No electricity? . . . a bonified Eagle Scout tells you how to BE PREPARED

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

One is never quite prepared for total darkness. This is why, for years, domestic terrorists have practiced maneuvers in the dark with night vision goggles.  Their dream is to knock out the power grid, so city folks will gladly accept the end of democracy in order to get their TV working again!

If an ice or snow storm doesn’t get you, a tornado, hurricane or flood inevitably will.  Almost everybody has experienced a period when a storm or a traffic accident knocked out the electrical service.  Generally, the power was back on within hours.  

However, it is a whole different world when the temperature is far below freezing and all modes of land transportation are shut down by ice or snow.  This article will especially focus on that dire situation.

The first part is an essay on human survival. It is interwoven with summaries of the sometimes humorous and certainly extraordinary experiences in my life as an Eagle Scout, in which I often had to make decisions that would determine whether I would live to fight another day.  Unlike the simplistic drivel one reads on the internet about emergency preparedness, these practical lessons for survival are based on actual, unanticipated events, which either were survived by prior education and planning or quick decisions that would have life or death consequences.  I have been inside the eye of a tornado three times and a waterspout tossed us out of our campsite on an uninhabited island. Not many people can say that. 

The second part of the article is a guideline for survival in natural or man-made disasters. You will learn specific preparedness and survival tips in a wide variety areas of concern, which are based on my own firsthand experiences.

The Winter Hurricane of March 1993

It was one of the most devastating storms of the 20th century.  During the week following March 13th, the US Army National Guard performed amazing acts of heroism that should receive the thanks of this nation forever.  

On March 12th a cyclonic storm formed over the Gulf of Mexico and started rapidly moving northward.  This was not hurricane season, so few people took notice at first, even though there was an outburst of F1 and F2 tornadoes in northern Florida.  The National Weather Service did take notice, however, when Union County, GA (where Track Rock Gap is located) reported 35 inches of snow on the ground and 55 mph winds.

By then it was too late for hundreds of hikers and campers in the North Carolina and Georgia Mountains. Most thought that they could expect beautiful early spring weather, when they departed for the Appalachians.  A group of 218 students from Michigan had worn shorts and shirtsleeves for a camping trip in the Smokies, thinking evidently that they were headed to a balmy climate like beaches in Florida.

The storm struck suddenly.  High winds flattened or blew away tents.  There no chance for most people to get out of the mountains, even if they were camped next to four-wheel drive SUV’s.  In horrific weather conditions, National Guard helicopters were able to air lift over 300 people from rugged, heavily wooded mountains slopes . . . most assuredly saving their lives.  Some bodies were never found, but definitely a total of 208 people died in the Appalachian region of the eastern United States.

On our farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, we had 36” of snow with 15 feet drifts against our barn.  During the blizzard, the wind howled at up to 60 mph, punctuated by lightning strikes, which emitted eerie blue flashes.  Although parked under a shed, my tractor was covered in snow for over two weeks.  It was 2 ½ weeks before I could free the tractor and scrap our driveway.  Until then I had to cross country ski to either Bakers General Store in Mt. Olive or the Virginian Truck Stop on I-84 to get provisions.

The fuel oil furnace would not operate without electricity. We did have a wood stove and a huge colonial fireplace to keep our pipes from freezing. We used both heat sources for cooking. We eventually ran out of stored firewood, so I had to pull a sled into the woods at the rear of our farm, and saw dead tree limbs into fire logs.  We survived though, while thousands of other families in the Virginia Mountains had to walk on foot to emergency shelters with generators.

Other survival experiences

Eagle Scout!

(1) Boy Scouts: At age 11 I joined a group of fellow Scouts from Troop 26 in Gainesville, GA as we hiked on the Appalachian Trail for over two weeks.  At that tender age, I had to learn how to cook my own food and wash my own clothes. Mommy and Daddy were not there to take care of me.  I also had to avoid stepping on rattlesnakes on the trail, which I once didn’t do. Fortunately, I was prepared and was wearing high top boots, that the viper’s fangs couldn’t penetrate. This beautiful journey also garnered enough merit badges so that a few months later I would be awarded the lifelong status of Eagle Scout. However, by then, I was 12 years-old and we were living in Metro Atlanta, so it was credited to Troop 249 in College Park. At that time, I was one of the youngest Eagle Scouts ever.

Scouting can either be something that one did in that juvenile stage of life or set the pattern for the rest of your time on earth. The personal impact rests solely on the individual.  That is what makes Scouting so different than most other influences on a young person’s life, which typically rely on submission to other’s authority, psychological manipulation or peer pressure. The young man or woman is charged to place their reverence for God and the welfare of others above their own welfare . . . no matter how many other people have chosen a different path. It is an individual responsibility that transcends the efforts of others to manipulate you to their dark path.

Castaways on an uninhabited island!

(2) Castaway: At age 22, two fraternity brothers and I went on a sailing adventure in which we were supposed to link up with three nursing students sailing from Darien, GA in their daddy’s cabin cruiser then party on an uninhabited island on the South Atlantic Coast.   Instead, a water spout, spawned by a hurricane, which suddenly changed direction, wrecked our sail boat and we became castaways on the island.  We had to live off the land for 2 ½ weeks, because sea water had shorted out our marine radio. The gals had the sense not to head Daddy’s cabin cruiser into a storm. Oh, did I mention that there was no potable water on this 21-mile-long island?  We will talk about that later!

(3) Mountain Farmer: Just being a professional farmer in a remote Appalachian Mountain farm is a survival experience in itself.  However, on January 15, 1985 the temperature unexpectedly dove to -25 ˚F.  The snow storm also knocked out the electrical power.  That century old farmhouse had no insulation. The temperature stayed below zero for several days.  Our only source of heat and cooking was a big Buck wood stove.  That was not a fun time.

(4) Hurricane Katrina: It was two weeks after one of the nation’s worst ever natural disasters. When officials of the Muscogee-Creek Nation learned that the Houma Indians were getting virtually no aid from FEMA, I was asked to drive down to southern Louisiana to help the Houma build emergency shelters out of the materials from their destroyed houses.  It was extremely difficult even to get to New Orleans, because most road accesses had been destroyed.

I couldn’t handle this any longer.

I beheld a vision of the apocalypse. One could see how quickly modern civilization would collapse in the absence of electricity.  The soldiers wouldn’t let me go south of New Orleans, but asked me to use my dogs to help find bodies. I had to camp out on a sandy band of dry land between Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico. There was very little water available and no portable toilets.  The nearest gas station was a 58-mile drive.  The dogs and I did find some bloated human cadavers, but mostly found dead dogs, cats and deer.  I couldn’t handle the situation anymore with the smell of dead flesh permeating everything.  I left after a couple of days and still have nightmares from the experience from time to time.

I went down again to New Orleans in late February 2006.  I first delivered proposed plans for the restoration of the Bywater Neighborhood to the Architecture Department at Tulane University.  The city was almost depopulated except for a ritzy area along St. Charles Ave. near Tulane. Otherwise, New Orleans had changed very little other than the piles of garbage everywhere. The nearest working gasoline pump was now 34 miles away.

With eyes wide open in astonishment, I drove 21 miles through endless miles of desolation to reach Slidell, Louisiana to carry out a study of modern reinforced concrete houses, built to the latest hurricane codes, which were left as piles of rubble. The apocalyptic scene was identical to that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs were exploded.  After measuring the pattern of debris, I concluded that a line of maelstroms (under water tornadoes) had been created as a 28 feet deep wall of water swept through the coastal areas of Slidell.  The reinforced concrete structures were not designed to resist such centrifugal forces.

By then what few Houma Indians remained were in FEMA trailers.   I drove back home during the night, because it was obvious that my help was no longer needed on the Houma Reservation. It didn’t exist anymore.

(5) An ice storm, no electricity, a tornado and a plague of rats:  In early March 2017, violent storms with gale force winds swept through the Southern Appalachians.  In our area alone, thousand of trees were blown down.  So many power lines were shorted out that the county’s main electrical transfer station blew up.  When the lights went out and the well stop running around seven in the evening, I immediately went outside in the torrential rain and placed open plastic coolers at key locations where water was pouring off the cabin’s metal roof.

During the night, the torrential rain was replaced by freezing rain and then sleet. The icy roads were impassible to the legion of electrical coop trucks and county work crews, who were trying to remove the trees from roads and reinstall electrical-telephone service.  It would be 2 ½ weeks before the regional electrical transfer station was repaired and service was restored to customers living near major highways.  I was one of those fortunate people near a highway.  Some families didn’t have electricity, well water and telephone service for a month.  The stores ran out of bottle water. Water was no problem for me. I had plenty of stored rain water in reserve. My wood stove kept the pipes from freezing.  I cooked on my wood stove and so survived.

Shortly after I had electric power again, an unpredicted tornado swept down from the north, tearing half my roof off.  The front half of the cabin was drenched, but I had electric power, because the service was underground. Unfortunately, my landlord, rather than repairing the roof properly, instructed his employees to pick up the pieces of the roof and wood framing then tack them back on the structure.

The cabin leaked like a sieve from then on.  When I complained, the landlord said that I could leave anytime I wanted.  He was tearing down the cabin as soon as I left.  Until I could figure out a means to get elsewhere on a limited income, the cabin became infested with rats.  I personally killed 127 of them between August 2017 and early May 2018.  About a dozen more were killed by snakes slivering in the walls and on the floors.  Unfortunately, I also killed one black snake in a rat trap. They were Wood Rats, which lived in the forest, but came in the house at night to play, by scampering up the walls and slipping in the holes in the roof left by the improper tornado repair.   I do not recommend that anyone open up a home for wayward rats.

(6) Tornado number 3:  Late in the afternoon on Good Friday, April 10, 2009, the sky turned dark, but I was busy on the phone with a precast concrete manufacturer, working out construction details for the Trail of Tears Memorial in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I shifted my computer screen to WSB TV’s weather webpage.  There was a line of red on the doppler computer screen west of Jasper, but only a thunderstorm warning.  I thought I heard the sound of a jet engines, but since the tornado siren near me was not blaring, I assumed that it was just an Air Force cargo plane, flying low overhead.  They often did that on training missions.

Exactly at 6:30 PM, the beginning of the Jewish Passover, I looked out the window to see a wall of grayish-white on the hill across the street from my house then all hell broke loose. Limbs, garbage cans, chunks of chicken houses, etc. went whizzing past the window of my home office.  Then I was inside the eye of a tornado looking at its inner wall.  It was too late to run to the basement with the dogs.  I just stood there in awe.

 The tornado hit my house directly, it didn’t “pass over.” Yet the only real damage to the house were some tree limbs that had punctured my roof.  However, houses on the north side of the funnel about an eighth of a mile down the street were devastated.  The lesson learned was that no matter how busy you are or what the weatherman says, pay attention to what’s happening outside your building. 

(7) Lightning:  It’s only other people, who are unlucky enough to be hit by lightning, while foolishly walking outside in a thunderstorm . . . or so I thought.  On July 5, 2019 I was hastily trying to answer emails because a thunderstorm was approaching from about three miles away.  I always cut off my computer in a thunderstorm – you know – Be Prepared. 

Without warning, a violent jolt of electricity came up through my legs, went up my body, shocked my heart then jumped from my right index finger about three feet to the computer, burning it out.  About four seconds later, a larger bolt came out of the floor, burned a hole in the ceiling then exploded in a ball of light.   That one knocked me out.  It also wiped out all my computer peripherals and caused a box of lithium batteries to explode.  I woke up on the concrete floor of the office to the yelping of my dogs, who were also electrocuted from the floor.

This architect learned a lesson that he was never taught in school.  Lightning can also come up from the ground in the right kind of geology and if weather conditions are right.  Reinforced concrete slabs are excellent conductors of static electricity.  It’s different than the AC that runs through wiring.  In fact, the lightning never even entered my home’s wiring system.  Two circuits were knocked out by the explosion of electromagnetic particles – aka radio waves, but did not actually conduct the lightning. 

Our houses sit atop an ancient volcanic caldera. The caldera can develop excessive electrons. An old volcanic tube will conduct electrons long distances.  The EMT told me that in the spring of 2019, a young woman had been killed by ground lightning, while taking a shower at a campground.  The nearest thunderstorm was five miles away.  He said that the fact that I was wearing hiking shoes with heavy rubber cleats probably saved my life.  The cleats were melted, but I survived.  I had memory and walking problems for about two months and the skin peeled from my legs, but I was alive.  Lesson learned.  It is now recommended that homeowners vacate to the second floor of a house during a lightning storm, if their first floor is reinforced concrete.

My campsite on Wolf Creek in Union County, Georgia


(8) The most dangerous threat of all, human predators:  Of course, there is the experience ten years ago of having three days-notice of being evicted on Christmas Eve.  It was the ultimate test of survival in all its many aspects.  However, this was no accident or bureaucratic oversight.  Lots of people knew that the Boss Hoggs were making an example of what would happen to people, they couldn’t control.

 A little over an hour after officially becoming homeless and in another state, I was coming out of the Ingles Supermarket in Murphy, NC.  A North Carolina state patrol car pulled up beside me.  The trooper rolled down his window and grinned.  He then said, “Boy, we gonna tetch you respect for awtority (authority). You don’t want to know what I was thinking in my head, but fortunately did not vocalize it. 

It would take two full size books to describe everything that has been done to me over the past 22 years by homegrown Nazis, but I can tell you that there seems to be a definite targeting of Native Americans with Special Ops or Intelligence military training. The targeting is particularly evident among Apache, Seminole, Creek and Chickasaw men and women.  These tribes have a reputation for producing consummate warriors, who are smart and stay cool under fire.  I know of a Creek man, with lots of Special Ops combat experience, who has had it far worse than me. 

For me, the ordeal began in 1997.  I was very much in love with a beautiful Sumatran lady, who I met in a Methodist Sunday School class.  My mother adored her as a daughter. I was waiting for her to finish graduate school before we married.  We were attending Trinity United Methodist Church in Cartersville and were treated very warmly.  The church’s leaders had even invited Julie to establish a music studio inside its facilities. Julie and her brothers were US citizens and Methodist Christians.

Then, all of a sudden, total strangers at Tabernacle Southern Baptist Church began attacking us from every angle.  They went to the feds and told them that Julie was a Communist Chinese spy.  Weird things started happening to her family and children. They assumed that I was a Marxist, since we were together, plus somehow extended that delusion to me being a pervert.  Next thing I know, a deacon in the church, who looked like Porky the Pig, was following me around Cartersville, telling folks that he was an FBI agent investigating me. I found out because he made the mistake of telling that to two covert FBI agents in a storefront operation in Downtown Cartersville.  Then a neighbor across the street, who was a member of that same church, video-taped me as I was mowing my lawn.  I asked her what she was doing and she responded, “There are cops all over this county.  If they don’t get you, we will.”

The problems brought onto her family deeply disturbed Julie as intended. However, she was always very kind and loving with me. When she broke up with me . . . with tears in her eyes . . . she did it for the future welfare of her two children.  Caucasian Georgia cops seemed to have no shred of decency, when it came to committing political crimes on behalf of the Party. She said that she would always think of me and the love we had, whenever she heard the musical theme of the movie, “Titanic” . . . “My Heart Will Go On.” In honor of that once happy time in my life, the song is available at the end of this essay.

Keep in mind that I had a very high public profile in Cartersville. I was on the Bartow County Planning Commission and the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, plus was restoring Bartow County’s most famous historic buildings and a featured writer for Cartersville Magazine. 

Then, a stranger pulled up beside me in his pickup on a one-way street and hollered. “Richard, we are going to kick your butt.”  I immediately drove to the Cartersville Police Station with his tag number and was shocked to learn that he was the police chief!

ASAP I sold my house and moved over 50 miles away to booming Pickens County, GA. Soon after I moved there in June 2000, strangers began telling me that I would have no money, no work, no friends, no girlfriend, no wife and no children unless I joined the Republican Party. Like most surveyors, engineers and architects, I avoided partisan politics, because I did not want to alienate any particular “brand” of client.  I told these strangers to go to you-know-where

Pickens County is in Georgia’s Ninth Congressional District and is now represented by Doug Collins.  You might recognize his name from recent national newscasts.  

I thought that these people, making those threats, were crazy, because until then Pickens had a reputation for being a politically moderate, booming, multiparty county, where people got along. Its downtown was thriving.   

The strangers, who threatened me, probably were crazy in a spiritual sense, but what I didn’t realize was that the Devil had come down to Georgia. Nine is the most sacred number for neo-satanic occultists. The Ninth Congressional District had become a laboratory for testing various technique for controlling the masses in anticipation of expanding the techniques to the nation . . . with one party and a tiny elite that would control the wealth. It would officially be guided by a fake version of Christianity, waving miniature American flags and unread Bibles, which Jesus would have condemned voraciously.

In 1992, the Rev. Billy Graham wrote the book, Storm Warning, which was an account of a vision he had experienced in 1991.  Without really understanding his own words, Graham prophesized the rise of an authoritarian, fake Christian, beast in the United States that would suddenly collapse not too long after it had achieved national power. I find it very interesting that his son, Franklin. does not like to discuss this book and it is often left off the list of books marketed by the Graham organization, now under his control.

Very soon, the moderate head of the county Republican Party died in a strange one car accident, caused by his brakes failing.  Soon thereafter, the moderate, 38-year-old head of the county Democratic Party was poisoned at a restaurant and went into a catastrophic stroke. Formerly, a brilliant attorney, she was left with the mind of an 8-year-old. Moderate, rational representative democracy was quickly replaced by an alliance of ignorant Nazi’s, evil occultists and organized crime.

“Law enforcement” officers began harassing me seriously in September 2000 . . . initially by calling up women I had dates with to tell them that I was a serial killer. The first time, I was shocked when a gal I met on an internet dating site told me that she had been warned on the phone not to go out with me by state and Pickens County law enforcement officers because I was a serial killer.  

These jackasses even joined us on our date.  Three of them leered at me as we ate dinner at a restaurant in Cartersville, GA.  The lady even recognized one of their voices. Thereafter, most of the women I met on dating sites complained of getting calls from law officers.  That made me hero with some of them, but then they would get phone threats from cops that her children would pay dearly if they went out with me again. 

Over the next nine years, Georgia state law enforcement officers repeatedly showed up in person when I had first dates with ladies or when I had meetings with architecture clients in public locations. One time, I had a date with a neurologist at a ritzy restaurant in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.  Two uniformed, bleach-blond Georgia Highway Patrolmen stood at the end of our table, grinning, until the doctor became so uncomfortable that she asked to leave.  I never heard from her again. 

Three years later, a Creek Indian professor from Oklahoma was visiting with me while on vacation. We went out to a barbecue restaurant. A few minutes later, six deputies at the Pickens County Detention Center plopped down at the table beside us. They began talking loudly about what they were going to do to me, when they got behind bars. Cheryl asked me if all the Georgia Crackers was as stupid and crude as these creeps. I responded, “Now you know how why so many Creeks took new jobs in Oklahoma back in the 1830s! ”

Would you believe that two car loads of crackers from Pickens County, GA followed Cheryl ALL the way back to Oklahoma . . . trying to run her off the road several times and pulling beside her car to make racial slurs.  Once she got in the territory of the Creek Lighthorse Police, she called for help.  They dispatched two former University of Oklahoma football players, who cornered the creeps in a Waffle House.  The Creek officers asked the visitors to their state how they would like to return to Georgia . . . right now in their cars, or later in rubber bags.  The visitors elected to immediately drive back home, where the home cops were more supportive of their values.

In autumn, 2001, two weeks after Homeland Security Administration was created by Executive Order, one of their agents called up all seven of my municipal clients and told them that I was agent for Al Qaida.  No one believed them, but were threatened with loss of federal grants, if they kept me as a consultant.  So within a one week period in November, I lost about 2/3 of my professional income, due to cancelled contracts. 

When I finally got a shelter over my head again, by moving to a ramshackle old cabin in Lumpkin County, deputies and state law enforcement officers began spreading rumors that I was both a homosexual and a predator of college coeds.  The University of North Georgia is located in that county.   Of course, that is a very unusual combination of human fallacies, but Nazis don’t let facts get in the way of their lust for total control of everybody. 

Thinking that if I started life over again in a nice neighborhood of prestigious Habersham County, the lies would leave me behind, but rogue law enforcement officer, all of them Southern Baptists, started it up again, but on an expanded basis.  Even while I was moving here, two different county sheriff’s departments had tapped my phone and were investigating me for being now, A HOMOSEXUAL PROSTITUTE and A PREDATOR OF TEENYBOPPER GIRLS. 

A female Habersham County deputy, who is a spitting image of the notorious German NAZI war criminal Irma Grese, stalked me for over a year, trying to find a crime to charge me with. She would plant bubble-headed, bleach blond teenyboppers in pickups next to my parked car at Walmart . . . while her crime-busting team videotaped me from a not so skillfully hidden van.  I guess she was thinking that I would pounce on the girl or something, like all heathen, who are not Southern Baptists.  She would also park her patrol car or personal pick-up behind the blueberry bushes on my property, thinking that I couldn’t see her. Hm-m-m Neo-Nazi white trash girls wouldn’t have appealed to me, even when I was their age in high school. Quite a few of my old girlfriends or classmates from high school are subscribers to this website. That pretty much tells you about the people I had and have as friends.

It’s still going on.  Just the other day, an attractive lady (much older than a teenybopper) came up to me at a supermarket and introduced herself.  She had seen me on the Travel Channel program.  She touched my forearms several times (that’s body language to let me know, she wanted me to call her).  I looked her up on the internet that night to make sure she was single, but never had a chance to call her.  The next day, some law enforcement agency called her boss, who then informed her that I was a known stalker and rapist.  That agency, whoever they were, offered to place an officer at her home to protect her from me.  American taxpayers are supporting the lifestyles of some real loonytunes out there in bureaucracy land.

Well, I would hate to be these “law enforcement” officers, when they face judgment before God.  There is going to be a trap door beneath their feet.  But at least you know when I say I have survived everything imaginable, I mean EVERYTHING!

A Guide to Surviving Natural & Man-made Disasters


Although humans can survive without artificial light, Americans have become used to an abundance of electrical lighting in their homes, flood lights illuminating their yards and street lights illuminating.  What I have seen over and over again, is that many Americans panic in the absence of artificial light, energized by electricity.  They then make irrational decisions on real issues of survival, which inevitably lead to their destruction.

I will be honest.  My former wife and I freaked out when we moved from an affluent neighborhood in Asheville, NC to a remote farmhouse on Blackberry Inn Road at the head of the Reems Creek Valley.   We would look out the windows at night and see black!   We soon signed a contract with the power company to install an area light (essentially a street light) near our home, which illuminated everything within a 250 feet radius.  It made sleeping much easier.

If you don’t have them already, you should purchase several flashlights and lanterns that don’t require short-lived batteries. Before these off-the-grid devices became readily available and inexpensive, my battery flashlights would inevitably go dead within minutes of the power going out.

The best type of off-the-grid lights to get have both a wind-up generator and solar panel.  With these, you can just store them near a window and they will immediately illuminate your path, when the power goes off, without having to wind them up. 

Christmas Morning – December 25, 2010

Basic survival equipment

  1. A bag of propane lighters and a friction type fire starter
  2. Small grill, bag of charcoal and charcoal starter (for cooking in wet weather)
  3. Sleeping bags rated to -10 F or lower + adequately sized tent
  4. Camping cookware set, stainless steel eating ware + picnic coolers
  5. Four bottles of anti-bacterial dishwashing detergent-hand soap
  6. Extra quilts and pillows in wintertime + waterproof tarpaulin
  7. Hunting knife, pocket knives, hatchet/axe and army-type folding shovel
  8. Solar-hand crank powered multiband radio, walkie-talkies + several solar-hand crank operated flashlights and lanterns.
  9. First aid kit, several bottles of peroxide, several tubes of anti-biotic
  10. One or more 5-gallon drinking water containers
  11. Towels, hand towels, 2 or more plastic basins + red flag for signaling helicopters
  12. 22 LR semi-automatic rifle with at least 100 rounds of ammo.
Water, water everywhere, but a drop we could not drink!


Most humans will die without water in about three days.  Obtaining water is not a problem in most of the United States. However, these days and in most regions, stream and river water is contaminated with pathogens, so it must either be boiled or purified with chemicals.  I’d rather boil than put chemicals in my body, but there are several brands of chemicals available in the camping sections of department stores, online with or at an outdoor recreation store like REI.

Water was definitely not a problem while I was homeless. In most locations, where I camped, I could just stick my hands into a stream like a caveman and lap up the water, without any concerns for pathogens.  In the winter, I sometimes had to melt snow, because it was not pleasant to stick one’s hands in a semi-frozen stream.

Now when I was a castaway on Cumberland Island, before it was a national park . . . that was another matter.  There was not a drop of potable water on the island, and we certainly couldn’t drink seawater.  We knew that our bottled water wouldn’t last long, so we rigged up several devices for catching rain water or condensing dew.  We lashed what was left of the sail to trees so the rainwater was channeled into plastic coolers. 

We noticed that water condensed on the inside of our tents at night.  That gave us an idea.  We used saplings to make our deflated rubberized life raft into a “mirrored reverse” tent. At night dew would collect on the lower side of the life raft then trickle down to the middle, where it dropped into a picnic cooler.  We might get a quart of water a night, but that was a help during a period when there was no rain. 

First Aid

Self-administering first aid:  Within about a month after I was beaten up, but fortunately after Roger was sending me money, I became very ill from an infection in my jaws and lips. It had spread into my bloodstream. No doctor or dentist would treat me in Western North Carolina, because I had no medical insurance, was homeless and couldn’t give the name of a single friend.  

I then went to the county library to use their public computer.  I could tell that the librarians were thoroughly grossed out by the bruises and cuts on my face, but there was nothing I could do about that. I ordered and overnighted a US Navy Combat First Aid Manual and a US Navy Corpsman’s Combat First Aid Kit from The First Aid kit contained needles for sutures, plus antibiotics and syringes.  I guess I broke somebody’s law by sewing myself up, giving myself a broad -spectrum antibiotic and pulling two of my teeth, but otherwise I would have died of septicemia . . . so probably, God will forgive me for breaking the law.

EVERYONE should own a first aid manual, which is designed for situations when professional medical care is unavailable.  Most of these types of manuals are published by branches of the US Armed Forces. The vast majority of first aid books just carry information that most people know anyway. The US Navy manual also had very specific information on how to survive frigid conditions after a plane crash or shipwreck, so it was especially useful to me.

I sent Julie this photo so they would know where to find my body!

Security against night time threats

There is another type of off-the-grid light that I strongly recommend.   Not too long after I was homeless, three men came up to my camp one night in the snow and beat the you-know-what out of me with baseball bats.  I was under six quilts and had pillows wrapped around my head, so the only real damage was done to my mouth, teeth and nose, which were exposed in order for me to breath while asleep.

Thinking that I soon would be dead, I sent an email to Julie, along with a view from my campsite.  I didn’t tell her that I was actually showing people where to find my body.  As it turned out, I quickly evolved into the Creek warrior of my ancestors.  Subsequent attacks on my camp during the remainder of the year, did not turn out well for the attackers.

A special type of off-the-grid light: The purchase, which radically changed the outcome of future attacks on my campsites, was a solar-powered, motion detector floodlight. All bears and wild boars would flee when the light clicked on. Most humans fled, when the light came on and then beat my conga drums.

These lights can provide extraordinary security for houses when the electric power goes off.  They are available from Home Depot and Lowe’s for less than $50. carries an even wider selection of these off-the-grid security lights, but some are more expensive. All are designed to be mounted to the sides of the house, columns or cornices.  I merely screwed the device into a tree near my tent at each campsite.

Off-the-grid electrical sources

Generators: Many people, especially in hurricane zones, are now buying compact, gasoline-fueled generators for their homes. Some home generators are large enough to even keep an air conditioning system going, but most are only capable of supplying lights, the refrigerator and a television. 

There is one big problem with gasoline generators. That is getting more gasoline, when your supply runs out.  If the power goes off, there is no electricity to run the fuel pumps at convenience stores.  Unless the store also has a generator, you won’t be able to run your generator.  Of course, this is not a major obstacle if only the power lines in your neighborhood are dead.  However, in a situation like when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, most of the metropolitan area was without both electricity and gasoline for almost a year.  

Solar Power:  The new, inexpensive solar panel generators are an excellent source of electricity, if the sun is shining.  They take longer to charge the batteries to full capacity than other means, but they do charge the batteries.

The miniature solar collectors on handheld devices are virtually useless outdoors in the winter.  However, they can charge up fairly quickly inside of a house at window facing a sun, not covered with clouds.

Human Power:  The most dependable off-grid electricity in all times of the day and in all weather conditions are hand-turned generators. In the most efficient devices today, one must turn the crank for eight minutes to obtain a bright light for one hour.


It is a standard joke in the lower half of Dixie that if the weatherman predicts more than a half inch of snow, everyone rushes to the store to stock up on “bread and milk.”  We had no time to suddenly stock up on food, when the Superstorm of 1993 dashed northward during the night between March 13th and March 14th.  We went to bed with a TV forecast of light snow some time the next day, but woke up to a raging blizzard.  

Certainly no one in western Virginia, anticipated that we would be trapped in our homes for over two weeks.  Fortunately, being on a farm, we tended to buy commodities in bulk and also owned a large freezer.  We had plenty of frozen meat and vegetables in the freezer . . . enough to last two months of isolation . . . but we did quickly run out of things like bread, milk, mayonnaise and ketchup.  LOL That’s why I had to strap on my back pack and cross-country ski to stores nearer to the interstate to get provisions.

A freezer is a great way of saving money by stocking up on freezable food items, when they are on special in the supermarket.  Freezing also enables one to preserve vegetables and fruits from the garden or from a nearby farm market.  Of course, the freezer also solves the problem of having food on hand in emergencies. 

Freezers should be placed in separate, unheated rooms.  You don’t want your freezer compressor using electricity to counter the energy expended to heat your house.  Also, if the power goes off in the winter, mother nature will do your cooling for you.

Many basic survival foods required no refrigeration. These include brown rice, a wide variety of dried beans, freeze dried potatoes (typically sold as potatoes au grautin,  complete freeze-dried meals for campers, canned soup, canned meats, jerky,  sun-dried tomatoes, etc,  What I found out, though, was that unless you stored these items in waterproof, airtight plastic containers,  they would not last nearly as long as in a home.  The problem is the constant humidity that one lives in at a campsite. Dried items will mold inside their packages and canned goods will rust.


Every year people in the United States freeze to death as a result of their car being trapped in a rural area during a snow storm.  Quite a few actually died while trying to walk back to civilization to obtain help. This is especially a problem out west, where there are long distances between towns and the rural areas are sparsely populated. Apparently, there are urbanites out there who are accustomed to quickly darting from their house to their car and from their car to their heated destination in winter.  They forget that it is a whole different ball game, when one is out in the cold 24/7.  

Anyone traveling long distances through rural areas that are prone to winter snow and ice should assume that there is a possibility of being stranded in the boonies. You should bring in your car all clothing, especially including thermal underwear, to survive in the outdoor, night-time temperatures. 

Stranded in a car

There are differences of opinions about this matter. My US Navy Survival Manual recommends that stranded land-based units such as the SEALs, Naval Intelligence and SeaBees do NOT stay in their vehicles due to the danger of asphyxiating while asleep or being trapped by frozen snow.  The manual gives instructions for how to build pit-houses and igloos. 

My opinion is that normal civilians would be farther better off inside their vehicle.  They are not military personnel in the peak of physical condition.  A great deal of exertion would be required in the construction of a snow hut.  Perhaps to avoid the possibility of being trapped in deep snow, like my farm tractor, it would be wise to dig a tunnel from a door downwind from the direction of the snow and cover it with a tarpaulin. Until 1993, I would have said that it never snows deep enough to bury a car, but who knows what the future holds.

Now, you are ready to survive either the Great Superstorm of 2020 or the next time either Mother Nature or the Ninja-Nerds knock out the electrical grid for two weeks!

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