This was submitted by a resident of Savannah, Georgia that chose to remain in the downtown area of the city and not evacuate for Hurricane Matthew. This is a good debrief written by someone who put a lot of forethought into their disaster planning. Still, after all of the planning it was only theory until truly tested. When the poo actually hit the fan were many “shoulda, woulda, coulda” lessons learned. Thanks for sharing.
Submitted by Sunman 21:
Before I forgot everything I wanted to list some surprises and observations about the recent Cat 2/3 hurricane that hit Savannah and what I can do to be better prepared the next time.
I continue to be astounded about the number of people who stayed who were seemingly completely and utterly unprepared to be without power for any length of time. Luckily I maintain 2 primary residences within the city of Savannah and a third “bug-out” residence at an undisclosed location a couple hours outside of Savannah, but more about that later.
First my primary daily residence is where I live almost all the time, this is where I keep my primary “bug-in” supplies, bug out bags, emergency supplies, etc. Unfortunately this location is very prone to losing power, just as it did early Friday morning before the Hurricane even hit the city. I started transporting essential supplies, basic food, water, liquor and a very well stocked “bug in” box to my secondary residence on Wednesday evening around 9pm, under the cover of darkness and heavily armed. By this time most everyone who was going to evacuate had already done so and everything was basically deserted, I just wanted to make sure no one saw the supplies and especially the firepower since I wasn’t actually going to be staying in residence #2 until the next day. I loaded in enough food and water for 2 people, I invited my temporary roommate to join me for the duration, more about that later, too.
I went to work the next day and left the office around 2pm, made a quick trip to my primary residence #1 to verify I had everything I needed and added a few last minute things just in case I was at the second location longer than anticipated. These extra items were things such as extra toiletries, bed linens and a machete, because you never know.
Upon returning to residence #2, which is in downtown Savannah, I chose to park in a deck on the 5th floor interior wall to ensure against wind damage/flying debris. I chose a deck a few blocks from my house instead of the one located adjacent to my residence because there were no trees at deck #2 and if the storm was bad enough I didn’t want to be blocked in the deck by fallen trees. If shit really hit the fan and I needed to get out of dodge I wanted to be able to drive as far as possible and not have to walk out.
My downtown residence is in multi-story, multi-unit building with a ground floor of retail. There was only one other unit in the building occupied, I didn’t make myself know to them until well after the storm had passed. I didn’t need anyone else to take care of and if they were tourists, which they were, they definitely didn’t have any supplies, water, etc. (they didn’t) I only made myself known because they were ridiculously loud and I needed some sleep. I approached them heavily & visibly armed and didn’t hear another peep. Period. I was nice but firm. I found out that they were tourists and needed supplies when I confronted them about the noise, I told them about what restaurants were open and departed without telling them my whereabouts in the building.
This secondary residence has 18” thick concrete/brick walls, is located on the 3rd floor of a 150+ year old building with no trees of any significance anywhere around. I had already confirmed with 3 separate GA Power executives that it would take a “cataclysmic” event for the building to lose power and even then for only 15-30 minutes. This is mostly due to the increased infrastructure after the city lost power on St. Patrick’s day in 2008. They were correct and the power only very briefly flickered, once. I utilize antenna TV at this location and we maintained coverage throughout the storm while all cable and satellite providers were down. We maintained strict light control at night for the night of the hurricane and the following night (Saturday) just in case there were zombies on the prowl. (see my statements below on the zombie invasion which followed the storm)
We maintained power, water, antenna TV throughout the duration, I left the residence daily and even ventured out during the early hours of the hurricane to visit a secondary evacuation point that I had pre-planned for. This location is also in downtown, about 4 blocks from my secondary residence #2 and has gas for cooking, a walk-in cooler/freezer full of water and food. It also has similar strength walls and fewer windows than my primary residence. Another major benefit is while it has 3 exits/entrances only one is glass doors, the other two are heavy steel doors and virtually impenetrable by average tools/means. The glass door is situated in a bottle neck and easily defended by just one shooter. There’s also a wooden deck which is immediately outside two of the main entrances (one steel and one glass). In a major situation this deck could be destroyed limiting access even further while still allowing exit through the 3rd door which is a heavily fortified rear entrance/exit that is hidden from the public. A 10k+ ft bar is located inside this location and utilization of this location would require me to defend the owner and his friends/family but that’s probably worth the trouble because of the security and supply aspects.
I chose not to go to my “bug out” house because it’s location on a major river and I’m not really sure how much, if any, flooding would occur in a Cat 2/3 hurricane. This residence is really for a different type of disaster and for long term evacuation. It’s located on a river which allows for fishing and trapping and has several acres for hunting. It’s also extremely isolated and most likely lost power and restoring would not be a priority because of its isolation. I have the food/water/camping/survival supplies there to stay for up to 6+ months but chose to stay at residence #2 because I was guaranteed power and didn’t anticipate a long term evacuation. It was a strategic decision that I would make the same way if this particular situation presented itself again.
Now for the roommate. I have a temporary roommate staying with me for 2-3 months. They really weren’t in my master prep plan. I planned for one person with no responsibility to care for or babysit any additional people. He didn’t hinder me in any way, he actually did everything I told him to do exactly when and how I told him to do it. However, he was a bit freaked out by my arsenal and the volume of ammo and guns that I brought and had scattered throughout my downtown residence. At first, he didn’t see the need for it at all but as the day(s) progressed and more and more zombies began roaming the street he asked me to take him to target practice after this is all over.
Zombies – not real zombies of course, but pretty much anyone out there who falls into the category of mindless sheep, the homeless, housing project dwellers and worst of all, the liberals who think the government is going to take care of everything for them. Savannah is absolutely overrun with all of the above, and seeing the aftermath of the hurricane only served to reinforce that truth. Before the storm hit, throughout the storm and especially the day following the downtown area was overrun with people aimlessly wondering around doing nothing, looking for a handout or looking to loot. They were literally everywhere. The “normal” citizens were outnumbered 10-1 most of the day Saturday, this really didn’t seem to be an issue until the McDonald’s opened for a brief couple hours and they all started to converge in one spot. I decided to stand in the line out of novelty and boredom. My roommate and I were the only non-zombie line standers, the remainder were growing more and more hostile as time progressed. We had been there about 15 minutes when the sharply dressed owner/Mgr came to the line and told everyone that he had to close because of the mandatory curfew. He was not met with physical violence but a smattering of verbal abuse to the tone of “whitey always trying to keep the black man down”, “we need to burn this place to the ground,” etc. Luckily the crowd dispersed without incident and the Mickey D’s lived to fight another day. Of course, I entered the situation fully armed with 2 handguns and a knife, hindsight being 20/20 I would have not put myself in that situation if I had known how hostile the zombies were going to be.
Another major consideration with this event is that almost every single hotel in downtown put every single guest out on the street on Thursday, the day before the hurricane. It’s my understanding that their insurance is invalidated if they allow guests to remain when a mandatory evacuation has been called. These hotels had several people who had come from the SC regions where the hurricane was supposed to be worse, some were locals from flood prone Southside Savannah and others were tourists. Many of the hotels that maintained services were much higher end but were operating on generators, which ran out of fuel around 10am on Saturday. These people then had to go home or find somewhere else that would take them. ALL hotels stopped taking walk-in customers by Thursday at 6pm, so only those with reservations were accommodated and then for only one night. Even the hotels that were open did not have the staff for regular services and none of them opened their restaurants. So, even though you had a room at a property with a restaurant that did still did not get you a hot meal.
I need to consider how much cash I need to have, as a rule I always have enough cash and a passport to get out of the county and live for a few days anytime I’m more than 2 hours away from home, even if it’s a day trip. I also keep a credit card with me that has a credit limit large enough to buy a small island but not every place will accept credit cards. But, since I was still in the city I might need to reevaluate how much I really need. In this instance all credit card machines were working in downtown when everything started reopening but that won’t be the case if I go to my “bug out” house or further. I also need to consider IF I take on additional guests or my roommate will I have to pay their way as well, will they have cash, do they have cash, I would venture to say in most instances I’ll have to take responsibility. The lines at the ATM machines downtown were substantial and many ran out of money. Nothing worked anywhere outside of downtown and those that had the ability to come down and get money did so. After Saturday, 6-8 hours after the storm, most machines were out of money. Of course there are options, many bars have them, some restaurants, if they have power, but if they’re closed then you have to make the decision if you need cash bad enough to Break and Enter to get it.
Some observations and considerations for future evacuations:
- I received numerous calls & texts from various people wanting to come “crash” at my place. In theory this would be ok. But, what if the power had been out for an extended period of time, did I have enough food for multiple guests, remember the residence was stocked for me and I already had a +1. What if these people had friends, what if I had been attacked because of what I had, would I have to defend them too, would they be the attackers, would any of them step up to defend me, themselves or our supplies. What if the power had gone off, would they leave, what if their power was delayed indefinitely, would they leave? What if they had no money to buy supplies when the time came, what if they were unwilling to part with it. These questions require a lot of soul searching and evaluation of resources.
- I actually began receiving calls from friends literally asking me if I had and food left, not “hello” or “are you ok” but immediately “Do you have any food left.” – of course I did, but for how long if I made that known.
- I maintained low light protocol, I was on the third floor behind a couple steel doors but if power was out long enough I could have been overrun or burned out, remember the first floor is high end retail and definitely a target for looters.
- I made a trip on Sunday to the Southside to check residence #1, it was safe, no power or water. On the trip I passed a grocery store with 300-400, maybe more, parking spaces which were all completely full. Remember the storm had only hit barely 30 hours earlier (Saturday morning at 4am) and the city had known for as much as 2 weeks that it was coming. Had this many people really stayed and not prepared? Was there really this many people out of food after only 1.5 days? The answer is YES, and what’s worse is that everyone there had to be people who stayed to ride out the storm because all roads into Savannah were still closed at this point, they weren’t even allowing evacuated residents back in yet. What would they have done if the power remained out 2 weeks or the grocery store hadn’t had a generator. Why were there still so many tourists in what few downtown hotels that remained open? Why hadn’t they left? What did they think they were going to survive on? Where did they think they were going to get food?
- I can’t emphasize enough how absolutely astonished I am that so many people stayed but didn’t prepare, even today I continue to see post after post on social media about going to the grocery store Saturday and Sunday and how packed it was and how empty it was. That tells me people had less than 2 days’ worth of food in their houses when a storm that they had known about for 2 weeks hit. What is the situation going to be when they can’t reopen immediately? Looting? Break and Entering, home invasion, murder, all of the above?
- On social media there were numerous calls for volunteers and food donations to help the homeless and indigent that the city evacuated on MARTA buses to surrounding cities, basically hundreds more zombies are about to be unleashed onto the city. Most of whom are being returned to the city on Monday (yesterday) where there was still no power or water to 75+% of the city. Why were they coming back so soon, where were they going to go, who was going to feed them, none of this had been planned out. Update: This morning there are numerous calls on social media for assistance in feeding these evacuees who have been returned to Savannah with no resources, no water, no power and in a lot of cases no homes. My temporary roommate, whose business is downtown, just called to tell me the downtown gas stations and convenience stores are overrun with zombies trying to get rides to the southside, food, coffee, etc. On a side note, I moved out of downtown this morning and back to residence #1 in anticipation of this onslaught of fresh new zombies.
- My roommate owns a large event company in town and received a call on Friday morning (less than 24 hours from the hurricane hitting us) from the local police benevolent society requesting access to his warehouse for food serving dishes, propane, chafing dishes, etc. The city had failed to prepare to serve food to their essential services employees that they required to stay in the city. Not only had they failed to plan for it, a non-profit had to step in or none of the first responders or essential services would have been fed throughout the entire ordeal.
- The vast majority of cleanup efforts that I witnessed throughout the city, around both downtown streets and the islands were all done by locals and residents, no city, state, federal, electric, etc employees were involved at all, if it was getting cleared and reopened ordinary citizens were doing it themselves. When I say the city of Savannah has done nothing, I mean absolutely I still have not seen the first city employee back at work. I’ve witnessed a few standing at press conferences but they’re all the city executives, not the day to day workers. We’re over 3 days out at this point and everything is returning to normal but not a single tree has been cut or street cleared by a city worker anywhere.
- I need to consider all the “friends” I had looking for a place to stay and food to eat and figure out how to handle that situation.
- I need to consider at what point I evacuate and how, via car, via private plane or other. I need to consider who I take with me and where do I go. I have a plan for a catastrophic national event, coup, etc but not something like this.
- I need to consider bringing a wider variety of proteins with me, chicken, beef, pork, etc.
- I need to stock more non-perishables at residence #2 and consider lowering the amount at “bug-out” house #3.
- I need to consider a plan to secure my entire downtown building and what that means.
- I need to establish a breakpoint when it becomes absolutely necessary to abandon residences #1 & #2 and head to Bug Out house or further.
- I need to consider what it’s going to take for me to consider it a “Catastrophic National Event” and at what point I’m willing to walk away from everything.
- I need to add additional sleeping bags/air mattresses and linens to residence #2 IF I’m going to take in friends.
- I need more basic toiletries at #2, I didn’t need them this trip but I had the ability to go to residence #1 after only 2 nights and I didn’t want to break into my bug out bag unless totally necessary (I also had an unexpected +1).
- I need to get new solar cell phone charges, the ones I have are for an older phone I replaced a few months back and I didn’t remember to get new chargers. I didn’t need them but you never know.
In synopsis, I’ve been reminded often during this ordeal of the morning in 2014 when I went to Crack Kroger on Gwinnett St in downtown Savannah and witnessed the shit show and aftermath of the EBT system being down for an hour, ONE HOUR. If you have any fantasy that our city/country is not overrun by government moochers and welfare babies then you’re in for a rude wakening. This city and especially Savannah proper is a smattering of “rich white people” completely and utterly surrounded by the worst dregs of society mixed with the genuinely needy. Many of these are the “people” that if worst comes to worst will cut your throat for a can of beans or pack of cigarettes. I saw the chaos and damn near rioting when their precious EBT was down for an hour, what’s going to happen when it’s down for a week, month or forever??Anything less than a full consciousness of this situation will lead to your failure to survive in this city during any major event. Be prepared, always update your Bug out lists and supplies and check your food stores, have a backup if city water goes down or you have no power for your well, decide who your friends are and at what point they become your enemies.
If you have any questions or comments please post them below. If you have your own list of “lessons learned” that you would like to share, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post it . Please include any relevant photos. Thanks.