Thursday, October 01, 2015

Bugging out: A real life case study (of a sort)

As we used to say in the Army, "No shit, there I was..."  And still am, sitting in an RV, a little less than 100 yards from the Atlantic Ocean at an undisclosed location in South Carolina with Hurricane Joaquin bearing down on me.  You may ask yourself "What the hell was he thinking?"

An excellent question.  I'm thinking that I totally regret being unable to persuade Mrs. Freeholder that the weather forecast we saw Tuesday was accurate and that, rather than driving down here Wednesday, we should simply eat the sunk costs of this long-planned vacation and come another time when the weather was more hospitable.

Trust me when I tell you this.  Sunk cost is a hard concept to internalize. Doing so allows you to make much better decisions where money is concerned.  I really need to get Mrs Freeholder more acquainted with the concept.  That way I might not be sitting here typing this on an iPad connected to some campground's questionable wifi during the pouring rain in a swaying RV.

But enough whining about water over the sand dunes.  Where I'd like to go with this post is some real life calculus on bugging out. Do I bug out?  When do I bug out?  Right now, those are questions I'm pondering.

The smartest move would obviously have been to stay at home.  We missed that opportunity entirely. Now we're in a sucky but not deadly situation.  The worst thing that happens in this situation is that it starts to flood, we jump in the truck and abandon the RV.  That would not be fun, but no one gets hurt.

Our second smartest move would have been to bail out today before the heavy weather moved in.  We missed that opportunity as well.  That was part Mrs Freeholder and part me.  My part was from watching the weather models and guidance.  It looked like we might get spared.   Wrong.  A lot of my campground neighbors took off today.  They were smart.  I was not.

Mrs. Freeholder wanted to see a show.  At least it was a good show.

The Friday weather forecast is currently calling for winds of 20-30 MPH with stronger gusts , 8-9 inches of rain and localized flooding. Not ideal weather to pack up in and worse weather for towing what is realistically a 30' sail behind you.

Saturday and Sunday are 15-25 MPH winds, 1-3 inches of rain and thunderstorms. Not great weather, but I think better than the Friday forecast.

So why am I relating this little tale?  To let you see how this process works in the real world in real time.  It's been discussed to death, but I've not seen it blogged by someone in the middle of it.

I'm not convinced that leaving tomorrow is the best move, even it staying means risking flooding.  Driving in that sort of downpour is strenuous in a single vehicle, worse when you're towing.  Add in a herd of somewhat panicked people who have suddenly decided that discretion is indeed the better part of valor and you could have traffic tie-ups all over, right when law enforcement is busiest.

However, I've been caught in thunderstorms with this rig, and that's not great either.  Plus you given the rain time to work, possibly increasing the amount of flooding between here and home.

There will be no simple answer.  I'm going to closely watch the weather forecast and just weather out the window and make my best judgement.

What can you take from this?  First, you really need for everyone to agree on the criteria for bug out decisions beforehand.  Disagreements at the time when you need to make a call quickly could be fatal.  This was our biggest problem.

Second, I believe there must be a clear chain of command--someone has to in charge.  Conversely, the rest of the group must agree to respect that chain.  When the person in command says "BUG OUT!" then it's time to bug out, not play Twenty Questions.

Third, intelligence is a key factor in your decision making.  Sitting here, I've got 100 cable channels and reasonably good Internet.  You might not have those advantages--figure out how you will get information if your normal sources are cut off.

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And here was a break of almost 24 hours.  Reason?  I was unreasonably cut off by my iPad.  Apparently there is some sort of bug when working with Blogger--a post can only be so long, and that so long ends at the words "cut off" above.  Go figure.  At any rate, I'm going to finish this now, and instead of being a two parter, it's just going to be one really long post.

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Fourth, you must be prepared to make quick decisions and act on them.  I've seen people and groups fall prey to "analysis paralysis" and it's not pretty.  As Gen. George S. Patton has been quoted, "A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week."  Internalize that thought.  It may just save your life some day.

I'd like to go over these four items as I put them in action for this event.  As we've seen, Items One and Two, at least in the early going, were not well adhered to.  However, as Mrs. Freeholder began seeing the the reality of the situation firsthand (and got to feel the RV rocking as the wind gusts buffeted it last night after midnight), the concepts became clearer.

Item Three was one that I kept a close eye on, and after midnight last night, Mrs. Freeholder kept a nearly obsessive eye on.  Pretty much every time I rolled over, she had her tablet and was looking at one weather report or another.  I checked a couple of times, at 3 AM and around 7.  The storm wasn't moving that fast, and I needed my beauty rest.

Item Four I'm quite happy with.  Our initial decision this morning was to hunker down for the day and wait out the worst of the storm.  That meant waiting through a updated forecast of 30 MPH winds and perhaps as much as 12" of rain.  When you're sitting 2-3' above sea level, knowing that everything around you drains to the sea, and that high tide for the last few days has been up to the dune line (thanks to the super moon), that isn't a decision to take lightly.  However, towing a travel trailer through those same conditions among a large group of people trying to get the hell out of Dodge for the same reasons you are isn't a great situation either. Oh, and you're doing it through areas prone to flooding.  Almost forgot the punch line.

However, we caught a break in the weather.  A big hole in the rains opened up for about 2 hours.  I take my miracles where I find them.  By now, Mrs. Freeholder was more than happy to listen to reason.  We rushed around, packed up, hitched up and bugged the heck out.  The drive was mostly uneventful, a run in front of the worst of the rain.  We had some high wind for the last 90 minutes--unpleasant, but not bad.

Now, I'm at home, where the weather forecast for the weekend is just, well, crappy.  It's going to be a little windy and it's going to rain a bit (as opposed to deluge).

Intelligence drones left at the undisclosed South Carolina location report wind and rain, but relatively little flooding so far.  However the drones have decided that they are going to bail out tomorrow.  They're autonomous drones, so they get to make that decision.  :-)

I hope this episode in my life give you something to consider in your own, especially in the ongoing larger discussion about bugging out.  If you're bugging out to live in your retreat location permanently, this won't help you out much.  But if you're staying in a more populated area and considering developing a bug out plan, I think these four points are something you need to consider, at least as a starting point.  Good luck with your plan.


2 comments:

wheelgun said...

Not an RVer. Former Skipper. ON a boat it is simple. One person is in charge. Though of course I wasn't married.

Beading into a hurricane or even tropical storm zone is questionable at best. With an RV in tow?

But even that isn't bad. load up and go, as you said. I've driven ahead of hurricane winds - though I was in a sedan, not a truck/suv towing a trailer. Not pleasant. But you can drive faster than the eye moves. Took a couple hundred miles but I outdistanced it.

By now you are probably seeing better weather. Or so I hope. The storm is moving east, but that is luck as much as anything. They can't predict the weather, and they really can't predict hurricanes. Look up the sinking of Windjammer Cruise's Fantome some time.

The Freeholder said...

Well, marriage is supposed to be a partnership, but sometimes, partnerships are not the optimal organizational model. :-)

The trip home wasn't that bad, really. The last part in the wind wasn't a white-knuckle thing, but just something that took a lot of concentration. After a lot of years towing these things, you learn what the envelope looks like and you learn how to stay inside it.

Weather has cleaned up for us. That process actually started yesterday (the day after we got home) around lunch. Right now I'm actually seeing the sun trying to break through. Word from the Undisclosed location is that they received over 16" of rain as of yesterday and are still getting heavy rain today. Flooding is becoming an issue. Some of the autonomous drones had to shift airfields because of flooding. There have been a couple of deaths. The situation is not dire--nothing like a hurricane barging on shore--but is nothing to take lightly, either.

I just didn't see anything good coming from being way out on my logistical tail in a questionable situation. I'd much rather be at home base when things are dicey. I'm funny like that.