Every young person has had a general education about solar and wind powered energy and most boys can make home made solar panels from raw materials before they ever leave high school. Building small motors and windmills is a snap for these kids already. Techy types will get communications running again, programmers and hackers will hook it all up. Dental assistants, candy stripers, short wave radio hobbyists, mechanics, nurses, pharmacist assistants, lab techs are all in college now. These are very brainy kids these days and very few are criminal minds. So chins up! There will be criminals as usual, but there will be good educated healthy minded people too. And these young people are already savvy and by no means weak. My kids grew up with disaster preparedness and survival skills and will not faint when something happens.
At 8:30 AM my mother called me on November 8, 2018 and said "Wake up we have a fire." I work 12 hour shifts and Thursdays were my day off and I always slept in. She knew I would be sleeping and would not see the smoke creeping into the town.
I got up and shook off the sleep. I looked around the room and tried to remember my plan. Within minutes I was grabbing ten heavy evacuation bags and putting them on the couch. A text came over my cell at 8:31 AM, "DUE TO THE FIRE IN THE AREA, AN EVACUATION ORDER HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR ZONES 2, 6, 7, AND 13. IF ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED IN EVACUATING PLEASE CALL 911.
I was "zone 4". Everyone in Paradise had a fire zone map and these were handed out regularly and came in the mail. To avoid crowding the three routes out of town, zones would be called and you were to wait until your zone is called. That was the plan. I called my mother.
"Dad is getting gas in the motorhome", she said, "we are leaving, it looks bad over here." "Don't delay," she said, "get out now." I said "ok" and hung up.
The second text came at 8:43 AM : AN IMMEDIATE EVACUATION ORDER FOR ZONES 2,3,7,8,13,14 DUE YTO FIRE. (Yes, YTO was misspelled, it was sloppy, and scary, someone was in a hurry!) YOU ARE RECEIVING THIS MESSAGE BECAUSE YOU SHOULD EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY.
I put on my boots and threw my jacket on over my pajamas and began hefting the huge evacuation bags out into the street uphill to my car. I made seven trips. I grabbed all my cash, my laptop, scooped all my medicines (herbs), phones and chargers into one last plastic bag, shut off everything in the house, locked and bolted the door and plodded up the hill to my overstuffed car.
I had wretched my back, re-injured an old injury, trying to get some of the bags into the back seat, my car was two door. The pain shot down my leg and I hardly cared. There were embers now, falling on my face and hair and the sky was black. I got in and pulled out onto the main street, it looked like midnight at barely nine in the morning. I called my mom, "We are out onto the Skyway", she said. I estimated they were about fifteen cars behind me and the cars were all lined up and moving slow. Something had burned my right eyelid, it must have been an ember. I was rubbing it and trying to drive in the increasing dark. People were starting to panic. People were running out into the street trying to catch a dog. I texted my mother. "I am about fifteen cars ahead of you, meet you at the Raleys parking lot at the bottom of the hill" (Chico).
The first stoplight was harried. People were being turned away trying to get into Paradise by Police Officers and they were trying to wave two lanes at the intersection thru to get out. Cars were turning around in the street and heading back out of town. Someone pushed a car out in front of me as I tried to go thru the intersection, it looked as if it wouldn't start and they had rolled it down a hill into the intersection, I slammed on my brakes. It rolled by and the Police Officer was shouting and distressed, waving me through the intersection and turning to stop the incoming traffic and continue to turn them around. It was black as night and the smell of burning wood was in my lungs by then. I drove thru the intersection, still creeping along slowly in traffic. I texted my mom, "Where are you?" . . . nothing. I kept driving.
No more evacuation notices ever came. Zone 4 was on their own, I guessed. We were on the far side of town, farthest away from the direction the fire came in. I knew it was bad, really bad. I texted my mom again, nothing. Finally a text came as I began the descent down the highway into the valley below, "We are at the intersection." I pulled over. I though of going back after them. The intersection was crazy . . . by now it would be worse but traffic was going past me so I knew it was still moving and they were only about fifteen cars behind me and they were turning incoming traffic back. So, I pulled back into traffic and picked up speed down the mountain.
They parked and I went over to them, hugged my mother and went back to get my car and park it next to them before the parking lot filled up.
I am trained in emergency preparedness, I knew what to do next before the crowds realized they were not going back into Paradise. I left my tablet with my mother and asked her to watch it for news, but they already had their motorhome TV on. I saw the scope of the fire on the TV. I took my purse and went across the huge parking lot to the store. I had plenty of cash on hand and I bought 8 gallons of water, easy to prepare foods for several days, milk, coffee, wet wipes, and two tracfone minutes cards for my tracfone. I pushed the heavy cart back to the motorhome and now the pain in my back and leg was getting louder in my brain. I said nothing to my parents. I unloaded everything into my parents motorhome as they sat glued to the TV, my mother wringing her hands. I worried about my dad's heart. Congestive heart failure . . . and he had had a rough year.
I sat down with them and hooked up my tablet and logged onto a hotspot. The news was not good. Paradise was on fire. It was cold. I was cold, my mother was cold. The temperature had dropped radically. The blackened sky had actually dropped the temperature to cold. It was a warm dry November just the day before. Jackets and blankets, I thought. Mom had the motorhome set up for summer. Great.
I left them to the TV. I went outside and watched the cars streaming down on the highway into Chico from Paradise. Suddenly I saw fire at an intersection behind us, a car was on fire. The people had pulled over and gotten out. Fire trucks pulled up just as it began exploding into bigger flames. Traffic was askew around the vehicle. The hoses from the fire truck could not put out the flames and the engine exploded a couple more times, spitting up huge flames into the air before the firemen could get the flames down. I later learned that many cars caught on fire during the evacuation after they got out. Many more cars never made it out.
My friend walked past the motorhome and waved me over. I was delighted to see him. I smiled and waved. He is the son of the people who lived across the street from my parents home. As I walked closer to him I saw his expression and he grabbed me and said, "I need you to be strong." . . . I said, "Ok." He said that my parents house was gone, and his parents house too. He said his own house was gone and his daughters house as well. I was in shock. "So quickly?", I thought. He went with me to the motorhome and told my Dad and Mother.
My mother collapsed and I caught her, as I was standing next to her, and sat her on the booth seat in their motorhome. She stared out, in shock. My Dad thanked my friend and I stepped out of the motorhome to hug him as he left. He said he knew nothing about my place yet. He worked for the town, so he would let me know in the days to come but "Paradise is gone", he said. I worried about my Dad's heart holding up. My back hurt. I wept. This was the beginning of a long living hell for my parents, my friends, my family, myself and everyone I knew.
These are the days I dreaded for so many years. I thought of my grown children and the days of future disasters ahead. It was over a week before I found out that my home was destroyed too, but my office had survived.
I was prepared. My kids are prepared too. All they need is an acute sense of watchfulness and a little luck. But most people are not prepared over the age of fifty, even if their kids are. In general, more people are preparing since 2012 than ever before and I know that because I paid attention but still over half of the population of the United States will be too busy to deal with it and think their government is going to deal with it. Our government knew in the 1970's when they created FEMA. Tell me, what exactly CAN they do? I can answer that one from the Paradise Camp Fire destruction zone.
The children who are raised in adaptive times of change will do well as adults as they have had to shift and manuever their whole lives to adjust to the changing landscapes. They will have watched grandparents and parents deal with different levels of climate challenges and will be sturdy and resilient in their minds if nothing else. Teach your children well.
Everyone everywhere will have a societal collapse of some kind, loss of fiat, worthless money, food and water situations, disease complications, power grids up and down, etc.... Most areas will not survive at all. People will have to rely on their skills and talents.
From now until the earth quiets into a new climate, and now it seems a cold one, what do we have?
A line graph of escalating disasters around the globe....
This is a good and hopeful senerio for humanity considering what it is facing and enduring today. So, we will leave that there.
In the meantime, for the next twenty years we live in an escalation senerio of continual disasters. By 2050 it will be a different planet. We have a lot to do and a lot to get through in the next ten years.
Most adults will live their lives during the escalation. Adults presently 30 to 60 will ride the escalation and the younger ones who survive may adapt to a new climate lifestyle. Disease without medical care will take the highest death tolls. There is no fudging the numbers here, many will not survive, but those who do will live in a new reality, one they can learn to manage and adapt to.
Most analysts come up with the first immediate conclusion of society rolling backwards to a primitive state. Living like 15th century farmers with bully types attempting to run the show . . . again. I don't and never have seen it that way.
Life during the escalations is where we focus today. That's us. That's now.
People will continue to evacuate these event areas and move to a city or area that is not ruined. USUALLY one that is nearby. Then THOSE areas will face major distress from a massive and unplanned influx of population bearing down on their water, power, sewer, garbage, housing, internet, parking lots, parks, churches, convention centers, hospitals, etc. of which none were built for a huge overnight growth explosion.
A regular Friday Night Public Radio station aired into April an "After the Fire" program interviewing Chico City Officials to tell the public what is being done to mitigate the situation. Chico is still heaving under the strain five months later.
Then parts of the outer Chico areas and small farm towns overloaded with trailers in their parks and parking lots flooded when the December rains came. People sheltering in RV's in parks near the Sacramento River had to be evacuated again in January! The Sacramento Valley is under increasing flood watches over the last ten years, February 2019 set a record. It is a bit of a chase around for everyone.
It's going to continue to be a chase around for everyone. Every time a city or town is evacuated the people have to go somewhere for weeks to months. Inevitably it is the next town nearby. And it's going to BE the next towns nearby until THEY have a disaster event or buckle under the strain. Then where?
And what about rebuilding? Can't people rebuild? On their own land? They still have their land don't they? Insurance money? Two local insurance companies in Paradise went bankrupt immediatelty.
By March, five months after the fire, the City of Paradise issued less than 10 building permits to rebuilders. There is no water. The water was tainted with benzene, a dangerous toxin released into the pipeline systems from melting plastic pipes and it will take two to three years to fully repair. The water company is broke now, using all of its resources for expensive experts and testing equipment and they have no customers. No income at all.
I still drive the town at least once a week. I still look for familiar faces. Most have already moved away. My Parents found housing near Sacramento as they could find nothing closer. Everything was sold or rented already within days. There is no one here anymore that I know. One friend, the one whose parents lived across the street from my parents is still working here and cleaning off his property but he bought another house already in Magalia. He won't rebuild either. Other than he, there is no one left that I know. And no jobs. Starbucks hired all young kids from the College Town down in the valley. My one friend reported to me yesterday that Triple AAA towing is available in Paradise now. My new (used) car is acting up already. He said that one Repair Shop has two bays open in the storage building out behind their burned business. I made an appointment. There was not much on his schedule. So, scant and carefully I go along. But there will be a new and better town soon, right?
No one can rebuild without water. If they do, the government will not let them reside in a structure without clearance for safe water. Now new pipes are required and sprinklers in case of more fire. And who is going to insure these people?
The Paradise Water District is opting to put water tanks at any livable standing structure and fill it up regularly. THAT is what it comes down to for the next two to three years while the water system is being repaired.
Even if people could rebuild, all of their jobs burned down too. Most have no jobs now. Restaurants and business's can not reopen without water. If they had good water, only ten percent of the town is standing. Who could get enough business to keep their doors open with less than ten percent of the original population?
Professors came from around the USA to advise Paradise Irrigation District (PID) and research the Paradise water system and made it clear to the Water Department and the remaining residents that this is unprecidented and no one knows how to repair damage like this with any speed or even assured accuracy. In other words, they have never had to deal with over 140 miles of melted pipes leaking deadly toxins into the system. Isolating the melted areas from good and usable pipes will take forever. Why? The fire destroyed 11,000 structures and 100,000 acres of land. It was said that it would take a military styled organization and crew to get through all of those pipes in any amount of time. And the Water Departments budget for anything remotely considerable?
The residents who attended the first Paradise Irrigation District Community Meeting were hostile and impatient with the poor utility. I am truly embarrassed to say how some of the residents behaved. So, THIS was expected too. Yes, after years of watching the aftermath of a disaster time and time again in my continual research, I noted well that citizens would begin to take out their frustration on the service and utility companies. The loudest of these hecklers and angry holstiles was in New York when the Bombogenisis storms took out their power all over the state for weeks. This disaster was no different and little Paradise had it's hostile residents telling off the haggard PID department in public just like New York. Most of the Water Departments people had lost their homes too, and several workers had moved away already. Utility companies will heave and buckle under the pressures of the populations against them. It's truly frightening to see.
The most persistent disasters will be, floods (disease runs rampant), Fires (although they will slow down as the temperatures drop from polar vortex incident increases), hurricanes (increasing in size and frequency), tornadoes (increasing in size, number and frequency), blizzards and more nor-easters (more every year), continual destruction of farmland (flood, tornado, blizzard, insect plague, mold), monsoons (increase of intensity), dust storms (becoming regular), and ice flows (moving with the force of bull dozers across inhabited areas). Winters will be longer, summers shorter. Eventually there will be no more FEMA workers coming around to clean up the mess. ALL of this was forewarned and all of it is happening. I KNOW it was all forewarned because I paid attention and took notes!
NONE of these weather threats are new to humanity. We have never lived on a hospitable planet. Hostile weather has always been upon us and regular global climate changes as well. Earth is not the Paradise we all think it is. It has its moments in history, but that is all, just moments. It is beautiful, primarily because it is hostile and it's beauty is carved by violent and potent forces we could never control. . . or defeat.
The planet is always in motion, plates shifting, earthquakes, volcanoes creating more rich soils, glaciers melting carving breath-taking cliffs and spectacular waterfalls across the mountain ranges that were formed by earth's massive plates crushing up against each other. CLIMATE IS ALWAYS IN MOTION. The movements of the planet are erratic, some quick and fairly regular, others snap fast seemingly out of nowhere, some huge, some small, some on land, some at sea. "She is alive".
Human lifespans do not allow a view of this slow and sure movement as it actually is. An average lifetime doesn't see much movement unless it is at the beginning or the end of one. A generation may know of a volcano, another generation may have been in earthquake, another a drought and so on.
So, geological movement has always been. To notice an increase in this movement as a 50 year escalation to changing climate and land forms is hard for humans to put into perspective as they go about their busy busy lives on the streets that never change. The current escalation of natural disasters is a "wave" of the planets movement to a different climate.
Argue on as to the causes, it makes no matter to any of us. Earth has a history of a volatile and inhospitable, ever changing land and sea and is not the Garden of Eden. It never was. And today humanity is noticing a wave upon the earth when it is actually but "another" wave. There is no need to quote the history of climate and human civilizations here, if one should doubt the obvious then one has to go and do that research and self educate him or her self. That is your own responsibility, you have no servants.
The first thing I learned was the most uplifting, everything was downhill after that. And that was this;
The most help outside of family, the kindest words, the first donations, the greatest of my survival came from strangers or people who barely knew me. And I watched this happening to all of us who came from the town that burned to the ground in the first few weeks.
The "Heart of Humanity" was there immediately with food, blankets, water and open arms. But soon, well before the needs ran out, the donations and assistance slowed to a crawl. People have lives to live and have to get on with their own problems.
As I had noticed with all other disasters, we faded quickly from the media headlines. The disaster was not over, in fact it had just begun. We never hear what happened to the people in these disasters except for a follow up, maybe a year later, and then never again. Once you drop off the news headlines, you are forgotten. There is no way around this, people have to get on with their own lives and there are new disasters to report and cover. So, you are truly on your own. Government help is not what you think it is. Salvation Army goes away. Shelters are eventually shut down and many people still have no where to go. What becomes of those people?
FEMA will probably cost you more than you will have imagined in the end as you are forced to take out low interest loans from the lender that they provide in order to receive ANY assistance from them at all. And then the assistance is only a "reduced cost" of services, nothing is free. If you hire a private contractor to clean and restore your property, FEMA will not guarantee that it will "sign off" that your property is legally certified as safe. It's a racket, like everything else.
So far, it seems people are cleaning their properties (they HAVE to) when FEMA can get to it and then just letting it sit there. They can't start rebuilding without water. They HAD to take out loans. They have to buy water tanks or wait for the Water Department to supply one in the next year or two, they are living on their insurance money somewhere else and their funds are dwindling. They have had to pay FEMA already to clear the land and pass inspection, pay to have the water tested that will not yet pass the Water Departments approval, pay to put in new non toxic water pipes on their property, pay for new water meters, pay increased fire insurance and on and on. All this while renting a house or room somewhere else and traveling back and forth. Some don't even have jobs anymore.
The government can't help you. What can they do? FEMA is not what you have imagined. Presidents can refuse to give you emergency grants for your town's infrastructure, or at least threaten to refuse, as we have all openly witnessed. Certainly as these disasters continue to escalate, the Presidents WILL refuse. How many disasters did the government send money to just in 2018? "Fourteen" that were over a billion dollars in damages. Then there are smaller ones.
In 1978 thru 1997 the economic cost of disasters was up to $895 billion dollars. Since then to the present it has shot up to $2.25 trillion! These are not imaginary numbers, I know! I paid attention. 2018 had 15 billion dollar disasters, 2017 had 17 billion dollar disasters, 2016 had 15 billion dollar disasters, 2015 had 10 billion dollar disasters.
We are going to run out of disaster funds people. This can't continue. Even if they would (and they won't) FEMA and the Government can't fix this. They know it.
At this time Paradise has maybe 400 residents, at the most and the power stays on. There are no landlines still so I will go to Starbucks tomorrow and upload this blog post and call my mother.
The next post will cover the weeks holding out in shelters. For myself it was the luxury of my daughters home in downtown Sacramento, where I cried the most over the treatment I received from agencies who are to deal with such events, like the unemployment office, the DMV, FEMA, emergency trailers, tricks, lies, scams and media black outs. Also we will cover the loss of employment. Once you have no job, your status as a citizen changes in the blink of an eye. It doesn't matter how you lost that job, by fire or disaster, you are now a lowly beggar. And treated like one.
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