“Wyrd biõ ful ãræd.”

Friday, January 3, 2014

Every man for himself!

Or, in french, sauve qui peut.  The french is really more expressive of what I'm thinking of, because it conveys not only a sense of danger but of chaos.

I was reading our old postings on the blog my brothers and I keep.  My youngest brother, Terry, was at his house in Newport, Oregon when they had a real Tsunami alert. As I recall, it was associated with the huge tsunami that hit Japan.  Terry had always brushed off warnings from Robert and I about doing the drills in case there ever was a real tsunami.  He was a combat engineer officer in the Marines, then a street patrolman in Southern California, then a member of an anti-gang unit in a California metropolitan city. I guess he figured if none of that killed him the ocean wouldn't.  However, when the tsunami warning came he got an eye full of the typical American reaction to danger:

When in danger, when in doubt
run in circles, scream and shout!

I thought this narrative would be interesting and useful for the survival minded.  Bear in mind, while reading it, that my brother doesn't embellish or exaggerate. A lifetime of writing military and police reports has wrung that out of him. If he says it happened this way, it happened this way.

I pondered editing out some of the language, but I think I should let him tell the story in his own words. None of it will make a grown person faint dead away in today's American anyway.

This is a repost of the original which was posted on the old Hermanos blog Friday, March 11, 2011. 

Today was surreal, and I will try to describe it as best I can because I know you guys are going to love the story. I should start by letting you know it's all good here, people got killed down the coast a ways, but we didn't and are back home now. No damage was done and we are no worse for wear.

For me it started at about 5:30, more or less, when my cell phone went off, later determined to be Robert calling in a warning. I had been hearing sirens going off in my subconscious, but had blown them off. When I saw I had a message from Robert I knew it was bad news, I just figured somebody else had died. Once I heard the message, I sprung into action. I looked outside and people were running in and out of their houses in pajamas throwing shit into their cars. I saw a black man dragging three small dogs into a car, shrieking "hurry hurry!" Police cars and fire trucks were going up and down out street blaring out muffled warnings, something about a tsunami, and evacuate immediately. It was total chaos. Then my neighbor lady calls me on my cellphone and shouts, "What should I do, what should I do?!!" I said, and I quote, "Hell Katie you've lived here your whole damn life, and I got here in September, how the hell should I know? But if I was you I would get out!" She did.

I ran and woke Jenny up, yelled there is a tsunami coming and we have to get out, pack some stuff. She said, "What stuff?". I was forced to reply, "I don't know, so food and shit". It was a bad scene, nobody knew exactly what to take, so we ended up taking the following, and I know this because when we got home I looked.

  - pajamas and a blanket
- a pack of macaroni and cheese
- my shaving kit and two pairs of drawers
- Jenny brought her jewelry box
- a hair dryer, hair products, make up
 - a bag of important family photos and our check book.
- Beretta 92F and one full magazine

T.J. was in charge of food, no shit, and on his own he filled a bucket with 5 granola bars, two cans of coke, and a bag of baby carrots. This is the sum total of what we fled with. I left the cats to fend for themselves.

We joined the stampede to Hwy 101 intent on heading east to Corvallis. When we reached 101, it was like rush hour traffic. The first thing I saw was a full sized pickup hauling a huge travel trailer make a crazy left turn through the intersection dragging his safety chain causing sparks to fly behind him. He had no tail lights. The Shell station on the corner was lined with cars to the street, all directions, probably 50 vehicles, parked all different angles and directions. Two grown men were in a fistfight in front a gas pump. I heard a cacophony of horns and yelling. We surged into the steaming masses and were swept into the line of vehicles, which soon came to a crashing halt in a bumper to bumper mass traffic jam. One asshole couldn't wait, and fishtailed into the gravel on the shoulder and tried to pass the crowd on the right for high ground. He got by me but somebody else was having none of it and blocked his path with his vehicle. At that point I realized that getting out of town, on the one and only road out, was not going to happen. I made a tactical decision to head for my friend Jeff's house, he lives high on a hill above the bay. I know the town well enough that I took a back road, and arrived there shortly thereafter. The police and fire trucks continued to blare out muffled warnings. Lot's of cars were on the roads.

Once at Jeff's, we had a tsunami party, he has a perfect view of the bay and ocean from his front window, and he has a big telescope. Jeff made pancakes and sausage, Mimosa's, and coffee. We just sat there and ate and waited for the big one. It never came.

Then, at about 8:30, my mailman buddy who is also a volunteer fireman, calls and says the tsunami hit and he's boogie boarded on bigger waves than that. Then he says, they're cutting half of us loose from the fire department, "Dude, let's go crabbing, we'll have the whole bay to ourselves!" I said, "Right on, Jenny has to go to work anyway." So I loaded up the family and went home. We drove down by the state park and saw a bunch of people standing there looking out to sea, waiting for the big one. Everything was mellow on my street. Jenny went to work, I took T.J. to school, and then met my buddy at the boat ramp with my boat. It was awesome, we had all the great spots to ourselves, and shared a 6 pack of beer. There was nobody else crabbing, so we cleaned up. He did have his fireman radio with him though, so if another wave came our plan was to firewall my boat away from the wave, catch the crest, and ride it all the way up the river to Corvallis. I figured if I died out there, I would become family legend, "Yeah old Unkie Terry, died in Newport crabbing during a tsunami." There are a lot worse ways to go.


Things are back to normal now, and no harm, but I did learn a huge lesson today. That lesson is this: Bad shit can happen, and happen really fast, and you better believe it can happen and be prepared to deal with it when it does. I was woefully unprepared, (as was everybody else from what I saw) and it could have cost me. Jenny and I both realize just how poorly we were prepared, so now are going to take the steps needed to make that right. To conclude, I have to say, today was like something you see in a movie, it was unbelievable how fast things degenerated and it became every man for himself faster than you can imagine. I was lucky, it could have gotten really ugly.

18 comments:

  1. Yeah, there are plenty of battlefield conversions, but how many follow through when its actually over?

    So, my question is: did he change his ways and get a gear and plan put together or no?

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    1. Somehow my reply posted further down, Zero.

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  2. Really good post....good story about what not to do and to be prepared. A good refresher for us preppers and maybe someone else might see the light. Hope you get to feeling better soon. Nasty bugs are going around.

    Blessings!

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    1. Cotton Lady,
      I am feeling a lot better. Staying inside. Everything outside is frozen solid tonight. Since nobody got hurt I think that was a good experience for my brother, however short lived it's impact on him was. I remember just before that happened I told him he should at least familiarize himself with the tsunami evacuation route and plot some alternate routes but he mocked me about it. At least the debacle got him to move inland some. They also wanted better schools for T.J. and that was part of the rationale for the move as well.

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  3. Well, to be honest,he didn't,really. They moved inland and just use the house at the beach for fun now so I guess the sense of urgency faded. He did take steps to insure they can get to Robert's place in the Sierras should need arise so that's some improvement.

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    1. Zero, here's my reply to your question, above. Damn blogger, I wish it would work right once in awhile.

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  4. It's just like the east coast is not prepared though they have had several very bad storms in the last few years. A person would think that everyone should have at least a few days of basics on hand but you would be wrong.

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    1. I think everyone , if they gave it any real thought, would stash just a few things against a rainy day. But I suppose there are a lot of people so hard put just to survive each day, that they haven't got the time, energy or funds to do it. And there are others, the vast majority, who just don't have the initiative to do so. You are quite correct, probably not 1 in 10 has any really useful plan or preparation in place.

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  5. I have a recurring tsunami dream. It REALLY freaks me out. Luckily, I don't have it very often. Have you seen that movie that came out like a year ago (based on a true story) about the family that was vacationing when a tsunami hit? Crazy stuff. Glad your brother's experience was just a learning one.

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    1. I saw that one. The moral of that movie was vacation near home.

      That would be a bad dream to have. I hope you can lose it though I don't know how such a thing is done.

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  6. I have lived and worked in Newport and still have relatives there.
    I could picture what he was describing to a "T" and know exactly where that Shell station is.
    The only other main road heading East to Corvallis is the River Road that dumps you out in Toledo and re joins the main route.

    I can imagine that was jammed also.

    The thing is, there are large hills all along the Eastern side of Newport and all one would have to do is drive uphill and watch the ants nest from above.


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    1. If I lived there, I'd pick a little used route to some high ground. I wouldn't necessarily follow the the little blue signs with the wave on them because, as you suspect, I'm sure those would be rush hour traffic.

      I always think of that scene in "Deep Impact" where everybody is stranded on the road and wave engulfs them.
      Thanks for the comment, Newport sounds like a nice place to me, except for the Cascadia subduction zone lurking off shore.

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  7. Many years ago when i still lived with my folks we had a pretty severe bushfire heading towards us, when it was about a kilometre away I started to load up the station wagon in case we needed to make a run for it. I loaded all of my rifles and as much powder and ammo as i could fit, some photo albums and my pet cockatoo as well as whatever my mother thought was important for her and dad, mum insited that I chuck in my one and only suit as she had nightmares of us survivng with only the clothes on our back!

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    1. Well, I'm glad you were going to save the Cockatoo. It would be rough to have to pack and dash that fast. I hope I never find out first hand.

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  8. Hmmm I made a comment here earlier and it didn't post. Oh well...

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    1. I had several people email me and ask why I deleted their comments. I haven't deleted any, I don't do that. I don't know what is going on.

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  9. It's good to practice what to do in crazy situations. We need to have a fire drill here. I know Mica's capable of getting out of his room through the window. But Isaak...I'm not so sure he is.

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    1. It's always a good idea to practice things like that. My son has an apartment on an upper level of his building. I bought him one of those "let down" ladders, but it isn't long enough. So he will have to let himself down to the balcony of an apartment below him if he can't get to the fire escape on his floor. Not perfect but better than nothing.

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