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An Unsexy Survival Plan for California’s Epic Floods, Avalanches, and Mudslides

The Organic Prepper

How do you survive a flood, mudslides, avalanches, power outages, and gale force winds? What about sinkholes and buckling roads?

You’re going to be so disappointed when I tell you the secret.

Because it’s not dramatic. No firearms, carabiners, or specialized equipment were used. I didn’t need to consult my beloved SAS survival manual even once. If it were a movie, you’d fall asleep within 15 minutes.  

We just stayed home.

We stayed home because we know that when one disaster happens, others soon follow. In most cases of natural disasters, boring is better.

The atmospheric river that hit California brought numerous disasters.

Residents of California are learning right now that disasters are rarely single events.

People often overlook the fact that catastrophic events are often followed by other dangers. Too often, people relax their guard and focus on the incident at hand, then fall victim to a related event.

Take the massive storms battering California, for example. The state was hit this week by an “atmospheric river.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association defines the phenomenon:

Atmospheric Rivers (ARs) are relatively narrow regions in the atmosphere that are responsible for most of the horizontal transport of water vapor outside of the tropics. While ARs come in many shapes and sizes, those that contain the largest amounts of water vapor, the strongest winds, and stall over watersheds vulnerable to flooding, can create extreme rainfall and floods. These events can disrupt travel, induce mud slides, and cause catastrophic damage to life and property.

And boy, are they right about the catastrophic possibilities.

The good news is, for many parts of the state, the drought is over. Lake Tahoe has amassed more than 33.6 billion gallons of water since the first of the year. The Weir Dam in Sacramento had to be opened for the first time in a decade. The state has directed the overflow toward fields to keep cities from flooding.

But this atmospheric river has taken a toll in other ways.

There is massive flooding.

There are mudslides, rock slides, and avalanches.

High winds with gale force gusts have caused downed trees and power lines.

The point is, whenever one disaster strikes, you have to think ahead to the ramifications. What is this likely to affect? How could the situation escalate?

Here’s how it went down in my part of California.

As with most storms of this magnitude, we had a warning. A week ahead of time, local news stations urged residents to get prepared for the onslaught.

Many people did, while others blithely went about their day to day lives, not adding anything extra to their supplies. The first couple of days saw an incredible amount of torrential rain. It was an absolute downpour.

Flooding began to occur on the second day. The trees that had been weakened by the 5-year-long drought were most susceptible to the high winds. They began to topple, taking power lines with them in many cases.

The curvy roads cut into the mountains became victim to massive amounts of erosion in the form of mudslides, and in some cases, rockslides. Both major and minor highways had to be repeatedly closed so Cal Trans could remove the debris from the roads.

Flash floods swept over small bridges, sweeping vehicles off with them. Foolish drivers attempted to ford areas where the water was over the road and ended up overturned by the powerful force.

Disasters are rarely just a single event. This storm didn’t begin and end with a flood. It included many other dangers and variables.

The survival plan of my family was not very dramatic.

For us, the storm included a lot of mud, some flooded roads, an issue with our propane tank, and a power outage.

And the solution to all of it was simple.

We stayed home.

We had everything we needed already on hand but added a few no-cook items and some milk before the storm.

We avoided being swept off of a mountain road by a mudslide by not being on them.

We avoided being pulled into a raging river by not driving across it.

Our home is well-positioned on a slope. It is gradual enough to keep the property from being flooded, but not steep enough to be subject to a mudslide.

Some flooding affected our propane tank briefly. We were surprised when we were able to get a service call very quickly, but while the propane was off, we used our wood stove for heat and cooking. We boiled water in an electric kettle while the power was on. No big deal.

Later, when the power went out, we brought in more wood from the shed and continued using our wood stove. We had secondary lighting. We each had a pile of unread books. Our freezer, well pump, and fridge are hooked up to a generator that we ran for a couple of hours as needed. (One reader asked me about the generator. They’re a huge expense, and I never recommend buying them unless you can easily afford it and have all of your other preps in order. In this case, ours came with the rental of our home. Our temperatures are in the 40s, which means it’s too warm to simply move the freezer outside, which was what we did during a lengthy power outage in Canada.)

We had absolutely no reason we needed to leave the house.

Often, the best plan is the simplest. Avoid danger by staying home. If you are new to prepping, you can download a quick-start guide to prepping right here. (It’s free.) If you’re really serious about getting prepped, sign up for the next Prepping Intensive class. (It’s not free, but it’s a reasonably priced 8-week course that will get you ready for anything.)

It isn’t very sexy. It’s not what people think about when they discuss survival. But in most cases, it is the very best way to keep your family safe.

The Organic Prepper

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