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#231681 - 09/08/11 05:49 PM Interstate 5: It's a chute!
Susan Offline

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Since reading that great article at Outside Magazine, "Totally Psyched for the Full-Rip Nine", I've been paying more attention to my most common driving route on Interstate 5, Everett to Chehalis.

If a major shake hits during peak traffic hours, it's going to be one awful mess!

This freeway has been designed (apparently specifically) NOT to let anyone off the freeway except at designated ramps.

Wire fences would not be a problem, I would just go through those, but just about the only fences I see are really in the flatter areas around the exits and onramps.

The sides of the freeway are lined with either concrete barriers, concrete walls (tall), closely-growing trees, very dense/tall wild blackberry bushes, or slopes so steep that I couldn't even climb them with lower 4WD.

So, any section of freeway that has a collapsed overpass sitting on it and doesn't have an open exit ahead is going to be a parking lot. Even if there was room for people in the right lane to turn around and creep back to the exit, more vehicles would be lining the onramps behind. And, of course, if a few little cars had left enough driving room ahead of them and stopped that way, then maneuvered to get turned around, the morons behind them would move up to block the openings they left.

So, this would be an interesting dilemma.

I could wait for hours in place, hoping the people behind me could get turned back and exit via the onramps (or alongside them), so eventually I could exit there.

Or, I could just get out and start walking (a long walk, with my luck).

Even after getting off the freeway, movement is likely to be strictly curtailed due to some serious debris and downed power lines.

Jeez, I hope I'm home if it happens!


#231683 - 09/08/11 06:30 PM Re: Interstate 5: It's a chute! [Re: Susan]
bws48 Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/18/07
Posts: 830
Loc: Anne Arundel County, Maryland
OK, assume it happens, and at the worst possible point for you (e.g. longest walk to 'civilization').

It seems to me that there are 2 key questions:
1) how long do you wait in the traffic jam before you abandon the truck (and what I assume is more equipment then you can carry/drag along with you), and,
2) can you realistically safely walk out under bad conditions (the assumption automatically assumes some bad conditions, but maybe add bad weather) to 'civilization'?

Good Intelligence, that is, good real time information, about what is going on, could be key to this decision. How to get it? Rely on local news? CB radio reports? other? Do you trust the sources to get it right?

I was once trapped in my car by bad weather (snow) for about 12 hours. It was not clear if it was better to stay put, or try to walk out. It is a tough decision to abandon relative safety for the unknown. I stayed put: at the time, it seemed to me that cold and dry beat cold and wet.
"Better is the enemy of good enough."

#231685 - 09/08/11 07:20 PM Re: Interstate 5: It's a chute! [Re: Susan]
Dagny Offline

Registered: 11/25/08
Posts: 1916
Loc: Washington, DC

Another consideration is that the initial mega-quake will be followed by lots of aftershocks -- some of them major quakes.

Whether the situation will warrant staying with the truck or hoofing it, I'd be wanting a good size and comfortable backpack full of the gear-supplies we discuss here constantly.

And comfortable hiking boots and extra socks. And cash.

Do you currently carry that stuff on a routine basis?

A brisk walking pace would be 3mph.

You're going to want constant access to news reports to guide your decisions -- so a portable AM-FM radio and extra batteries should be part of the mix. It would save running your car battery down.

If the local radio stations are knocked out, be on the lookout for a vehicle that may have satellite radio. It will be important to know the epicenter and magnitude of the quake.

I'm guessing I'd want to stay with my vehicle unless and until it was absolutely necessary to abandon it. Especially in the winter. If there's a major quake then emergency services will soon be checking out I-5 -- helicopters will be flying over in short order -- and they'll be very eager to restore that major transportation route to some degree of functionality -- including punching through guardrails if necessary.

#231688 - 09/08/11 07:49 PM Re: Interstate 5: It's a chute! [Re: Susan]
unimogbert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/10/06
Posts: 857
Loc: Colorado
Folding bicycle? (and a gun to ensure you can keep it)

#231689 - 09/08/11 08:02 PM Re: Interstate 5: It's a chute! [Re: Dagny]
bws48 Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/18/07
Posts: 830
Loc: Anne Arundel County, Maryland
Originally Posted By: Dagny

You're going to want constant access to news reports to guide your decisions -- so a portable AM-FM radio and extra batteries should be part of the mix.

Good point. My own suggestion would be one that also has HF (aka shortwave) bands in case all the local stations are out. I have a Grundig Mini-world am-fm radio with 6 HF bands that is about the size of a pack of cards and runs on 2 AA batteries. I've carried and used it on many overseas trips. It rivals my, now museum piece, Zenith R-1000 short wave radio, which is huge and takes something like 10 D cells to power and weighs about 5 pounds or more.
"Better is the enemy of good enough."

#231691 - 09/08/11 08:10 PM Re: Interstate 5: It's a chute! [Re: Susan]
LesSnyder Offline

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 1544
Loc: New Port Richey, Fla
as bws48 commented...you are in an OODA loop with your decision making process, and those of us not living in the earthquake region can only offer suggestions not made from actual experiences...I'll offer some generic comments..

my GHB(hydration pack built in) is in the car...and even at my age can probably make 30 miles a day provided I can access water I can purify (Sawyer filter bottle)...food for two days @ 2 meals a day plus snack....additionally in the car...16 pack of water dedicated, plus partial case of water and GatorAde I use for shooting competitions...Swiss Ranger stove and Sterno to cook with...fence pliers/machete if I need to make a short cut through a chain link fence

tarp and cordage, poncho and mosquito netting in GHB... for sun shade if I wait for help and camp in car

handgun, extra mags, Israeli dressing and QuickClot in a non threatening shoulder bag

pretty extensive trauma FAK

12v charger for EDC'd cell phone... connected it may give you extra charge to access to marginal towers if local ones damaged

my GPS is a Garmin nuvi 500 and has topo maps of the US...also an old copy of an Rand McNally Road Atlas

I drive about 150 roundtrip miles a week on the interstate, so have a "peaked" CB with a 12v cigarette power cord...although semi permanent mounted with velcro and plastic cable ties to the underside of the ash tray...could easily be stowed in a gym bag..I purchased a good magnetic mount antenna and adjusted the standing wave ratio to a location on the rear roof of my Explorer...even with the antenna tied down to enter my garage door, get a couple of miles range...I get good intel from truckers as to traffic slowdowns and open alternative routes... small portable AM/FM battery portable in GHB

for vehicle support...good pair of jumper cables, full size spare, tire plug kit, assorted hand tools, and hand air pump

I have no immediate need to make it home...I'm single, no pets to feed, and not a care giver...I would like to think that I could if the circumstances required it...

good luck

Edited by LesSnyder (09/08/11 08:20 PM)

#231695 - 09/08/11 09:09 PM Re: Interstate 5: It's a chute! [Re: Susan]
Arney Offline

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 2485
Loc: California
Hmm, this is a tough one.

Just playing devil's advocate here, but even if you know that you can walk all the way back to "somewhere", you could also be making the situation more difficult for other people.

Drivers who abandon their cars make it harder to clear the road and reopen it to traffic, and major freeway like I-5 will be a priority. Reports of people hopping the guardrail and hoofing it cross-country could waste valuable resources on SAR teams sent to make sure those people are all right or to give them a lift because they're too tired or dehydrated to go on. Even walking back along the freeway, at some point, you may encounter free flowing traffic again, and people walking on the shoulder of an interstate is not a very safe mix.

Yeah, it's a tough call. What seems common sense to you as an individual may just cause bigger headaches to the folks trying hard to help all of you stuck in the same situation. It's like people stuck on a jet plane on the tarmac in winter. "Obviously" turning the plane around or bringing those movable stairs to the plane so you can walk back to the terminal seem like common sense solutions, but people don't realize the difficulties involved that prevent such "common sense" actions from taking place.

I certainly don't have a ready answer for this since there are so many variables involved.

#231700 - 09/08/11 11:13 PM Re: Interstate 5: It's a chute! [Re: Arney]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6773
Loc: southern Cal
I would be inclined to stay with the vehicle. It can hold a lot more useful material than I can carry on an impromptu hike. As you point out, there are many variables and circumstances vary.
Geezer in Chief

#231701 - 09/08/11 11:34 PM Re: Interstate 5: It's a chute! [Re: Arney]
Dagny Offline

Registered: 11/25/08
Posts: 1916
Loc: Washington, DC
Originally Posted By: Arney

Drivers who abandon their cars make it harder to clear the road and reopen it to traffic, and major freeway like I-5 will be a priority.

That happened here this past winter when "snow-jams" crippled the metro area at rush hour. On the GW Parkway along the Potomac, many cars (usually out of fuel) were abandoned by owners.

The scariest scenario, to me, is such an earthquake happening during a particularly cold winter week.

Summer days west of the Cascades are usually quite tolerable without air conditioning. But an earthquake striking during below-freezing temperatures means people freezing when the fuel runs out in their cars or the power goes out in their homes. Pipes would freeze in unheated homes.

Especially in winter - everyone everywhere should have means of staying warm in their vehicle if it breaks down for any reason.

#231702 - 09/08/11 11:45 PM Re: Interstate 5: It's a chute! [Re: Susan]
Susan Offline

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Yes, it's a puzzlement!

I do have a smaller backpack that I keep in the car, with some basic stuff in it, but not as much as I would like. We can't keep too much on board because the rail crews usually carry a LOT of gear with them, and even two or three of them will fill up the back of the Suburban.

I have the RR radio anchored in the vehicle, with multiple channels (plus NOAA weather), but I don't know if I could trust info from the RR any more than I could from the 19-YO gumchewer in the next car.

But I am suspecting that if it happened, many people would just abandon their vehicles where they sit and walk away. This has already happened in Seattle in an ice storm a few years ago. It was a real mess.

I know the interstates were actually designed as runways, but I'll bet the govt would have to do a lot of clearing of abandoned vehicles before they could land a single plane. It would be easier if people left their keys in the ignition, but you know that won't happen. Maybe semi bobtails could do a little tractor work, and shove them to the side of the road.

The bridges could be interesting, too.


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