I have a small "post-it" behind my desk that says:
Modus 1 - Normal
Modus 2 - Power Out
Modus 3 - Evacuate
For each "Modus" of living, I have supplies and preparations in place. Modus 1 is simply everyday normal American life. Modus 2 is set up to "shelter-in-place". There is food and candles, alternative heat, cooking and cooling ready for a long term power outage or "systems down" event of any kind. Modus 3 is full evacuation.
A blanket folded across the back of my desk chair is ready to wrap my main all-in-one computer to be carried to my vehicle if I have time. With alot of pre-thought and calculated preparations, ten canvas zipper bags, three empty canvas bags and one blanket carry everything I wish to salvage and protect. I can move these Evac bags to my car in a very short amount of time, ten to fifteen minutes, and be on the road.
Most everything in my studio was hand crafted, designed or remodeled by me. Refurbishing and repainting is a hobby of mine. It was all a lot of work and sweat, but I could let it go. I simply acknowledged my rehearsed speech in my mind, "I can do it all again." "I have always known this day could come." "I got this!" I had a mobile trailer as well as the studio. The trailer was locked tight and on the other side of town. I had spent the nights at the studio for the last few weeks since I had to move my trailer away from it's home location of very tall drought diseased pine trees.
I remember clearly over the years, the days of frustration when I needed an antibiotic, or a medicine that was stored in the Evac bags and I had to go and fish out what I needed. It was often the same when going to get boots or a heavy raincoat, all in Evac bags ready to go. So, at times, normal life required me to "live-out-of" my Evac Bags. It was annoying and frustrating, digging simple things out of piles of bags in the store room. But I had it so together during the evacuation of the town Paradise, that when I latched the studio door, I said my goodbyes without tears or distress because I had everything with me that I would need and had already detached from everything else should I have to give it all up.
This is a "mindset". This mindset can determine how well you cope with the event and prevent you from making hurried mistakes long after the event has you in it's aftermath grip. Being the long devoted Climate Researcher that I am, I have had this mindset for many years. Everything could be temporary. Everything can vanish in a disaster event. Your entire life and everything you own can fall away from you in a flash and leave you standing naked on a cliff facing nothing where your life once was. It's sounds difficult, we are all a little spoiled with our sense of securities and control over life, but once you see that the world you live in is volatile, hostile, fragile and shifty, it's an easy mental exercise to believe in.
At least twenty of the last 30 years, I have been ready to roll, prepared and mentally poised. So, of course, I fared very well emotionally during the evacuation event, and keeping a level head I managed to go through the steps of getting water and food for myself and my parents and the second day of evacuation I went immediately to stores and got them both winter clothing and more blankets. I had both summer and winter clothing with me already. Three days later the stores were full of people in lines. One week later the shelves were near empty and sparse of t-shirts, pants, sweaters, jackets, underwear, socks, etc . Shelters were just now being set up and NEW clothing donations were not yet accumulating for several days post fire.
Evacuees were in shorts and t-shirts and having nothing but the clothes on their backs, they were cold. By 1:PM the day of the fire, it was cold. People were shivering in the Chico parking lots and staying warm in their cars, a thousand or more, parked everywhere. The weather had changed suddenly due to the fire and all of the all over the city. By the next late morning, my parents were in warm clothing although they were still in shock and grieving and hardly knew what they were wearing.
I was not in shock. I was in a hazy sluggish daze of a fast moving movie. But I performed without hesitation. By the afternoon of the first day after the fire, I was online with my mother in her warm clothing on my tablet, in their motorhome, parked at a friends house in the valley outside of Chico. My daughter logged me onto her facebook account and we began looking for people to see how they fared.
Day three after the fire, I contacted my daughter to retrieve me. She was ready and had made all arrangements to free herself to collect me. My parents had decided to stay at their friends property near Chico and their doctors. My Dad's health was very bad. Their kind friend, who owned the property my parent's were staying on, was a nurse. I spoke with him and he convinced me they were safer under his watchful eye, near their doctors until things settled down. I agreed and took my car to a nearby gas station and filled the tank, had the tires and oil checked and waited with my grieving parents for my daughter to arrive.
My daughter routed herself around jammed highway lines of emergency, fire and service vehicles to Orland California, where she hugged my parents, cried with them, and took half the weight out of my small car and heaved it into her truck and we were off to HWY 5 towards Sacramento. I followed her on the course she set around the crisis area to get us to her home. The sky was dark grey with smoke filling the valley. News of school closures in Sacramento due to the thickening layer of smoke came the day prior. I had a sore throat from the smoke, my back ached and I was fatigued but almost to my shelter.
I set up a very comfy camp in my daughters lovely living room where I would be for six weeks. I set up my laptop, my tablet and two cell phones in a office style corner and conducted everything from there in the weeks to come.
It began about a week later with my parents. They could not find any rentals nearby. They could find no housing to buy. They could find no RV parks empty. Their trips to the emergency room at the hospital in Chico were regular, my fathers health was very poor and his breathing became difficult. He had a respiratory infection. He needed antibiotics, then he needed more antibiotics. They stayed in their motorhome, telling me that their nurse friend prepared dinners for them every night and hooked them up to hot showers and they wanted to stay there. They wanted to find and be near their friends.
My parents knew fairly early that they had lost two friends in the fire, a married couple. About a week later, I received news that I had lost two friends in the fire. Another week later another had died of heart failure. The news of the deceased was getting out now and it was very painful news. The grief continued to swell for everyone in those weeks of waiting to see who had died.
My parents did not find a place to rent until January, near Sacramento. All those weeks were riddled with constant phone tag between family members trying to find them housing and keep up with their emergency room visits. Everyone was frustrated, worried and upset. My mother cried every day as she struggled with the insurance companies, FEMA papers, registrations and her husbands tipsy health. The insurance company had 90 pages of check off lists of items in their home at the time of the fire and required listings for the estimated value of each item. This list included items like toothpaste, toilet paper, printer paper and every tiny little thing you could imagine in an everyday household. I knew my parents were slung into a hell that simply would not end for them.
Two months before the fire, oddly, my mother called me and told me she had prepared a small Evac bag and had all her meds and her important documents in a folder, just in case. I had nagged her for years to "prep". She said "You'd be proud of me!" She later told me that if she had not done that, there would be no way she could cope with the immense paperwork demands on her with no documents at her disposal.
It was cold and small in their little RV in Orland California and no family member was happy about it. But they would not budge. Things for my parents and their helping family members stayed in this miserable pattern for eight weeks. All of us were wore down by the time we finally got our parents into a warm and decent rental.
My own progress was another miserable tale and exposes how shakey and unprepared our emergency systems and our government systems in this country really are. I began first with filing for unemployment as my place of employment had burnt down. I was injured. I bought an inversion decompression table at Big 5 Sporting goods and my daughter assembled it to help me get out of the pain in my back.
Management of my insurance papers and notaries were orchestrated by my daughter "Ubering" me around Sacramento from her phone app while she was at her desk at work. I did not know my way around. My drivers license had expired in December. So I had to Uber to the DMV and then Uber to a Notary of the Public to verify proof of my trailer that was destroyed and the contents of my storage building.
My daughter (the blessing of my life) faxed documents for me from her office. Otherwise I would have been chasing around like everyone else with no home, computer, records, documents, attorney, etc., to deal with the legal and financial end of the disaster. I can not imagine what people went through. I can not imagine the lines in Chico at the County Recorders Office, the DMV, Social Services, printing shops, FEMA stations, Starbucks for wifi, Pharmacies, Public Notaries, Insurance Companies, banks and more. LINES OF PEOPLE EVERYWHERE FOR WEEKS.
The worst lines were at the Chico Post Office, where 30,000 people now had to get their mail from "general mail" at a Post Office smack downtown in the middle of Chico. A very congested area to begin with. There were no mailboxes left to rent right off the bat. And it rained! And it rained and rained and rained. Many streets had mild flooding and others had severe flooding though all of this. People were parking a mile away and walking to the Post Office to stand in the rain for hours to check "general mail" for documents they needed to deal with the crisis. It was awful. Having all your documents readily with you during a disaster is an imperative prep.
I had deeds, titles, partnership contracts, a will, insurance policies, birth certificate, high school diploma, dental and medical records, rental agreements, utility account numbers, etc. all at my fingertips. Won't you please note how very important this prep is? There is plenty to fight in a disaster crisis without lack of documents on top of it all. Having these things ready to grab and go, is crucial.
The Unemployment Department strung me along for seven weeks without acknowledging me or my Unemployment Account but requiring me to fill out a daily explanation of where I applied for work, all the same, sending e-mails telling me to fill out the weeks report or be denied benefits. Telling me (in one phone interview) they have never heard of an inversion decompression table and my injury was not valid. I never recieved any Unemployment Benefits. Ever.
By the following Monday after the fire on Thursday, the Unemployment website crashed. I know this is true because my daughter has to communicate with the Unemployment Department regularly at HER job. It crashed. They deny that it crashed. The overwhelming influx of at least 20,000 applications for unemployment in three days crashed their website. They not only did not have the funds for such an unexpected rush in the fiscal year of 2018, but could not even handle the website traffic, let alone the mountains of money they would have to suddenly come up with. They simply could not handle the situation. They literally blew off many applicants like they did me, because they could not financially deal with it.
SYSTEMS WILL CRASH all around you, even if only temporarily. Wifi slows to a crawl, services of all kinds bog down under a rush of new weight on their desks. Government systems will become disfunctional, even if only temporarily. Add that to the frustrations and distress of trying to get through lines to get document duplicates to move to the next step of the first steps of recovery. You need to depend on yourself.
I finally recieved two "warnings" from the Unemployment Department, to answer an interview phone call, of which I did, whereupon they asked why I did not seek employment on several days of which I explained that I had to care for my daughter (who was taken into emergency surgery in December) and subsequently care for her 5 year old daughter and that my parents were in and out of hospitals since the day after the fire and I that was chasing them around as well. I had to drive to a working cell tower area in Paradise in the storms and rain to even accept these calls.
They were rude both times they called and continued to insist that I should be applying for work in Paradise. There weren't even any lights on most of the towns streets yet. There were NO businesses at all. No cell service. No water. Chico was so congested with new unemployed job seekers and refugees that there was no parking in the entire city.
I received letters telling me I did not qualify for unemployment. I received letters warning me of felony charges should I be falsely applying for unemployment and to not ever miss a weekly report.
I had no reason to be denied. None. Taking care of a sick family member is allowed as a reason to not seek employment on those days, as well as any other reasons I gave and I applied for work on the remaining days, all legit! I was denied. Every week I was denied for ten weeks.
Finally I sent back one denial letter with a request to close my applications according to the instructions on how to close an account on the Unemployment Department website, I had given up. Believe it, I received a letter telling me that my request to withdraw my application was denied!!! All the Unemployment Department knew how to say about anything was "Denied! Denied! Denied! I was nuts with these people by now and in tears, what Jerks! This was my money! My insurance against losing an income! I had payed all my life!
It was the same with Cal-Fresh food stamp program and with Cal-Works job and education assistance, ALWAYS greeting you with the "reading of your warnings" to avoid felony charges. Ten minutes of listening to insulting warnings that if you falsify anything or make any mistake leading to the imagining of a falsification even by accident, prison doors yawn for you! This always came directly after Hello . . .
For someone who has always worked and has never had to deal with these agencies, I was appauled. I had never comitted even a misdomenor crime in my life. I have never even been cited a ticket! But I was loudly warned before any other conversation or information could be passed that if I had any notion of comitting a crime, they were ready for me!
Interestingly, the Unemployment Department later tracked me down and told me to send them a copy of the letter I received from the Government claiming that Emergency Disaster Unemployment was now available in California and that they did not want this letter circulating. What happened was; when I could get no response from the Unemlpoyment Department, I contacted ".gov" for advice. Apparently they did not like me going over their heads to .gov and alerting others to this document.
They used restricted phone numbers (blocked) like the FBI, had no last names and no e-mail addresses, at least none they would give me. They had me fax them a copy of the document and I never heard from them again, they disappeared. Poof!
Even President Trump misspoke the name of the Town of Paradise and called it "Pleasure". Nothing went well for Paradise.
In the next post I will cover FEMA and that coniving campaigning Circus, big name donators whose donations mysteriously disappeared, and locals who manipulate and dominate the resources sent as donations. We still have to cover the looting, the PGE bankruptcy, the Presidents threat to Paradise and the odd name he called the town, "Pleasure", and so much more.
In the meantime in the month of May 2019, the flooding in the midwest and plains, the golf ball size hail, the tornadoes in Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri rage on . .