Mass Exodus from the Cities - Is it Possible?

Mass Exodus from the Cities – Is it Possible?

The internet forums sometimes get into a tizzy over the whats and whys of how to deal with the “hordes” that will evacuate from cities, and spill into the countryside. “What will you do? How will you handle their requests and demands for help? How does your Christian attitude justify THAT response?”  … and so on and so on.

Occasionally, someone will support the view that most people will die in the cities before they ever get out. The hordes will never materialize. Others state that people will willingly stay put because they are sheep waiting for assistance. It is this last comment that I want to address. I don’t believe the likelihood of a mass exodus is all that remote. With the right combination of events, it isn’t just possible, it’s guaranteed.

Cities are a modern curiosity. They are filled with activity. Every street and corner is packed with the daily busyness of life. People are everywhere and doing everything. They live, work, play and die in their burrows, neighborhoods and high-rises. Because of their size, large cities demand huge resources in order to survive and prosper. Just about everything necessary to life is brought in to satiate their appetites for resources. In great measure, they consume water, power, natural gas, fuel oil, gasoline & diesel, and food & drink. Cities are an unnatural thing when viewed this way. Their mere existence is possible only because of the external support and delivery structures built to serve them.

Without these support and delivery structures, cities can not long survive. The buildings will remain, but the people dependent on externally enabled services will not. They will either die, or leave. Everyone knows the two key items necessary to continued existence are water and food. No city is self-sufficient regarding these items. Each must import them for their citizenry, or the people will leave. True, some are built on or near rivers, but the means to make water available in quantities and quality sufficient to survival are sparse.

The conditions required for a mass exodus may follow these lines: Water and food must be terminally reduced or cut off altogether. Either one will do the job, but a severing of the water supply, or the city’s ability to deliver it to the people, will create terminal conditions.

 The Mechanics of the Event

How might these conditions come to be? What are the most likely man-made conditions that could result in a mass exodus?

The technology cycle used to be measured in decades and years. This being the time frame required for a new technology to be replaced by the next, or to enjoy the advantages of a serious enough upgrade to be considered a new generation of that technology. In the 90s, the electronics cycle started to be counted in periods of years and months. It used to be that a computer owner could buy a new hard drive that approached 1GB for about $3 per MB. The turn around in that cycle shrank to about 18 months and the price halved. I remember when new RAM dropped to one dollar per MB. Go look at prices now. The cycle is under a year by some measures. Improvements in electronics, computer power and speed, and electromechanical machines are being driven by 2nd world industry and proliferation. Any advance made by 1st world industry is quickly copied and distributed via counterfeit manufacturing. The turnover time for old to new tech is very short today.

In the arena of military weapons of conventional and unique applications, we can view this trend as well. Looking back a few years at North Korea’s fizzle of a nuclear test, we see technology not just failing. We see it in use and under test. Ultimately, it will “yield” results. The same can be said for Iran’s nuclear program as well. They will build the bomb. Attacks on their weapons program sites may slow them down, but there will be an Iranian bomb at some point. The only thing that can stop the Iranians is the Iranians themselves. If the North Koreans can move ahead virtually unmolested, certainly the more advanced Iranians will, as well.

Credit to HowStuffWorks

One area of military weapons development that has caught the eyes of our enemies is that of E-Bombs, or EMP Weapons. A device that can produce an EMP burst is arguably simpler to build than a deployable nuclear warhead. Its delivery is more simple, as well. It can be flown in on some Sheiks private jet and blown over the target area. It can be sent up on a vertically launched rocket from the deck of a container ship. It might even get airborne on the tip of a sub-launched missile at some point. If successful, a strong pulse could destroy the grid within a multi-county area – perhaps even regionally. This would be a kill shot for a city dependent on outside resource delivery.

How does the Kill Work?

Without power, water delivery within a city is next to impossible. Pumps are needed to get water to the tops of high rise residential and business buildings. They are also needed to supply most lower level homes and shops, and public buildings. Additionally, the movement of sewage through the lines to waste treatment plants requires power, too. We see the stuff go down when we flush, but that’s only the beginning of the process. Movement of water and waste requires power, and without that, both stop. This in itself is enough to kill the city. Unless power is restored somehow, gravity tanks will empty, store and shops will sell out of bottled water, and people will leave to avoid dying of thirst.

Under normal conditions, fires are brought under control by the Fire Departments. Without water, they can do little. We don’t have raging infernos as was the case when cities and towns were made of tightly packed wooden buildings. But our buildings still burn, and fires still spread. Without water, the spread will happen more slowly, but it will happen.

The lack of power will also shut down pumps at fuel stations. Without local fuel, deliveries into the city will be slowed as trucks make sure they have enough on board to get in and out.

An EMP strike that takes down a local or regional grid will destroy the ability of food stores and restaurants to keep perishable items for more than 4 or 5 days.  Their coolers can not maintain low enough temperatures for longer than that, especially as they are opened and closed to retrieve food. This includes milk and other dairy products. Only dry goods, canned and bottled items will survive to be sold, but these will disappear from shelves in 3 days.

The efficiency pf emergency deliveries of supplies to the affected areas is hard to predict without knowing how wide spread the damage is. Even at maximum rates of delivery, can authorities set up and operate enough delivery centers to water and feed 250,000 people? 500,000? 2, 000,000?

While mass destruction of  engine control components may or might not result, it’s a pretty sure bet that communications will be heavily affected. Radio antennas are about the best propagators of an EMP pulse. The pulse loves anything that looks like an antenna, so the real thing is just about as happy a home as it could look for.

The Exodus

People will leave. Without water, they will have to leave. They will leave because they have heard about the self sufficient lifestyles of the ruralites on shows like Doomsday Preppers. They will leave because they heard from friends and coworkers about food and water available in the outer communities. They will leave because, once hope is lost where they are, they will be attracted to where hope lies, be it real or imagined.

How they leave is another story. Will the EMP pulse really destroy vehicle engine control modules? Will the destruction of these computers be wide spread, or spotty and random? How many dead vehicles will be left on the streets, boulevards and highways? These things will determine how fast people get out, and how far they will go. It will also determine the rate and volume of refugee influx into the countryside.

An Interposition

It is possible that relief efforts may take up a method that we haven’t seen, yet. If the cities themselves are simply cesspools waiting to take lives, relief centers may take on the methods of true refugee assistance. Instead of making the bulk of deliveries to strategically located sites within the city itself, relief agencies might chose to create a ring of assistance around the perimeter of the city. Those coming out will have to pass by or through relief centers, where they will be registered and given aid. Depending on the spread of the damage, they might find transportation out of the area to friends and relatives. They might be given temporary shelter while repairs to the infrastructure are made. They might find that surrounding towns and smaller cities are being readied to assist, along with Relief. They may not ever make it to the countryside, where the debate will continue on how best to deal with the Hordes. They just might find that the authorities are able to act on creative impulse, and alter existing plans to make the best of a bad situation.

We can hope. A lot depends on the effectiveness of the strike, and good ole American resourcefulness applied to the response.

How about Grid Killers not made by Man?

I focused on an EMP attack on a single city for simplicity’s sake.  There are other scenarios that can lead to an exodus. One such scenario might be a biological attack, followed by a general refusal to follow the guidelines and orders of authorities attempting to maintain calm. Another might be a radioactive fallout event that creates fear in people’s hearts. Anything that scares the population enough to refuse to listen to official instructions will also result in an exodus. Even a natural event such as a solar flare /CME could do this.

On the whole, though, I believe a grid killer, and thus a city killer, is more likely a man-made event than otherwise. It’s funny, but I feel better about predicting natural events. People can be so humanely wonderful, just pulling you in with care and love and working hard to create community. But evil is out there, and it looks to its own interests. Its appearance is irregular and largely unpredictable. But I will make this one prediction. It will come around. When it does…

…you better have a PLAN.


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2 comments to Mass Exodus from the Cities – Is it Possible?

  • Very good overview. I think you are right on for a single city scenario. I do think that the likelyhood of a peaceable response to a truly major event is somewhat lower. There just are not enough supplies in reserve to furnish multiple large cities with what will be needed. The rate of exit will grow rapidly when it becomes obvious when the government can’t help.

    Just my opinion.


    • L P

      Thanks, Jerry. Yeah, I went with a single city review to take it down to its basic level. It’s the smallest unit, or building block, of a regional problem that an EMP strike would create. It gets very concerning when we consider that more than one city of size is likely to be affected.

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