July 9, 2014 at 1:00 am #18247
We all know what rush hour traffic can be in most any urban area and yet countless thousands get on the interstates anyway knowing that it’ll be more a slow moving parking lot than a highway. That people do this to themselves day after day all but assures us that come TEOTWAWKI, they will terminally clog the interstates. Preppers/survivalists really need to think through alternatives to the interstates even if it means taking side streets to exit urban/suburban areas and local roads in rural areas. Here are a couple examples of how the general public will make travel decisions when the SHTF:
The long Independence Day weekend that just ended predictably had some horrendous traffic jams caused by tourists heading back home. In the local paper there was a photo from Sunday afternoon of I91 southbound north of Brattleboro VT which was backed up for miles due to bridge construction in Brattleboro that all of those tourists had to pass through on their way north when they were starting their vacations. Those traveling south bound on Sunday would have seen signs warning of delays and they just kept driving into the traffic jam anyway. In the photo of the I91 traffic jam was Rt 5, a State highway (one lane each way) which parallels I91 pretty much the entire length of VT. There were no cars on Rt 5 in the photo. Had they gotten off 91 an exit or two before Brattleboro they could have maintained 45 – 50 mph on Rt 5 with no traffic at all vs coming to a complete halt on 91 for an hour.
On Sunday my wife and I were (in separate vehicles) coming home from a trip to NC. At one point in PA there is a choice of taking I78/I287 up to I87 in NY or I81/I84 up to I87. I chose I78/I287 and she chose I81/I84. From I87 we then cross over into VT near Albany, NY and continue on our way home. I87 is the primary route for the NYC Metro area folks heading up to the Catskills and Adirondacks. On Sunday afternoon they were all headed back home on I87 south. From below the intersection with I84 all the way up to Albany, a distance of roughly 80 miles, the southbound side was just creeping along and occasionally stopping altogether. The delay had to of been measured in hours. My guess is that Rt 9 which roughly parallels I87 was moving along at whatever its normal speed limits are. That so many thousands didn’t get off I87 when they first encountered the building traffic jam speaks volumes about the herd mentality. Meanwhile my wife got stuck in a bad traffic jam on I84 caused by an accident. It took an hour to get to an exit but then she got off onto a State highway that brought her over to I87 rather than suffer the rest of the traffic jam she had been in. We always have atlases in our vehicles, though on Sunday she used her phone to find an alternative route. In a SHTF scenario maybe the phone won’t work, hence always atlases in your vehicles.
Nobody should plan to get on an interstate when the SHTF, at least not in the Eastern half of the US, on the West Coast, or within a couple hundred miles of any major city anyplace else. Once on with a bunch of panicked people (vs tourists such as I described) you may not be able to get off.July 9, 2014 at 1:35 am #18250
Agree do not get in an interstate highway. We all need to study two to four ways out of the area you live and all need to be though roads that are not highways.July 9, 2014 at 2:14 am #18258
Approx. 5 miles to my west is the only bridge to Oklahoma without going to Paris (45 miles) or Denison (about 40 miles) Texas. Our group will get here using the county roads and cow paths! There is a back way out/in but actually 1 step up from a cow path. This area is just out in the middle of nowhere. There will be plenty trees dropped in strategic places to stop folks from coming in the front way.
RobinJuly 9, 2014 at 5:33 am #18261
A bit os Systems analysis here.
A lane of traffic at posted speed is good for ~3600 vehicles/hour. That’s a vehicle every 2 seconds. No Quantum Mechanics involved – it’s that prudent drivers generally refuse to drive closer than 2 seconds apart (though in cities they narrow this). When the traffic slows, for whatever reason 2 seconds of travel represents smaller physical distance, until the length of the vehicle becomes a large fraction of that 2-second spacing. A fold-back effect then occurs, and the lane’s capacity decreases to near 0 vehicles per hour – faster than you would think. The effect is that a traffic jam, once it gets going, feeds on itself because of this feedback effect.
Next, queuing theory. It was observed in supermarkets that people would come to the check-out counters with large orders and small orders, in essentially random fashion. The cashier had the capacity to check out one item every so many seconds – longer for large orders and so on. To the initial astonishment of the observers, when new customers arrived at the back of the line at a rate greater than about HALF the checker’s measured capacity, the line always grew without bound – the equivalent of spreading gridlock. The same behavior accrues to Internet traffic on a well-loaded Ethernet line, and for most every other queue you can posit. That would include choke points on a highway – and traffic slows up at particular places on some urban interstates I’ve seen, without apparent provocation. No problem when the road is running at 10% capacity, but provokes slow-and go that gets worse, when the road is at 50% capacity or greater.
Because people at the front of a jam tend to accelerate cautiously when they discover open road ahead, the front of the jam tends to move slowly forward, instead of backward into the jam. The only practical way to un-kink such a jam, once fully developed, is to starve it to death – don’t feed it with more cars (or trucks) at the rear end. It eventually evaporates if thus starved. Unless people in the middle start running out of fuel.
The alternate “road less traveled by” need not even go essentially parallel to the clogged route, if time is your metric of travel goodness. Consider an equilateral triangle. One of the legs is the clogged interstate. The other two legs are the alternate route. Twice the distance – at 10 times the speed – is 1/5th the time. Seems like a no-brainer on the scratch-pad, although looking at the atlas may cause you to shrink at first from the alternate route.
The alternate route IS much less likely to have a gas station every 15 miles, so it would be prudent to expect none and be pleasantly surprised. OTOH cars use fuel even when moving 5 mph, and the miles/gallon goes in the toilet – even more in slow-and-go than in constant-slow. And if there are 100,000 cars competing for gasoline on that clogged route, the pumps will eventually run dry, and the motorist is no better off than the one who ran out on the back road. More people to help, but nothing more that any of them can do. This happened on I35 and I45 out of Houston years ago when Hurricane Ike was about to come ashore. The above-mentioned fold-back caused the forward speed to drop to walking speed and thousands of vehicles ran out of gas that would not have, at highway speed. In not a few cases, there were gas stations within 10 miles off the Interstate, in small cities, whose underground tanks remained full during the whole exodus. None of the evacuating drivers knew where they were.July 9, 2014 at 3:37 pm #18296
Robin’s comment about cow paths is a reminder to actually drive the proposed routes, not just view them on a map. Back when we lived in Western MA I was concerned about potential State border closings and how I would get to our place in VT. What I did was view maps to identify all of the roads going into VT from MA, and then began to drive them. These were roads used only by locals and I figured would be very low priorities for any kind of border closure. Most were dirt roads and didn’t even have signs to indicate when you crossed the border. I only knew when I started seeing mostly VT plates as I came upon homes. There are lots of what are legally roads still from colonial days but which aren’t more than paths in the woods that vehicles can’t manage. In my testing of routes there was one time in which I thought I’d soon enough be backing up to get out of one of those situations but it turned out to be passable all the way still. Another time I thought I must have missed a turn because I was sure I was literally driving through someone’s farm, but it was in fact a public road. You can’t go fast on these country roads but you won’t encounter a traffic jam with panicked folks trying to flee the cities either.July 11, 2014 at 6:05 pm #18498
It sometimes drives my wife crazy, but I enjoy driving the back roads and it has paid dividends. I drove from Indiana to Alabama using only secondary roads. My wife and I both enjoyed it, and several times we were driving parallel to the Interstate. In some sections the Interstate was stopped due to an accident or construction while we cruised on by. Suspect the time differential between Interstate versus secondary roads was not great. Now add a SHTF scenario, and you are way ahead of the game with a lot more flexibility around any blockages.July 14, 2014 at 1:45 am #18723
Roadracer, that is a great idea to learn all the back roads so you will have many options out in a SHTF time.
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