If you were watching the news this past week, you likely saw mudslides shutting down some major roads in Southern California. Three to four inches of rain fell in a very short time, soaking parched mountain-sides devoid of the plant life that normally keeps it in place. The result: a wall of mud several feet high covering at least one major interstate (I-5) and several local highways. At the same time, a chemical spill closed yet another local highway. California's great Central Valley was effectively cut of from southern California for 24 hours.
Now, I don't want to be overly dramatic, because it was short-lived. Also, you could add 6 hours to your trip and go around the mess (although the single alternate route looked like a parking lot). No one died and the people stranded in the mud were eventually rescued from their cars. A lot of Central Valley folks did not make it to the Dodger game, but they lost anyway.
For the first time, however, I really took notice of just how easy it would be to cut my state in half. I spent some time studying a map of the area yesterday and was surprised at what I saw. If you wanted to derail transportation in the southern half of the Golden State, it would not take much.
I'm not talking about just flooding. That doesn't happen very often around here. We do have earthquakes from time to time and I've written before about what could happen if travel on Interstate 5 were disrupted. In the back of my mind, though, I've always been secure in the knowledge that there are alternate routes that could be used in a pinch. I'm not going to go through all of them because it would be tedious and I don't want to show a map either because I don't want to make it too easy for anyone looking to cause some havoc.
As I looked at these roads, many I am familiar with, I noticed how each road had multiple bridges. Some are short, some are much longer. A major earthquake epicentered north of Los Angeles might be enough to collapse a lot of those bridges or at least weaken them so they are unusable.
Earthquakes, you say? Sure, they do happen and a big one has been forecasted since I was a child. However, I can't help but think of how easy it would be for someone determined to cause trouble to bring down a half dozen of those bridges. This would disrupt transportation for weeks, maybe months, not hours. At certain times of the year, a great deal of agricultural commodities are transported back and forth along the corridor between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
I don't think it's in the vane of Gotham City in The Dark Knight Rises. We wouldn't be completely cut off from the world. But how much panic would there be when the store shelves are bare or just severely reduced? What will people do when McDonalds runs out of Big Macs? It doesn't task much to push people over the edge.
So what do we do? Well, we prepare obviously. Starting with a weeks worth of food and building from there is a great start. Electricity and fuel won't be too much of an issue for us in the Central Valley, but LA could be seriously impacted (SoCal loves us some cars).
Another issue is protection. People panic, some easily, some not so easily. You need a way to protect yourself, your family and your preps. Guns? Sure! OPSEC? Absolutely! Situational awareness? Definitely!
Edit: Sadly, the initial report that no one had died has now been shown as false. One body was found buried under the mud in a car and another was swept away in the flood and remains unknown.