Effect Measure

Emergency evacuation

This Reveres lives in a major northeastern city. That’s not a secret. The northeast gets snowstorms. Not a secret. Living in a major northeastern city when it has a snowstorm is an experience, and not a good one. No secret. I’m not telling you anything new. So it’s no big surprise that I left the medical center at 1:45 pm yesterday, just as it was starting to snow, and didn’t arrive home until 6:05 pm.

I feel compelled to do the numbers. How long is my usual commute ? 15 minutes. How many times did my 95 Volvo get stuck? Six. Each time it had to be pushed by kind strangers or my daughter (or me, with my daughter at the wheel). How many stranger’s cars did I push? Two. How many blocks did my daughter and I have to walk because if we parked anywhere closer to the daycare center we’d get stuck? Five. And of course five blocks back with my 6 month old grandson in daughter’s arms. Where was her husband? He left work at 2 pm to pick up his son and arrived home at 7:30 pm. Five and a half hours in the car for a 20 minute commute. Which is why Grandpa was driving to daycare at .6 miles per hour instead.

So forget about evacuation as an option for something happening in a major urban area. As Mrs. R. pointed out when I finally got home, we had plenty of warning about this storm. Businesses even closed early. But it took me 20 minutes just to get out of the garage because the street was a parking lot of cars trying to get on a major highway whose entrance was 15 blocks away.

In this case the only “emergency” was picking up my infant grandson from daycare before it closed at 6 pm.

That felt like emergency enough.


  1. #1 Jimmy Jazz
    December 14, 2007

    Glad you got to the grand-baby, Revere.

    I’m a firm believer that major city evacuation is worse than a fool’s errand. It is malfeasance wrought by emergency planners who’ve gone power-mad.

    Here in Philadelphia, we’ve got ongoing evac planning and I can only shake my head the more I hear about it. If we get to a point where the City needs to order an “emergency evacuation,” I’m convinced that actually evacuating will do more harm than sitting there and riding out the disaster. Mind you, that effort that’s being wasted on evac planning should be put into mitigation and response planning; actually enabling people to stay put and not drowning in their attics. That’s not sexy enough, though, so we get pointless and harmful evacuation plans.

    Enjoy the brandy and snowmen!

  2. #2 revere
    December 14, 2007

    Jimmy: In our area we practice emergency evacuations every day. Except we call them “rush hour.”

  3. #3 Lilly
    December 14, 2007

    Ah… Wasn’t that storm just lovely? Good thing you got home okay, and hope you had some good cocoa.

    My poor boss, bless her heart, drove me home from work because the public transportation service decided to cancel all services without any notice, leaving hundreds of people stranded. My boss ended up sitting for over six hours on the Mass Pike. Her usual commute is about an hour.

    It took 1.5 hours to go 2.2 miles once I got to town, and decided to ride the bus home.

    I hope this is not an indication of future things to come.

  4. #4 Janne
    December 14, 2007

    Fifteen minutes in city traffic. How long would it have taken you to leave the car and walk home?

    And yes, that is an argument for having some spare winter clothes and sturdy shoes in your trunk; perhaps even a carry sling or somesuch for your child, depending on age.

  5. #5 revere
    December 14, 2007

    By highway it’s 6 miles (10 km), ten to the daycare center. I had a passenger and then my 6 month old grandson. So it wasn’t an option. I would have liked to get out and walk but there was nowhere to abandon the car and of course I had that pesky day care pickup to do. Also, walking in a blizzard is a mite strenuous for the geriatric crowd.

  6. #6 M. Randolph Kruger
    December 15, 2007

    Fast forward to the date and time that pandemic flu has hit, about a month in. Then the power goes out at about 25 days, about the limit of most coal on hand to produce electricity. Even if you had the fuel to escape you couldnt at that point. The exodus on foot would have begun and thousands of cars would be in your way. You would need a tow truck just to move the cars out of the way to use your car. Why are they leaving? Because even though there might be natural gas, there will be no way to use it in the home in your furnace. It takes electricity to move that oil into an oil fired unit too.

    Gasoline? Oil? What do we do if the value of our paper money becomes just that, paper? Arabs might be bartering for supplies they need…and so would the rest of the world. Nearly all of our medical supplies come from S.E. Asia and they would be a month by boat to get here. Some places might be warm enough to survive but have their own unique problems with the lack of electricity. No matter where you go it will 2.5 times the normal requirements to get even one circuit back up as all of the switches would have been left on as people died from flu, cold or both.

    Ride it out? I get a mental picture of say New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington becoming not flu zones but dead zones from cold and lack of food. It all hinges around the electricity and the fuel. If there is none or its limited we could see a lot of Revere like people out on foot with children with no way to make it. You can make about 12 miles per day if you are walking with proper supplies and equipment. 38 degrees is about the limit the human body can stand without warming itself every couple of hours and even then its mighty cold. And safety wouldnt be at 6 blocks, it would be at about the six hundred mile line for Bostonians, 400 for the New Yorkers to the south. Chicago, St. Louis would have to make it south to Memphis, Nashville where the temps are about that 38 each night with a dip or two.

    We can all get a picture of what kind of trek it was in a blizzard for Revere and family. Got it to go Revere and it takes big ones to do what you did Dad.

    I have said it before to Revere and its in relation to his grandkids. If BF takes predominantly younger people in the baby making years, then he now needs to prepare if not for himself but for the young Revere. In fact this storm could have been much, much worse. Not unlike the snow blitz at the turn of the 19th to 20th century in New York. 20 feet of snow in just a few days.

    If it starts and you are in a city from the Rockies East and you are above the 38th parallel then a decision has to be made almost immediately what you will do in a BF environment. Going out of winter is one thing, having a pandemic and going into it is another. We are all too dependent on an already fragile infrastructure of food, electricity, fuel. Once a cascading domino effect starts it wont stop for months maybe years. One of those hammered up storms comes in on top of a pandemic and we would have more than a CFR, it would be a storm fatality rate SFR. Cold could take millions.

    Doomsday scenario? Yup, thats what it is for sure. I think we would be like mice coming out of a hole after a big storm, blinking our eyes and saying …..DAAAAAANNG!

    Lots to think about.

  7. #7 Marissa
    December 15, 2007

    Back in the late 70s and early 80s when I lived in Waltham, this routine delay was common in a Boston snowstorm. Let me see… then there was the 1978 late January event when Route 128 became a parking lot.

  8. #8 revere
    December 15, 2007

    Marissa: I can say from personal experience this was worse in many ways than 1978. Not as long lasting but severe in an unexpected way.

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