters are not very predictable. In our ward welfare meeting the other night it was pointed out that the stake has an emergency plan. Unfortunately, none of us in that meeting know what it is (including the high councilor). We have some work to do.

  21. Mike B on September 23, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    Not that anybody cares, but my last post sounded like we only buy what we can eat in a short period of time. If it wasn’t clear, we have a pretty good food storage of items that we eat (except for the green beans, which I hate). We only buy items that we normally eat.

  22. Keith on September 23, 2005 at 7:16 pm

    “Let me tell you that I was there today for my normal weekly shopping, not needing any of the things that were missing, with almost a year’s supply of food in my home already, and it was viscerally, breathtakingly scary.”

    Interesting comment. I’ve been thinking about how the disasters lately show how quickly we can move from the abundance of a modern, convenient condition to a desert (in the large sense of that term) with everything we are used to suddenly vanished and prospects for relief so far away.

    Hope you stay safe from the wind and the rain.

  23. Julie in Austin on September 23, 2005 at 8:16 pm

    Keith–

    That was exactly my point; thanks for stating it better than I did. We’re all about 48 hours from living in the Sudan, and none of us realize what that means (except maybe a few thousand people from NOLA).

    We’ve had a lot of wind today, but it probably won’t even rain here. It feels a little odd to be literally on the edge.

  24. Tatiana on September 23, 2005 at 10:08 pm

    I guess it’s always true that our preparedness may be in vain, depending on the type of disaster we happen to have, but it’s also true that it may be our salvation. So I guess we’re collectively trusting in the Lord and tying up our camels. But it certainly bears thinking about to consider the most likely 3 or 4 disasters that might hit, and have a plan for each one. Here it’s probably tornadoes, fire, floods, ice storms, and drought.

    All of us need to think about the very likely Avian Flu pandemic, too, and what we would do if 2/3rd of the people came down sick and 1/3 died within a six week time period this winter, for instance. That’s likely to cause a situation similar to New Orleans, with everything shut down and no food or water available (if so many are ill and the rest are caring for their sick families), at least for a few weeks. It will happen all over the world within a few months, so that there will be little outside help available.

    Before I joined the church I had never thought about preparedness really, and now it’s one of my favorite things about the church. How wise and prudent! I feel so safe, so looked after, knowing that my Heavenly Father took care to see that I was taught these things.

  25. Julie in Austin on September 23, 2005 at 10:37 pm

    It’s hard for me to gauge whether these avian flu warnings are the “Disaster of the Month–Tune in at 11!” or a serious risk. . . anyone?

    Further, what exactly would I do to prepare for it?

  26. Tatiana on September 24, 2005 at 12:08 am

    Well, I do think it’s serious, as does the Journal of Nature, Scientific American magazine, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the New England Journal of Medicine. I’ve been following the story in all these places. I’ve read about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and it was pretty bad. Influenza pandemics have happened again and again in human history, whenever a completely new subtype of flu virus mutates into a form that transmits easily from person to person. When that happens, nobody has any immunity to it, and it strikes almost everyone. Normal flu kills thousands of people in any given year, mostly infants and the elderly, but in a pandemic year, it kills millions or tens of millions. This one could kill hundreds of millions.

    Avian flu is particularly bad because the mortality rate even using antiviral medicines and respirators is around 30% at best. 70% at worst. The Spanish Flu of 1918 had a mortality rate of 5%. So yes I think it’s very serious. Nothing is certain, and if we’re extremely lucky it might mutate to be much less deadly at the same time that it mutates to be more easily caught from humans, but I don’t think we can count on being that lucky. If you’re interested I have lots of good information about the disease.

  27. Tatiana on September 24, 2005 at 12:37 am

    For personal preparation, I think the main thing is to be mentally ready, and recognize what’s happening early to be ready to act before the authorities say. The main drug we have for fighting it is Tamiflu, which will be rare to nonexistent once the pandemic hits. If you have any way to stockpile some in advance, that would be very wise. I do know that several countries have big orders that the existing manufacturers will take years to fill, so I’m not sure if it’s difficult to get already.

    Other than that, have plenty of sick foods like crackers soup and gatorade, in case you recover from the flu itself so you don’t die of dehydration. Take the kids out of school. Be ready to avoid public places for days or weeks at the height of the pandemic to limit exposure. Frequent hand washing, latex gloves, and gauze face masks can help some to prevent contagion. Perhaps Relief Societies should be ready to check on everyone by phone every week or every few days at the height of the pandemic. The health care infrastructure will likely be totally overwhelmed, so we can’t count on much help there.

    There should be one or two waves of the epidemic lasting a few weeks each. In 1918 the first wave was less deadly and the second wave much moreso. Unfortunately the 1918 flu, and most pandemic flus, strike the young and healthy with as much force as the sick and elderly, so the breadwinners and caretakers are often gone, having a huge economic impact.

  28. Julie in Austin on September 24, 2005 at 10:49 am

    Tatiana–

    I’ve read a couple books on the 1918 flu (the kind for lay readers, obviously). I’m fascinated by this sort of thing. THanks for the info. Can you send me your links?

  29. Tatiana on September 24, 2005 at 5:00 pm

    Julie-

    I sent you some links. I was don’t want to hijack your thread but I was curious if people with journals of their grandparents or greatgrandparents might have firsthand accounts of the 1918 flu pandemic. My mother remembers that her mother told her of a young man, a long time visitor, who died in their home of the Spanish flu, but she doesn’t remember her saying much else about it. I found one first person account online, a letter written by an army doctor to his pal, at a time when hundreds of soldiers a day were dying of the flu in his camp. Another friend’s great grandmother remembered that the Red Cross couldn’t help them, since she was still barely able to stand and move around to care for her sick husband and infant. She was rather bitter about it since she felt she desperately needed help, but apparently the Red Cross was overwhelmed with others who were worse off. The stories are really fascinating, and you wonder how we would compare today to the heroism and determination people showed then. I would love to hear any stories about the pandemic that saints have recorded in their family histories.

  30. Julie in Austin on September 24, 2005 at 6:00 pm

    Tatiana–

    You ever noticed the date on D & C 138? I read somewhere that it is a direct result of the 1918 pandemic (the prophet had lost someone close to him and hence was pondering death), but I don’t have a souce handy on that.

  31. Miranda PJ on September 24, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    That situation you describe is both startling and eye-opening. Thanks for writing about it.

  32. Tatiana on September 24, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    Wow, no, Julie, I never made that connection before. But that is exactly when it was. I believe September of 1918 was the worst time, and there were tens of millions of people who died worldwide. Rereading the section in that context, and knowing how tender hearted and kind Joseph F. Smith was, as well as his father Hyrum whom he saw, it is so powerful and touching. Thank you for telling me that.

  33. GeorgeD on September 24, 2005 at 8:48 pm

    Interestingqy question. My gradfather wrote his autobiography. He married around 1916 and mentions his first two children (the second born in 1918. The oldest dies at about age 18 months. They attributed it to food posining.) He really didn’t write anything after that but he never mentioned the pandemic even though it hit Utah Valley (where he lived) to some degree. (One of the famous church stories of service is about neighbors bringing in a sugar beet crop for a Utah county family that lost several members in the pandemic.)

  34. Wilfried on September 24, 2005 at 9:18 pm

    Julie (ref. 30), the context of the revelation in D&C 138 is described in various places, one in the Religious Educator, written by Richard E. Bennett, taken up by Meridian here.

    The context is both the First World War and, indeed, the influenza pandemic. The personal tragedy to the Prophet involved the following: “Just weeks before, on 23 January [1918], his Apostle son, Hyrum, then only forty-five years of age, was struck down in his prime by a ruptured appendix. It was a devastating blow from which Joseph F. never fully recovered, compounded as it was with the further sorrowful news of the death of his daughter-in-law and Hyrum’s wife, Ida Bowman Smith, just a few months thereafter.”

    As to the war, the description strikes a chord for me, as it mentions John McCrae’s poem, written in the poppy fields of Flanders (= my home, the Northern part of Belgium). John McCrae also died in 1918.

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.
    We are the Dead. Short days go
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

  35. Seth Rogers on September 24, 2005 at 11:59 pm

    “We’re all about 48 hours from living in the Sudan, and none of us realize what that means.”

    Very true. I spent my three years of law school living in southeastern Wyoming. The main transportation corridor up there is Interstate 80. Driving back and forth on that interstate on our trips to see family in Utah, I saw an almost endless stream of semi-trailers. There was some non-commercial traffic, but these commercial trucks predominated most of the time.

    I never noticed these trucks before (simply because they are so commonplace). But one Thanksgiving drive, I started thinking about what those trucks contained and the sheer mass of material moving across what are literally our nation’s arteries.

    The drive along I-80 is almost breathtakingly bleak as you pass isolated communities surrounded by the harsh, treeless, waterless, windswept Wyoming steppe. I wondered what would happen to these lonely communities if someone should happen to sever I-80 just east of Evanston and just west of Laramie. Or what if the fuel pumps and all those trucks just simply stopped one day?

    I wondered if they could survive it.

    But driving into the Wasatch front, I realized that the Utahns weren’t much better off. Just another isolated pocket in the middle of an ihospitable desert. Oh, of course Utah valley looks nicer than Rawlins Wyoming. But the trees, lawns and fountains shouldn’t be taken seriously. They are only a silly illusion that a mere 6 months of human neglect would strip away.

    Are any of our cities’ positions any better?

    I think sometimes we forget our own mortality and our own dependence on the elements. We wake up in our centrally heated house, get into our car parked in an enclosed garage and drive to work surrounded by our car’s air conditioning. After this we spend the rest of the day in a climate controlled and pressurized office building after which, we drive home in the afformentioned car, to the afformentioned house. It is entirely possible to spend days without ever feeling a genuine breeze. It’s easy to forget that nature even exists (except for controlled depictions in television advertisements).

    Yet we forget that we live on an improbably thin shell encasing a terrifying ball of fire, swept by winds containing more energy in a single day than all that produced by mankind over a century. Our place here is tenuous.

    People need to keep in mind that we live here by the grace of God, or not at all.

    “Yea and the day of the Lord shall come upon the cedars of Lebanon … and upon all the oaks of Bashan;… And upon every high tower and every fenced wall; … And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be laid low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

    And the idols shall he utterly abolish.

    And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the glory of his majesty shall smite them, when he ariseth top shake terribly the earth.

    In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which he hath made for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; … For the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the majesty of his glory shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.”

    2 Nephi 12:13-21

  36. Weston C on September 25, 2005 at 5:07 am

    “The drive along I-80 is almost breathtakingly bleak as you pass isolated communities surrounded by the harsh, treeless, waterless, windswept Wyoming steppe. I wondered what would happen to these lonely communities if someone should happen to sever I-80 just east of Evanston and just west of Laramie.”

    When the big blizzard hit Denver in 2003, it effectively severed I-70 for at least 48 hours. As far as I could tell, nobody *ran* on the stores in Grand Junction (where I was holed up, trying to get to Denver), but the produce was certainly gone, and a number of other aisles started to look sparsely stocked. I don’t know what it looked like later after I gave up and went back to Utah.

    I wonder about things like this as I see more and more farmland converted to real estate developments. The desert may be made to blossom as a rose… but can the condo park, office complex, and strip mall? We trade away independence for interdependence and comparative advantage. Is there a way to do that and remain prepared for the day we may need to be locally or regionally independent?

    “I used to think it is going to be me against the world and all the elements combined. I am going to hole up in some safe place with my food and water and gun and wait it out. But the reality is that it will be us, yes us, against whatever comes. What we need to preserve and develop is networks of social associations and resources that are likely to be useful in a crisis….Neighborhood block parties might be as important as bushels of wheat in the basement in a crisis.”

    Brilliant post, Mike.

  37. Seth Rogers on September 25, 2005 at 10:30 am

    My little family got stuck in Sheridan overnight in that snowstorm (we’d been visiting relatives in Montana). Then we had to hole up another night south of Casper. That storm closed roads all over Wyoming for about three days. But I was actually thinking of something a little more long-term than that.

  38. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 25, 2005 at 5:31 pm

    http://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/photo?slug=byu10809250021.tcu_byu_byu108&prov=ap

    Now that was barren ;)

    In Plano we still have gas, prices are dropping back down. We have a family from Nolo and one from Houston (they are going back Monday) in our ward. The local Y is filled with families from Houston, they will be returning as well.

  39. Patrice W. on September 26, 2005 at 12:38 pm

    About stocked food shelves in the store:

    My father retired 4 years ago as a regional manager in the lower southern states for a large trucking company. The portion of the company he over saw was the distribution of “soft food”, such as bread, baked goods to chains of grocery stores, and places such as burger kings, etc. The same part of the trucking he over saw was a 1/2 billion dollar a year business. He told me to make sure I was keeping up with my food storage because there is only 3 days worth of food in any state!! If state boarders were closed, such as on the day the twin towers came down (I live in Mass. and all New England state lines were closed to trucks) and no trucks could come into your state to bring food, or if the distribution centers were damaged or whatever ;your state or city would have no food after 3 days.
    Take a good look at what happened in New Orleans, and Mississippi, the federal government did not respond quickly when it came to food and water. The people in those areas were feed and watered by outside help from private citizens who saw their plight on tv.
    There is a reason we have been asked to be prepared, whether its to help ourselves or someone else we will be blessed because of it.
    Patrice from Massachusetts