Todd’s Note: I recently received the article below in an email from Michael R. He didn’t intend to send it to me as a potential article. He instead was passing along information that he had been thinking about, analyzing and trying to problem solve. I thought that his information was important to pass along, being that I haven’t seen the effort (actual numbers) put into explaining why freeways and roads will become impassible if major cities tried to bug out in an emergency situation. Michael makes a lot of sense. After thinking through his information, I believe it is even more important to be aware of what is going on and either move now or choose to bug-in. I don’t know if getting a jump start on bugging out will be possible. If you have to think about it, you might be too late!
The simple common definition of “Bug Out” is traveling… and more specifically, traveling from a densely populated area to a less densely populated area.
Have you ever thought about the minimum amount of time that the perfectly prepared family who has a Plan and has practiced evacuation would need to evacuate to a predetermined bug-out location? Yes, there are a lot of qualifiers in this sentence but work with me here.
Let’s start by setting up the parameters as a challenge.
First, the only criteria for our perfect family, who are all at home in their metropolitan suburb, is they will only need to grab the most urgent essentials like medicine, then depart their home and arrive at their bug-out location within 12 hours to beat the challenge.
Well, that’s an easy challenge to win. The fastest transportation is our fully-fueled vehicle, since we have pre-deployed our resources in advance, so we’ll simply jump in our vehicle and be there in a few hours.
But since we’re cautious people, we’ll do some risk assessments using the tried and true, “What ifs.”
What if our metropolitan city, in our case, Dallas, attempted to evacuate?
There are a lot of people in Dallas, but “a lot” is kinda’ vague. And only a few keystrokes reveals there are 451,000 houses in Dallas County.
A few more keystrokes reveals that each household has 1.8 cars, but it is reasonable to believe that an evacuation will cause families to travel as a unit in a single vehicle. So, let’s think that at most 451,000 cars will hit the streets. However, it is safe to assume that not all residents will evacuate, so I’ll reduce the amount by 20%, leaving the potential for 360,800 cars on the road.
OK, now some fairly uncomplicated criteria: a car is 16 to 17 feet long, plus you might add a foot or two to compensate for sharing the road with an unknown quantity of 73-foot long tractor-trailer rigs and the 50-foot long travel trailers that those “almost prepared” will attempt to escape in.
All of which equals about 6+ million feet of vehicles, add to that 1 million feet of trailers and another 1 million feet of bumper space (1.5-feet between vehicles) divided by the number of feet in a mile – 5,280 equals 1,500 miles of vehicles.
OK – where could those 1,500 miles of vehicles go? A safe answer is anywhere out of Dallas, but let’s stick to major, high speed, traffic arteries like Interstate Highways. Dallas has 3 Interstates, meaning 16 lanes of outbound roadways available for use in a mass evacuation of Dallas.
One additional fact: Studies of actual highway traffic have measured vehicle flow rates as high as 2,000 vehicles per lane, per hour, at a speed of 60 miles per hour.
In a perfect scenario, 360,800 vehicles at 60 MPH will take 200 hours to evacuate Dallas – the math is 2,000 vehicles per hour times 2-seconds per vehicle divided 60 will equal hours – you might want to leave early.
Here is the Total Breakdown
It ends up that you have 2,784 miles of vehicles wanting to occupy 956 miles of Interstate.
An omission that dawned on me as I was rethinking my premise – houses are not households – houses are houses – apartment are not included!!!
The Dallas Apparent Assn. says there are 201,599 apartments in Dallas county – but there is no average number of cars per apartment – the safest guess may be 1 car per apartment – add 40% to miles – so, 3,894 miles of cars wanting to occupy 239 miles.
Now if you think that everyone had a place to go – Mom & Dad’s house, a 2nd home, a farm or a camping place – and that they were evenly spread across the 6 major arteries out of Dallas, there would still not be enough road space
Figure it this way – 6 arteries times 4 lanes per artery times “X” miles – it doesn’t matter what “X” equals, the first bottleneck stops all traffic.
In an attempt to keep things simple, these thoughts were based on only Dallas County being evacuated and not any other city or town – not Plano, Frisco, Allen, McKinney, Garland, Arlington or Ft Worth. The compounding factor is simply beyond my simple premise. if you apply a simple advancement algorithm to the 11 counties that are 900 square miles each around Dallas county, the result is a multiplier of about 8 – instead of 3,000 miles of cars you have 30,000 miles of cars – my mind hit tilt way long ago.
Some cautious conclusions come to mind. It seems reasonable that in only 1 hour, cars leaving Dallas will be bumper-to-bumper or stopped on all paved roadways for 250 miles? Yep, total stop! Highways will become parking lots. The majority of people will be poorly prepared for returning home and unprepared to walk to continue their journey to a place of refuge, Add to that the idea that no relief vehicle could travel past the first creek because every bridge would be impassible from the people clustering around it for water, for family caregivers who won’t abandon the infirm or young.
Personally, I have come to the conclusion that it is mathematically impossible for a family evacuation to a bug-out location located within 300 miles of home without a head start of 12-hours.
FYI: The equations had no allowances for lane stoppages, accidents or breakdowns. (Care to make a side bet on the probability of no accidents from a panicked mob? Me neither.)
To me this says hunker down or leave early…
A Short List of Recent Evacuations in the U.S.
The following is a partial list of some of the larger emergency event population movements in the past 10 years. I did not include population movements for genocide, epidemics, famine, or armed conflicts/civil wars.
August 2005 – 484,000 evacuated due to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana. September 2005 – 3 million evacuated in Texas and Louisiana, including 2.4 million from Houston, Texas, due to Hurricane Rita. October 2007 – California wildfires forced more than 900,000 people in Southern California to evacuate. August 2008 – 1.9 million people evacuate coastal Louisiana, including New Orleans, for Hurricane Gustav. August 2011 – A mass evacuation stretching from North Carolina to New York is ordered because of Hurricane Irene and its size.
Current Situations. Bugging Out on Foot. More Questions than Answers
I am also perplexed at the current migration in Europe. How are so many people feeding themselves on a 2,600 mile journey? How are they traveling? Who is underwriting the costs associated with this migration? We know there is food for the migrants because there is no outcry about starvation. But where is the food coming from? On a daily basis, a million people consume an enormous amount of food. We know that ramping up food production takes months. Where is all this food coming from? Will the consumption of these food reserves cause a rise in food costs as producer stocks are depleted?
Todd’s Note: Michael gives us a lot to think about. What do you think? Feel free to leave your comment below. Click the links for more info. on bugging out, bugout vehicles or bugout bags. Also checkout these links – BOL and BOB.
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A whole lot to think about, and haven’t seen it addressed so far. Move early or hunker down, or you are camping on the interstates!
It really depends on the scenario… with a storm leaving early or hunkering down are definitely your only options. With a major Tsunami leave early or find alternative transportation (think plane/helo). With most violent disasters like a nuclear/chemical/biological attack even if you could bug out perhaps you ought not until you understand exposure risks.
However with many other scenarios like a pandemic, grid collapse, or economic melt down most people will be paralized because of normalcy bias and delay evacuation for as much as a week after basic infrastructure starts failing. Here you will have lots of time.
Also everyone must consider where they live relative to population centers and consider routes that may be available. I often check out forest roads, bike paths, and powerlines as possible escape route. I also have three or four routes pick out that take fron 5-10 hours to get where I am going depending on the amount of urban traffic I expect.
I once left a suberb of dallas(roanoke) going north on I35 on thanksgiving .It took 3 hours to get to Gainsville. No one was panicked,just going to grandmas house in Oklahoma!
Excellent, thought-provoking analysis. It will obviously be impossible to drive away from a city in a major disaster.
– Flying. Do you have a small plane available near your home? I don’t either.
– Boating. Do you live on a river that leads away from the city? I don’t either. Maybe you could keep a boat at a marina on a river and go there.
– Bicycling. Probably a more realistic alternative. Nearly impossible with very young children, elderly, obese or sick loved ones though. You’ll probably get your bicycles taken away by panicked evacuees.
– Walking. Slow but possible if everyone’s in good enough shape. You might try secondary roads, train tracks or overland.
Regardless of which transportation method you try, keep your gun handy. That big juicy backpack will look mighty tempting to a lot of scared, hungry, thirsty people.
Unless you’re absolutely forced to hit the road, bugging in looks like the most feasible option. Maybe if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle you could wait until the hordes of evacuees have dissipated, then try driving out.
Outstanding analysis, and without the rose colored glasses that so many people wear. In a full blown SHTF situation, cities are death traps. Moreover, the primary arteries leading away from major population centers will also be death traps. I once tried to analyze the evacuation probabilities for Manhattan Island (forget about the rest of NYC) and gave up. I agree with your conclusion that chaos will erupt within a single hour.
For those planning a longer distance bug out, consider also that if on a normal trip of time distance, say 21 hours, that the areas you will be getting to in say, 12 hours, may be your problem area not, your own bug out FROM, location.
When we evacuated South Mississippi for Katrina. We headed to Atlanta which is normally a 6hr drive, took us 12.5 hrs. That was 24 hrs before landfall.