You know the trumpets give them warnin’ “You’d better leave this place.” Now, no one thought of leavin’ ‘till Death stared them in the face. - from the traditional ballad, ‘Wasn’t that a mighty storm’
Woodshed Kings: Will you be the grasshopper or the ant? 092017 AE 1 For the Capital City Weekly You know the trumpets give them warnin’ “You’d better leave this place.” Now, no one thought of leavin’ ‘till Death stared them in the face. - from the traditional ballad, ‘Wasn’t that a mighty storm’

Cooperative Extension agent Sarah Lewis. Photo by Dick Callahan.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Story last updated at 9/19/2017 - 5:58 pm

Woodshed Kings: Will you be the grasshopper or the ant?

You know the trumpets give them warnin’

“You’d better leave this place.”

Now, no one thought of leavin’

‘till Death stared them in the face.

- from the traditional ballad, ‘Wasn’t that a mighty storm’

It’s National Preparedness Month! That exclamation point on the end was brought to you by Hurricane Irma. Due to the capriciousness of Nature 90 percent of homes in the Florida Keys were damaged or destroyed, but my brother’s little Key West conch house, which he says is built of cardboard over two-by-two studs, not only survived, the porch furniture was still on the porch. My brother wasn’t there to see it because his hurricane plan involves going to North Carolina. My aunt, who lives just inland of Tampa, rode Irma out in the wine cellar like Sir Richard Branson. Actually, she doesn’t have a wine cellar but she does have extra food, water, wine, a sturdy structure, etc. My brother and aunt both followed plans they’d made in advance for hurricanes. This month everybody in Woodshed Nation is thinking about contingency plans and supplies.

Start now. Don’t wait.

Waiting too long is something Galveston in 1900, September Floridians, the grasshopper in Aesop’s Fable, and most Juneauites have in common. In Galveston people ignored warnings from Cuba until a 15 foot storm surge rolled over the eight foot island and washed the bridges away. One-hundred-seventeen years later tens of thousands in Florida tried to evacuate Irma at the last minute when stores and gas stations were empty. Evacuation routes were packed. Drives that should take two or three hours took over 10 hours. When a car runs out of fuel from being stuck in traffic so long there’s nothing to do but abandon it and start walking north like Syrian refugees. Teaching the kids to avoid this sort of thing is why we read them Aesop’s fables.

Grasshopper and the Ant

After two and a half thousand years Aesop’s fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant is one of humanity’s oldest cautionary tales. The ant works hard storing food all summer. The grasshopper laughs at him and sings. When winter comes the starving grasshopper comes to the ant for food. The ant says, “You sang all summer, now you can dance.” and closes the door. Moral: Store up what you can before it’s too late.

Help in planning from our emergency preparedness community

Juneau held two excellent prepping events last week. The first was ‘Food Sustainability in Juneau’ a panel and audience discussion put on Thursday night by the Community Garden Organization, Cooperative Extension and Sustainable Juneau. Master gardeners, commercial gardeners and other speakers explained how the community gardens work and floated ideas of how we can expand gardening space in town. Here are a few take aways.1) Some vegetables do very well here and we can grow a substantial amount of food. 2) There is a lot of help available to beginning gardeners (This is true. Local gardeners are the Jehovah’s Witnesses of soil. They are happy to share). 3) The closer you live to your garden the more likely it is that your garden will be a success. 4) Start with one raised bed. When that succeeds add another 5) Juneau could use a community kitchen, like Sitka has, where people who don’t have room to prepare large amounts of food for storage, or who are first time canners, can go and do it.

The other event was the annual Juneau Preparedness Expo put on by the Juneau Local Emergency Planning Committee. The Expo, all day Friday and Saturday, featured responders like Capital City Fire and Rescue, Juneau Mountain Rescue, the Coast Guard, National Guard, Juneau Police Department, Alaska State Troopers, Red Cross and Salvation Army. In addition, the Cooperative Extension was there to talk about food storage and other things like how to save your frozen foods if the electricity goes down for a long time. Gastineau Humane Society was there to get people thinking about a plan for taking care of their pets in an emergency. BartlettHospital employees were there with the triage tent. KTOO had its portable broadcasting miracle box on display — it’s the size of a small generator and can broadcast from anywhere. Two gun merchants took part in the Expo — hunting for food and protecting yourself and family, including your food supply, is worth thinking about. Ham radio operators, NOAA weather personnel, the Emergency Medivac jet crews and many more took part. It was great to see them all together in the same building.

In emergencies, the best way for most of us to help these groups is by not being among the people they need to go help right away. How long we should be able to hunker down depends on who you ask and where you live. The national recommendation is to maintain a stock of everything your household needs for three days. Alaska, because we’re more remote, recommends a week’s supply. A month’s supply would cover most developments. Some groups, like the Mormons, advocate maintaining a year’s supply. What are the odds anyone would need that much? Maybe better than you’d think.

Cascadia earthquake: The Big Scary

Of all the disaster questions, the one that sticks out when you ask anyone involved in emergency planning for Southeast Alaska is, “What would happen in the event of a major Cascadia earthquake?” They pause a second, inhale, kind of look off into some internal vision and say something like, “Yeah, that would be really bad.”

Typically we think of disasters happening where we are and our plan involves an estimate of how long we’d need to maintain until help arrives from Outside. In the Cascadia earthquake scenario the disaster is a Seattle earthquake with a magnitude between 8.7 and 9.2 like the one that happened in 1700. Seismologists watch indicators for this closely. Potential increases and decreases periodically, and when the potential increases, the Seattle papers run the story on the front page. People become uneasy, then they let it go.

If Cascadia happens, Southeast Alaska won’t be anybody’s priority in Seattle and it shouldn’t be. Instead, we should be thinking about how we can help Seattle at the same time we’ve got interrupted barge service with no incoming food, fuel, clothing or anything for a month or more. At the very least we should be self-sufficient so we aren’t siphoning off their emergency resources.

Living where we do, the choice between being the grasshopper or the ant might be the choice between being a refuge or being refugees. Today is an excellent time to hit up our community resource groups for their expertise, figure out a plan and put it into effect in time to take advantage of today’s easy access to food, shelter and medicine.