*Hurricane Isabel*
By: Warlord
21 September 2003

On Thursday, September 18th 2003, Hurricane Isabel slammed into the East coast near the Outer Banks in North Carolina and then came ashore. Almost immediately Several Rubicon members in the path asked for assistance in hard hit areas of coastal Virginia.

Other Rubicon members were on the road to assist them even before the winds died down, carrying generators, chainsaws, food, fuel, etc, to aid our stricken members. These are some of the member's experiences during the clean-up.

Highway I-85 was a conga line of power company trucks (from the Southern states) and National guard trucks.. I never lost site of these convoys in 8 hours, starting around 4am from here (in Upstate SC)... At that point I knew it was gonna be bad..

Things were fine until I crossed into VA from NC On I-85.. immediately I lost cell reception and the first store I came to had no power... I had filled up the truck just before getting into VA, and I had several full gas cans with me, so this wasn't a problem.. I expected it and was prepared for it... That station in NC was the last place with gas from I-85 to the coast... EXCEPT for one store with a generator and a half mile line of cars and trucks in BOTH directions... Incredible. There were cars out of gas, cars with trees and power poles sitting on them IN THE ROAD the whole rest of the way.

The closer to the coast I got, The worse it got.

As I approached within 40 miles of Twist's AO, you either had 4WD or you didn't move. MANY times I had to pull off the road in 4WD and drive through muddy fields to get around MAJOR road blockage. Trees, BUILDINGS in the middle of the roads, power lines and power poles down EVERYWHERE, even the top of a cell phone tower laying the road. Crews were already out working, but headway was slow... this (below) was the last "car passable" spot I came to.. from here on out it was fields, crawling over debris, cutting my way in by chainsaw, etc...

I got stopped at a national guard roadblock once and a police roadblock once... I talked my way on into the area with the paramedic stickers on the back window of the truck and the fact that I had a generator, chainsaw, torches, etc, in the back and mentioned that I was an electrical engineer.. they let me right on through, but unless you lived in the AO or had a valid skill WITH CREDENTIALS they were turning people back.. HUNDREDS of people were simply there to gawk.

I FINALLY got to twist's road... It was bad.. HUGE trees down everywhere... I had to cut my way in there too, one HUGE old tree was across the road in kind of an arch shape, I squeezed under that (As did Sierra and Delta later.. and again on my way out, it was still there) of course there was no power to the area, but it didn't matter since Twist's lines were snapped at the pole by the tree below... There were HUGE trees down across the storage buildings and Garage, the Garage roof will have to be replaced... one hit Skid's truck but didn't do any real damage...

So we started at one end of his semi-circle driveway and dug in...

The Roof of this Garage is smashed, as are the roofs of the storage buildings behind it.. we had to cut them away piece by piece

At one point we had Twist and Marcinko up in the tree's topping them and bringing the pieces down one by one...

We cut our way into the side yard and fired up the generator to run the fridge and stuff in the house.

We worked until it was too dark to see, Twist's Mother-in-law cooked supper on my Coleman stove outside, but I was so tired I don't even know what it was.. I threw my Northface bag on the couch and passed out. Sometime around midnight or so Sierra and Delta6 arrived. Twist's wife and one of her friends worked liked dogs right beside us the whole time...

We got up early this morning and Sierra had brought the twist-lock 220 plug for the generator (I forgot mine, duh) so we pulled the meter-base at the house and wired the genset into the house.. it powered (and is still powering , as of this writing) the whole house.. well pump, lights, everything including stove and water heater... It'll be a while before they get power back so I just left the genset there when I left.

Twist called in some favors and we got a backhoe over there... You wanna talk about "Clout in your community"? There was no one else we saw with ANY heavy equipment cleaning up other than State road crews.. Twist got a backhoe (which was in HUGE demand) brought to his house! THAT is what being a well known member of your community does for you!

Before the back hoe arrived, Skid and I used our trucks and chains to drag the bigger logs out of the way, The smaller stuff we all cut up and started several brush piles and lit them off with diesel fuel...

Skid and his truck dragging away parts of trees that were old when God was a boy.. without 4WD and "Low Lock" these big beasts wouldn't budge

Stihl Chainsaws were the rule of thumb.. ours worked flawlessly on all this downed oak. HUGE oaks! We'd sink the bars in and cut through one side of the trees and then go around on the other side and cut the rest... most were too big to cut straight through even with Twist's Big Stihl... We kept em smoking. They got abused but worked flawlessly. I can't imagine trying to clear a mess like that without chainsaws.

STIHL BABY! STIHL! Everyone with "cheaper" chainsaws (We all had Stihls) kept saying "My saw is useless (insert reason) I'm Buying a Stihl Monday morning (I doubt it, there ain't none to be had)

I hooked my truck to many limbs still stuck up in trees called "Widow makers" and we drug em down...

Like I said earlier, lots of people, even WAY out in the middle of no-where just driving around in trucks and gawking... a few unsavory looking ones.. so we hooked up the seismic detectors and alarms last night. There were a lot of chainsaws and generators stolen over night according to the local radio station, but not ours ; )

On the way out today, The roads were much clearer than when I went in.. there was even a gas station open within 10 miles of Twist's AO...

I still didn't have cell reception on Cingular until I got back into NC... Skid and Twist had an analog signal on theirs, and as I mentioned, the house phone lines are buried so we had those once we got the wires straighten out. I usually carry my 5 Watt Analog bag phone into situations like this, but I left it home in case of trouble there.

I can't begin to express how lost the sheeple were.. most had no water, NONE had power, no gas, etc etc... The few stores open without power had signs out front that said "CASH ONLY". Several houses burned to the ground.. some areas didn't even have a single power pole standing, and one town I passed through had NO glass in any of the east facing windows of the buildings...There were buildings flipped over, houses with no roofs, CRUSHED houses, etc etc.. Like I said, unless you've seen it first hand, I can't describe a Hurricane disaster area to you.

This news blurb sums up the attitude of the habitually unprepared:
"(Name Deleted), said Virginia's response to Isabel was abysmal. She vented her frustration Sunday at weary Red Cross volunteers, unable to control her anger at being told to call emergency numbers.

"They say 'call the emergency management office.' When I get home, I have no phone," she said.

"Where is the assistance from other states?" she asked. "This city is not taking care of anything. Where is the water, where is the ice? I have babies in my neighborhood who yesterday couldn't get any milk."

Our Rubicon members had everything they needed (including milk and entertainment for three babies). I can only wonder who would depend on the "State" to do anything "for" them..

Another quote:
"We've asked FEMA for generators. We haven't gotten them," Newport News Mayor Joe Frank said Sunday. "We've asked them for water, we've asked them for food, we've asked them for ice. So far, we haven't seen any of that."

FEMA Director Mike Brown was on the defensive. "We've distributed 650,000 tons of ice down to that area," he said Sunday. "I just find it difficult to believe that we're not meeting someone's needs"

As another Rubicon member pointed out:
"I find it hard to believe that FEMA has distributed 29,545 truckloads of ice in the "affected area". Hard to believe also that our private transportation systems had about 30,000 idle refrigerator trucks standing by and that FEMA had 650,000 tons of ice ready to go".

Like I've said, this was as bad as I've seen it, and I've been through Hugo and Andrew... However, as usual, Rubicon members took care of Rubicon members, and our members in the area are in the ABSOLUTE best shape of anyone within 20 miles in any direction. They have power, water, a clear yard, the damage is fixed, and the worst of the cleaning up is done! Twist's yard is "Mowable" at this point! THIS is why we stress Survival TEAMS.

Safety point.. WEAR HEAD GEAR! Falling limbs, and trees deciding to just "fall over" from the damage, is a constant threat in something like this!!!

4 Hours into clearing and we'd barely made a dent

I have lots more pictures... houses burning, cars flipped over, a trashcans and debris through windows in town, the top of a cell tower covering the road, missing roofs, flipped over buildings, etc , etc, etc, but you get the idea...

This should be a wake up call to everyone... Alt power is a MUST. Ice couldn't be had ANYWHERE at any price, THERE WAS NONE, and hot drinks suck when you're working! We were able to run the fridge's and freezers from generators so we had ice after a little while.

Without Alt power water would have gotten scarce QUICK. My 5kw Genny ran the house, fridge's, well pump, stove, and would even make the water heater work, but running the water heater while running everything else put a noticeable strain on the genset so we used Sierra's Generator to run the extra fridges and deep freeze, etc.

You don't think hot water is that important? Work all day in the hot sun, get good and grimy, smoke covered and sore, and you'll think different.

We had three kids on site from Baby to toddlers, and being able to run the TV set freed the rest of us to work while "And Shout's" mom cooked and kept an eye on the kids.

... which is another important point... "And Shout's" mom kept the house going, kept coffee and drinks coming, fixed meals and generally worked like a Trojan to keep the work crew supported. Without her we'd have had a MUCH harder time of it, and two of the other women folk would have been tied down watching the kids full time. With "and Shout's" mom and the gensets, the kids were entertained and she could do other stuff without having to keep a "constant" eye on the kids...

That was also her first time cooking on a Coleman stove and she took to it easily!

So what lessons were learned?
Gloves, saws and safety glasses were worn by everyone, especially if they were working a saw... A dry rubie-neck-wrap around the head keeps the sweat out of your eyes so that your glasses don't fog or get coated in sweat.

I think we all have blisters on top of blisters.

The morning dew SOAKED our feet.. I noticed my feet feeling "hot" and changed my socks, my feet were almost to the point of being messed up, another 30 minutes without a sock change and I'd have had problems.

4WD with ground clearance could move, even if it was cutting across a muddy field... people in 2WD were stranded, Period! 4WD may sound like an expensive "option", but when the SHTF it's worth every dime and MUCH more. otherwise I'd have been hoofing 40+ miles or waiting it out while road crews took 8 more hours to clear enough road to get in... without road crews, well, I don't even want to think about that.

Relic's news article shows how ALL of the hospitals were without power and over loaded.. Not to mention that you had to get there YOURSELF (No ambulances could move) we had enough med supplies and trained medics on site to take care of our own problems if we'd had any.

The food we brought and that Twist had on site was IT. Many folks had NO usable meat since it spoiled without refrigeration. Like I said above, the few stores that were open had signs saying "CASH ONLY", and they didn't have any "food", just some candy and drinks (Not cold). All of the cleanup crew brought in our own food, Paper plates, cups, drinks, cooking gear (My Coleman double burner stove is still there being used), etc... BRING YOUR OWN! The people you are helping have enough stress without worrying about feeding work crews from their preps! Bring Extra!

There was NO gas to be had, and everyone I passed on the roadsides looked at my gas cans in the back of the truck. At several points I was offered 50 bux for one of my gas cans, and upwards of 800 bux CASH for my generator. One of the road crews asked if I had "Any fuel to spare" and I moved on quickly thinking they might just take it.

A guy in NC tried to steal my chainsaw and torches at a store I stopped at to top off my gas tank.. I caught him just as he was reaching in and looking around... his 4 buddies thought it was funny, he did NOT.

Twist and crew didn't have ANY news, they didn't even know the eye had passed right over them.. the local radio stations were only giving out useless news about Washington, the beach resort areas, etc.. no useful info like "Local destruction, open roads, open stores, the storm track, etc"...

News was spread "Word of mouth"

Disposing of cut up brush, trees, and other debris is going to be a MAJOR problem in the cities I passed through.. as you can see in the pics above, the roads were LINED with brush and downed trees.

People stopped all day asking Twist if his lumber yard was open.. everyone seemed to need wood to cover broken windows. I Noticed twist only had plywood "for the locals" he knew well, and there was a favor attached to each sheet he parted with... believe it. No money changed hands right then, it was always "We'll work it out later.

Twist's business had a LOT of wood stolen. When Marcinko drove past several people had just "loaded up what they needed" even with no one at the store... that's looting plain and simple and there was a LOT of it according to the local radio that was on the air.

With all of us there, we had about all skills imaginable on-site.. we used most all of those skills also.

This was HARD work, if yer out of shape, you better get back in shape, otherwise you'll be laying out in the yard with no way to get medical help.
Too Fat To Run

Modern Conveniences and Time
It's hard getting out and cleaning up a mess during the best of times... but after a short while of not having "conveniences" that we are used to, it quickly looses it's "fun"

One quote from fishycicero's news post sums it up perfectly (Even if a sheeple did say it) :

"Two days, we thought it was fun. We camped out," said Williams. "Four days is long enough."

People seem to think they can instantly adjust to not having "conveniences", or that they'll adjust in a week or two... that's just not true in most cases.

I told twist "Day one is easy, you have adrenaline working for you.. it's day two that is the Beotch".. and it was.

We take modern "conveniences" so much for granted that we don't think about hot showers, ICE, cold drinks, water, air conditioning (which is more important than heat here in the south), instant ability to cook, clean, make things sanitary.. even being able to sit on the Toilet is a luxury we don't think about .... until it's not there.

Society has worked HARD to makes things easier and safer for a reason... the things we take for granted now used to kill people regularly or were a huge burden, so smart people worked HARD to come up with solutions. The fact that we take them for granted now doesn't make them less important.

Altruism is a noble concept, as long as it's not US having to be altruistic.

"And-Shout's" mom mentioned something that MANY of us here have said on the boards from time to time, "I just walked into the kitchen and flipped on the light switch and wondered why nothing happened for a second"...

That habit is VERY ingrained in us all... and it's an important habit actually because It saves time!!. We don't have to hunt around for matches and candles or mess with hot wax or burning curtains nowadays.. we simply flip a switch for light and get to work. How much time daily do we save simply flipping a switch instead of lighting candles and lanterns? That's saved time we can spend getting to the business of rebuilding.

The light switch is just one example of time saving... without power you spend a LOT of time doing mundane actions when you need to be using that time to clean up and repair damage.

How much time would be wasted heating water for a bath without a water heater? How many people even have an efficient way to heat that much water? What about washing dishes? The simple job of taking a bath or washing dishes etc goes from a 10 minute job to over an hour.

I think Robert Heinlein summed it up best (as he usually does, since he was a brilliant survivalist)

"Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few."

I'm sure everyone there will chime in when they get to a stopping point, Sierra, Delta, Skid, "and Shout" (Twist's wife), Marcinko, Bob, etc, etc, were still there working when I left...

Rubicon members are the Best!

Facta Non Verba!
(Deeds, not Words)

Thanks to everyone that helped out! You put your time, Money, effort and personal safety where your mouth is!

There's lots more I could say.. but you get the general Idea.

Have 4WD

Without these you'll be one of those hopeless faces I passed that were wondering "What will I do now? When will the "officials" come help me?"

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