Watching the headlines coming out of Venezuela, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to experience a collapse close-up.
An opportunity to watch the human behaviors that come out of a collapse is fast approaching us here in the US – Oregon to be exact. Yes, just Oregon but we can learn a lot from it and apply those lessons to the big Collapse that’s coming to the whole country.
Let me lay out for you those who will participate, willingly or not, in the impending temporary collapse in Oregon next month. Then let me tell you what I see will happen during this time.
Unlike most collapses, we actually have known the date of the Oregon temporary collapse for several decades—ever since nerds with slide rules have been calculating the movements of the moon and sun. Long ago, these nerds marked down August 21, 2017 on their calendars. So this is no surprise.
August 21st. Sound familiar? It is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence of a full solar eclipse that will be occurring in the United States. One of the best places to watch it will be in Oregon. Specifically, Salem (more on that later).
How can an eclipse—which is just the sun getting dark for a couple of minutes—mess things up in Oregon? The eclipse isn’t the problem. As with all collapses, especially the big full-on Collapse coming soon to the entire US, it’s not the actual event that causes the problems; it’s the unprepared people who react to it like chickens with their heads cut off.
Here is the key fact that turns this harmless eclipse into a temporary collapse: up to a million people are expected to travel to central Oregon to watch the eclipse. A million people. All in the same general place at once. What could go wrong?
Is this a big deal? I dunno, but the Governor of Oregon has called up the National Guard to assist with the influx of the million or so people.
The three categories of people in Oregon that understand what this eclipse are as follows:
First, those who say, “What is a solar eclipse? What does it have to do with me?” To those folks, I implore you to please keep reading. This will become crystal clear. Excuse me while I smack my palm to my head as you read.
The second category are those Oregonians who know what it is, know that it’s coming and simply plan to go about their day. They believe they will be able to simply get into their Prius, stop at Starbucks and head to work. There might be the normal congestion that only Oregonians know painfully well, but it’s not that bad.
They might have seen a newscast that hotels might be full around town, and that campgrounds are all reserved to capacity in Oregon—they have been for over a year as budding astronomers snatched up reservations quickly. But for folks in this category, they will say, “Campgrounds are always full in the summer in Oregon. No big deal.” A perfect example of normalcy bias.
Those in the third category, of which I belong, know what is about to happen for about a week. You can look at this as an opportunity to do a “dry run” (a term you’ll hear a lot in my upcoming book—I’m a big believer in them) on what the full-on Collapse could look like in Oregon and the rest of the country.
For those outside of Oregon, here’s what you need to know. Much of the population of Oregon resides in the upper left quadrant of a mostly rectangular shaped state. Of that quadrant, the largest population with the most density (that isn’t a pun, but ok) is Portland. South of Portland on the Interstate 5 freeway by about forty miles or so is Salem, OR—where the eclipse is.
Yes, you can be in Portland and watch the eclipse. But only in Salem can viewers see it and have the luxury of seeing a total eclipse. Viewers get to see the molten lava spewing off the sun as the moon passes perfectly over the sun, at 10 AM in the morning, on a lovely summer weekday morning. Why not get in your car and head to Salem from Portland? How hard can it be to drive forty miles to see a perfect solar eclipse?
Let’s talk about I-5, that relatively short stretch of freeway between Portland and Salem. It is jammed at 5 PM on a regular rush hour day between Portland and Salem. Locals paying attention cannot imagine putting, conservatively, 100,000 more people and vehicles on that stretch of road. A million is unthinkable. Imagine when the full-on Collapse hits and residents of Portland needed to evacuate. The eclipse will be just like a Portland collapse on the I-5. A great preview for the rest of us.
It’s going to be incredibly difficult. Let me give you some of the stats I am hearing in the media and from friends in strategic places:
Projections are indicating that there will be an influx of over 200,000 people into Salem alone. (This does not include the many other counties on the eclipse’s path.) The county surrounding Salem has a population of roughly 300,000. Think of the population in your county almost doubling at once.
There are no hotel spaces left in the Salem area, and I would be surprised if there were any in Oregon at all for that week and weekend of August 21st.
Did you know that Salem, Oregon has a river that runs through it? Yes. It’s the Willamette River. The Willamette River runs north/south and runs through Portland as well. It’s a big river. Lots of commerce on it. Did you know that in Salem there are only two bridges that can take traffic from west Salem to east Salem? That makes them traffic choke points. There is a third bridge that can handle pedestrian traffic.
Two bridges for hundreds of thousands of people? Did you know that emergency responders are planning to shut down the pedestrian bridge and designate it solely for emergency vehicles because they know the other two bridges will be impassable from the traffic? Ask an honest first responder if they are prepared for the eclipse and they will say will full confidence, “Pfft! Of course.” Ask them if they are nervous. Dare ya. They get serious very quickly and say (if they are honest), “Very.”
Porta potties. Not a big deal right? They are at every event where there are large crowds, like a Bernie Sanders rally in Portland. Right? Porta potties just show up. Oregon is out of them, however. There are no vendors that have any left to rent. Just like in a collapse. People who have never crapped in the woods will be losing their minds looking for a porta potty. You know they don’t have any toilet paper in their cars—only weirdo preppers have that. As pampered people without toilet paper are waddling around looking for porta potties things will get weird. Very weird.
Food. Readers of this blog have read “299 Days” and understand the concept of “just-in-time inventory.” Of course vendors and grocery stores will order extra food and supplies to stock their shelves, right? You sure about that? I’m not. Will the prices be the same as they are right now as I write this blog? I guaran-darn-tee you they will be price gouged; just like in a collapse. And if more food is needed, it must travel up or down I-5, which will be gridlocked for days. Up to a million people are coming up and down that freeway pretty much at once.
The power grid and local utilities can handle the almost-double demand of power that will be experienced for several days, right? Right? What if the power goes out? What if cell towers can’t handle the load? Just like in a collapse.
Now let’s get serious for a moment. Let’s shake the crystal ball and put a scenario into play. What if there were a fire emergency in West Salem, on Sunday afternoon of August 20th. It can happen. Salem gets rural once you cross over a bridge into West Salem. It’s dry this time of year. First responders will easily go over the pedestrian bridge they have designated for themselves. Then the people start mingling that night, they cross the lines and try to get over the bridge by foot, and then there is a major car pileup on I-5, on the east side of the bridge in the heart of Salem. Those same first responders now must navigate back over the bridge. And what if the power goes out during one of these emergencies? It could happen. Easily.
What if that power outage lasts all night on a hot summer’s night? This has been known to happen. An immense population of people in an unfamiliar city will now want to find a way to stay cool in their now-hot hotel rooms in an unfamiliar city. Ice at grocery stores has been sold out for hours. Stores are closing their doors to avoid crime and looting.
What happens when babies start crying because they are hot? Children are upset because they are hungry and McDonalds is closed. Restaurants closed when the power wasn’t coming back on quickly.
Cell phones start to die as people try to text loved ones elsewhere telling them what is happening. There’s no where to charge their phones.
People flood the footbridge and the two vehicle bridges in Salem attempting to walk to their hotels, not realizing their plastic key won’t allow them in their room at their hotel because the power is out. A little bit of panic starts to fill the air as the sun starts to set and people are not in the safe place they thought they would be for the night.
Families on the elevators when the power went out are sitting and wondering how long before someone helps them. The emergency button is working, but no one is coming. Emergency help is elsewhere. Well, it is on the other side of that pedestrian bridge and is helping a couple hundred thousand other people.
Toilets start to back up. Hospitals are using backup power.
At around 3 AM, the power comes back on. It is a welcome sight as streetlights flicker on after the descending dark. People start making their way back to cars and hotel rooms any way they can.
Slowly, air conditioning starts to kick on everywhere. Because of the large demand caused by AC units, there is intermittent power outages over Salem through the rest of the night. No one seems to mind because street lights work for the most part.
As the early morning wears on, people start to laugh a bit about the panic the night before. Children are cranky and whimpering. Parents console, feed and hush them.
By the time the eclipse comes around, the adventures of the previous night fade into memory. Everyone is outside watching solar eclipse.
Not realizing they just saw a preview of a collapse.