Saturday, July 21, 2018

Blue-Green Algae predictions of an oncoming bloom, exposure symptoms of animals and human health threats

During a 100 degree, F. (38 C) summer day relief is often sought with a dive in the river, 70F (21C) at the surface. A depth of 3 feet presents 55F (13C) water engulfing a person's entire being, relief is instant and chilling. There is plenty of vegetation in our slough, at times it collects for a few months in low flow areas. Bends in the river, against the levees, and jammed between docks, Tules, Lilypads, and algae will gather. There are so many different weeds, and aquatic plants it is impossible to tell what is safe and what is dangerous. Many times I have looked over the surface studying the growth looking for the "Blue Green" algae, it's toxic to most mammals. For those of us with a compromised immune system, Doctors orders are to stay out of the rivers, sloughs, and off river bijous, River people are connected to the waterway, the tides, currents, animals, and weather conditions are a part of our make up. I believe all river people hold these same thoughts, we love living on the rivers, and when it is sick, so are we. This is a discussion on one of those illnesses, the threats almost invisible, often ignored. Let's talk about it.
I originally suspected the background may have been Blue-Green
Algae, I investigated and was unable to make that determination.
I have decided it is best to just stay out of the water.

We experience algae blooms quite often in the sloughs and backwaters, two areas here are currently being warned to avoid the water. One is an affluent area, 10 miles to the South of our island community, the other is 2 miles to the West. The residential area up to 50 years ago was a catfish farm, there are a lot of inlets and bays. The other is a County Park on a large inlet on the river which is the home of a boat marina. Both have a slow current, at times it is extremely slow to the point of near stagnation, allowing the vegetation to collect along the shoreline and against boat docks. Some sloughs have a healthy current, however, that does not make them completely immune as the debris still gathers in slow current spots.

Cyanobacteria, well known as "Blue Green Algae" is a photosynthetic bacteria often referred to as "Pond Scum". Brown, Blue-Green, Blue, Green, Reddish-Purple are the rainbow of colors it takes on. Growing in slow-moving nitrogen or phosphorus rich streams, lakes, ponds, and swamps. It will grow rapidly when the environmental conditions are just right. Most of the growths are lighter than water and will float to the surface forming mats or large rafts of scum, known as a blue-green algae bloom, May through October is the prime time for the blooms to occur, but in Wisconsin, some blooms have been seen during the winter, under the ice. Three commonly detected species Anabaena, Aphanizomenon, and Planktothrix, it is not always the same species to grow in any given waterway, the dominant species can and often does morph during the course of the summer.

Unlike many aquatic weeds, such as "Duckweed", Blue Green Algae is not consumed by water animals or organisms, it does not make up any part of the food chain other than being classified as a "primary producer", a living organism that converts sunlight and inorganic chemicals into energy to be used by other living organisms. Algae is high energy food for large organisms such as zooplankton, which is eaten by small fish. They are in turn eaten by larger fish they are then a source of food for large predators like humans, raptors, and raccoons. Blue-Green Algae is not consumed by any of these animals.
This is a poor choice if the water looks like this, I suggest
staying out of it.

Known as "Blooms" the accumulation of algae will discolor water, smells bad, tastes foul, and forms scum pads, causing oxygen depletion and ultimately kills fish.

*The Blue Green Algae thrives in environments where nitrogen and phosphorus are concentrated enough to support growth, but the nitrogen to phosphorus concentration is low.

*The water stagnates, low turbulence and the mixing of water is absent.

*Warm weather is stable for at least one week, but it may also bloom during cold weather.

*Sunlight as with other vegetation is vital to the growth of the plant.

(Follow this Link to the EPA's paper on harmful algae blooms)

The blooms hang around for weeks, sometimes months, as far as our slough is concerned it starts in late May and finally sinks to the bottom in late July and early August. We have an ally on our side, the wind blows relentlessly from May through August, windy conditions have a tendency to mix the water causing turbulence which disrupts the algae growth cycle. The bloom eventually dies causing a new set of issues.

When the Algae dies the cells begin to "leak" if it is a species that produces toxins they will be released into the water. Once released the toxins can remain for several months until they decompose and finally are no threat.

The danger is during this period with the potential for causing health problems for people, pets, livestock, and wildlife that drinks or otherwise comes in contact with the toxic water. Symptoms include skin and eye irritations, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, and cramps. Swimming in the water presents an opportunity for infection-causing medical harm and often an emergency. Blue-Green Algae may cause:

*Human health concerns

*It is able to kill livestock

*Kills fish

*Causes foul odors

*Makes the water for storage, drinking, or recreation unusable.

*Increases the costs of water treatment

*impacts wildlife and domestic animals with illness, and occasionally leads to their demise.
The cows must have water, if not they leave the pasture looking
for it.

It is a particular threat to dogs, they jump in the water to chase a ball, while in the water they ingest some. Often upon leaving the stream they take a long drink, shake off their coats and begin to lick the toxins off of their fur. Effectively they are exposed numerous times while thinking they are having fun, little do they know. Hunting dogs are at more risk due to their increased exposure to the elements. Symptoms displayed by Cats, Dogs, Horses, Cows, and Birds when exposed moderately and severely:
*Blood, Black, or Tar Scat
*The nose and mouth turns pale
*Experiences Seizures
*They appear disoriented
*Entry into a Coma
*Go into shock
*Salivation is excessive
*Muscle rigidity, paralysis, and muscle tremors
*Skin and mucous membranes take on a bluish tinge
*Breathing becomes difficult
*Occasionally Death.

Death occurs shortly after periods of exposure due to respiratory paralysis, normally within minutes to hours.

There is no antidote for the toxic exposure if your dog displays the symptoms immediate medical care is imperative. Call your Vet, to get instructions on actions to take.

Algae blooms are created by chemical run-off into lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers. Preventing the nutrients from entering our sources of drinking water is the most effective course of action to take. Prediction of a toxic release is difficult to make. Paying attention to the environmental, weather conditions, and oxygen levels of the water are many times effective to provide a warning in advance. When a bloom is predicted, a two-week advance warning has been experienced, cutting off the addition of more nutrients the algae bloom can be reversed. However, it is not a perfect science, if a bloom is predicted health departments will most likely continue to issue warnings to stay out of the water.

People don't always heed the warnings after all most algae are not toxic, and most people and pets do not experience exposure. Humans that are exposed to Blue-Green Algae toxins may become severely ill, death rarely (if ever) occurs, stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea and rashes on the skin are the main injuries. The severity of the infection depends upon the exposure, how long it is in contact with the skin, how much is swallowed, and how concentrated the toxins are.

(Follow this Link to the University of Nebraska's paper on Algae)

Dogs are most susceptible to extreme reactions to the toxins of Green-Blue Algae, it is more critical when living next to a body of water. There are times when it is warm outside my dog Skunkpuppy will come up to the house soaking wet. Dripping wet is a sure sign she has taken a swim, that is where the problem is manifested, there is no way she will stay out of the water. She is normally with me all of the time, I am home all day long, but she still slips away and takes a dip. Rinsing off with a water hose may help, however, she has already ingested who knows how much water, so cleaning her off is most likely ineffective. There is no way to look at the vegetation and make a determination of if it is toxic or not, or if the weeds are releasing poisons into the water. If pond scum forms the best preventative measure is to keep the animals away from the water, I see cows drinking it all the time, raccoons swim across the river constantly, and otters are well, otters.
They depend upon us, but man are they hard to keep up with.

Thanks for reading and sharing, if there is scum on the water, do yourself a favor and suffer in the heat, or sit in the shade.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

An explanation of how the California water system works, its Dams, Pumps, Aqueducts and Rivers

I have lived in many areas of the State of California since I arrived here in 1969. I lived in Lemoore and Hanford neighbor cities in the heart of the great San Joaquin Valley. During 1973 I worked for 6 months with a water well drilling crew, in that short time we drilled wells throughout the "west side". The first job I went on was where Highway 198 and 41 intersect at the Southwest corner of the intersection, near the town of Lemoore. I jumped out of the pickup we were in and immediately sunk one foot into the alkali, the ground was covered with it as far as I could see. I was told the reason we were there is a well was needed at that spot to enable the farmer to flood the fields and flush the salt from the soil (Selenium). Eventually, the water and salts went through the "drain" all the way North to the Kesterson Wildlife reserve, where it remains to this day. I will attempt to write this without adding any environmental impact comments, or how water is a political football in this state. It's one of those issues that are hotly debated every place I have lived in California, which is one of the problems. All of the opinions are wrong because one story is told in Southern California, a different one is discussed among the Central Valley Farmers, and a Third completely different version is repeated in Northern California, where I now live. The problems will never be solved until all of the stories are the same, and we begin to have an honest discussion about water in this State.

Typical large water well drilling rig.

A logical place to begin is explaining where the water in California comes from, who uses it, and how it is stored.

The rainy season in California begins in November and ends in April, 200 million acre-feet fall during most drought-free years. Storing the water until it is needed is one of the challenges this state faces, it is one of the most engineered water environments in the world. The majority of rain falls in the Sierras from the center of the state including all of the northern parts of the state. It's a distance from the major urban and farming centers. Closing that distance the central valley project was created, storing the water and transporting it during the times it is needed, there are over 1400 dams in operation making up storage for the California Aqueduct. The engineered watershed runs uphill from the Northern Border as far South as Mexico, it goes right through the Coachella Valley, the Great California Desert. On the project are two major pumping stations, one North of the city of Tracy at the Clifton Forebay and the other North of Tejon pass South of Bakersfield. Splitting into three streams, one forms Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County, another to Castaic Lake in Los Angelos, and the final leg is sent to Silverwood Lake in San Bernadino County. San Luis Reservoir is an "off-stream" storage which backs up behind the San Luis Dam, it's a huge dam on the Eastern slope of the Diablo Range of mountains due West of the City of Los Banos. It has the distinction of being the largest "off-stream" water storage reservoir in the United States.

The Eastern Slope of the Diablo Range has no natural streams, it does get some seasonal rain mostly causing erosion, as enough doesn't fall to create a viable flow. All of the water behind San Luis Dam originates in the San Joaquin/American rivers Delta, 100 miles to the North delivered by the project. A hydro-electric generator is powered by the water being held back, the Giannelli power plant generates123,480 megawatts (total 2009 output). The further South we travel the drier the landscape becomes, along the entire distance of the Diablo Range is mostly desert, 300 miles. It's a desert in the North also, I have a bay window that faces the bone-dry terrain.
San Luis Reservoir, the Dam is the white line.

One-half of the 200 million acre-feet that falls on the state evaporates, is absorbed into the ground, or used by wild vegetation during its hundreds of miles of travel. Some of the water from the river system is used to form a Hydraulic Dam on the Delta at the Cartenize Straights, between Martinez and Vallejo in the Bay Area. Estimates claim 50% of the water in the Delta is sent to the ocean, it very well is although it's not a constant 50%, the pressures from the ocean dictates how much is needed to guard the system against being overrun by sea water.  One of the arguments in the Central Valley is that water should go to the Farmers, it could be done however the salt water would flow into the Central Valley Project to be spread on the fields destroying them forever. If the salt water were to continue south to the three diversions all of them would fill will salt water also, corrupting the water supply for nearly all of California. A Dam at the Straights would also be a poor choice, the river system carries an enormous amount of silt and debris along with it on it's journey from the hills to the ocean. A Dam in that spot of the river, it is downstream of the confluence of the San Joaquin and the American, would stop the silt, creating a mud flat more than a mile wide and 3 miles long. Continual dredging would be in order, many ocean cargo ships pass there on the way to Cities as far away as Stockton and Sacramento. The silt is contaminated with mercury making disposal tricky at best, the heavy metal is just now making its way into the Delta's waterways (1500 miles of river) originating in the gold fields the 49er's worked on in the middle of the 19th century. Dams silt up no matter where they are, water carries' dirt.

A map of the California Delta.

Our Dams store 42 million acre-feet, underground aquifers contain somewhere between 150 million acre-feet and 1.45 billion acre-feet depending on how it is measured. (I have a feeling no one knows how much is under the surface.) One acre-foot of water will cover one acre one foot deep, containing 43,560 cubic feet, 325,851 U.S. gallons, or exactly 1233.48184 cubic meters. One foot deep over one acre is easier for some of us to understand, myself included. One acre-foot will keep 8 farm workers employed, or 8,000 workers in factories in urban areas, farming adds 3% to the States yearly gross product putting to use as much as 80% of the usable water sources.

The Bay Area receives its water from several sources, the State Water Project, the Central Valley project (separate from the State Water Project), Hetch Hetchy, and the Mokelumne Aqueduct system. Los Angelos depends on the Colorado River Aqueduct, the State Water Project, the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Central Valley Project. Agriculture uses water from several water projects, the Central Valley Project counts for 1/3 of the water irrigating the San Joaquin Valley, and the Sacramento Valley. Kern County receives its water from the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. Colorado River water supplies the Imperial Valley through the "All American Canal".  Let's take a brief look at the main water projects in the State.

* The largest of the Bureau of Reclamation Projects is the Central Valley project delivering 7 million acre-feet for farming, urban and wildlife uses. 1 million people depend on it for drinking water, and 3 million acres are farmed with it.

* Operated by the California Department of Water Resources the State Water Project sends 2.3 million acre-feet from Northern California to the San Francisco Bay Area, the Southern San Joaquin River, and Southern California. 750,000 acres are irrigated with this water and provides water for as many as 23 million people.

* The Los Angelos Water System is the first built in California, 105 years ago, 1913, it is owned and operated by the Los Angelos Department of Water and Power. All of its 200,000 acre-feet is used within the City limits.

* Hetch Hetchy Water and Power Systems operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission delivers 330,000 acre-feet per year from across the Valley in the Sierra Nevada's located on the Tuolumne River watershed. Conveying it to San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda Counties.

* The Mokelumne Aqueduct is under the East Bay Municipal Utilities District supplying water to 1.4 million people and 35 Cities. Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties are among them.

* The Colorado River System supplies 4.4 million acre-feet to the Imperial Valley, Coachella Valley, and Southern California supplemented with All American Canal water.
O'Shaughnessy Dam, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir backs up behind it.

It's a complicated arraignment we have with water in this State, everyone, I mean everyone has an opinion about it, almost as if it's in our genetic makeup. Water storage is at the top of the debate list, in fact, a bond has been passed to build more dams, and improve the infrastructure. It is my opinion we should build more "off-stream" reservoirs, allowing for the Salmon fisheries to return. A conveyance system by-passing the Delta with 30-foot diameter tunnels has been a battleground since the 1970's when it was billed as the "peripheral canal". There is the Wishon-Courtright project, built in the 1980's, it is a Hydro-Power generator located deep inside a mountain, a huge tunnel was built between the two reservoirs located many miles from each other and at different elevations. Electricity is generated during the day, then at night when demand is down Diablo Canyon Nuclear Reactor supplies power to turn the generators into pumps. Overnight the water is pumped back up the hill to fill the supplier.

The water battle is political and it's not, some of our elected representatives have tried to make it so, however it is a battle of region, culture, and misinformation. I live on the Delta, the opinion here is Southern California is on a water grab, farmers in the Central Valley claim we are being stingy with the water and go so far as to dump half of it into the ocean, oh and the minnows, Southern California believes it should all belong to them because they have 1/2 of the population of the state. We are all wrong, it starts at the 100th parallel, and should be managed from that point West, and East by one government entity.
The 100th Meridian, wet to the right, dry to the left. 

There is so much to this water system of ours, there are so many water districts, systems, and States affected we should have a system to regulate it that is modern, not one that was set up in the 1800's as a one size fits all arrangement.

Thanks for reading and sharing, I have my opinions about water, as does everyone else. I could ramble on for a long time on this subject but I must stop, I do however recommend to everyone I talk with about water to read the book "Cadillac Desert". Every person in the United States should read it, I'm in California and the water that flows by my house on the Delta affects my Sister who lives on Lake Superior in Minnesota.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Earthquakes occur all of the time here, what if one takes place when we are in the City for the day?

45 U.S. States and Territories are at risk of suffering an Earthquake, Drop-Cover-Hold-on is good to practice with all the household members. Knowing what to do, where to do it, and when to do it are the main preparatory questions to answer when living in an Earthquake zone.
Earthquakes happen.

Last year in September one of my grandsons and I began a conversation. It began after we had experienced a series of small earthquakes that had occurred overnight within a 100-mile radius of us. We live on the California Delta, 45 miles North East of San Francisco, it is an isolated semi-rural area. It is one of those places people are surprised to exist in the Bay Area, we are as far East as a Bay Area resident can be. Once in a while, we go into the "City", my grandsons and grand-daughters venture in much more frequently than I do. The question was "what would you do if you were on Fishermans Wharf and a major shaker took place."

He answered with a logical reply "I'd get out of town as fast as I could."

"Yep," I said, "you and about 870,000 other people, not including tourist."

There are three ways out of the Bay City, and all of those people would be heading right for one of them. * The Bay Bridge, *The Golden Gate Bridge, * Highway One through South San Francisco. They are all a parking lot during a normal work week, I can not imagine what it would be like during a major catastrophic event. There is a fourth way out, by water, the bay leads to an extensive delta system, the largest on the West Coast. It takes about 4 hours to get from the Golden Gate to where our house is on the Delta, most big boats travel at 12-20 knots.

He said he would walk out over the Bay Bridge, where to? Oakland? That may very well be the only way out depending upon where in town a person is. The first 3,000 or so vehicles to traverse the crossing may make it, all it would take is one breakdown to stop movement. The bridge would be jammed solid, then people would leave their cars, or trucks and start walking. It would be a long 50-mile walk to our spot on the river.
This may be another way out.

Highway One South would be easier to walk, but it would also be stopped after the first accident, or breakdown, which would almost certainly occur. It would be a long walk as well, we have relatives in the Central Valley, but it's 300 miles to Fresno where he would be heading.

The Golden Gate would be equally crowded and equally jammed up following the first wreck or flat tire. In that direction to head East, a person would also have to go across the Richmond-San Pablo Bridge. A guy would have more luck with that one because most of the cars would be backed up at the San Francisco Icon.

To be clear we were talking about the "Big One", at least the magnitude of the 1906 major event which was a 7.8. It ruptured the 300 northernmost miles of the San Andreas Fault, which runs from Northern California to Mexico through L.A. and the Southern Desert. The last Big one was 102 years ago, the next one is unpredictable, but we are not in the clear as it could take place in the next second, the next century or next week. We just simply need to be prepared for it, which 30% of us are, 30% want to be but for various reasons are not. The remaining 30% just do not see the warnings as a threat. Continuing our conversation I suggested to him there are two things which he should be certain to have covered before he heads to the City.

#1 Part of our plan includes an out of the area contact number, my brother in Minnesota. We have put together an Earthquake evacuation plan, each member of the family has a copy. We have a constant stream of visitors to our home, grandkids most commonly. It is important to include a contact number, equally important is to use an out of area contact. As far as a quake is concerned that person could be as close as Fresno, 300 miles away, it would take a massive event to affect the entire state. The length of the message could be "I'm fine and in Madera." for instance. The reason for an out of area contact is the cell phone frequencies will most certainly be extremely busy, that's what we will get, a busy signal. Thinking of my reaction when I connect to a busy signal, I hang up and immediately recall. During a disaster there would be a lot of people doing just that, adding to the congestion of the airwaves, my prediction is that getting through will not happen. On the other end of the call, our contact will take messages to relay to the other people calling.

#2 Carry water with him I advised, two pints at least, no one wants to or will carry a gallon around while on a brief visit to spend an afternoon. After getting in a clear zone, or an evacuation station, obtain more drinking water I told him he has a long walk. It is recommended we each drink 1/2 gallon of water per day, depending on the ambient temperature more may be needed. To exit a disaster area after an earthquake food is not as important as water, we can survive 8-10 days without food, 3-4 without water. One gallon of water weighs just under 9 pounds, it will get lighter the further a person travels. If it is a widespread event food and water would be increasingly more scarce, so fill the jug with water at every opportunity. People he would come across may not have water, that is the reason to keep a good quantity on his person, it would be tough to refuse water to a thirsty walker. The average walking speed is 3 miles per hour, it would take 20 hours to walk from the City to our island. He would have to find a place to spend the night in the vast urban jungle that is the Bay Area, it is a huge area. The San Andreas fault is much larger, however.
It may a rough walk through this for 50 miles.

During a short visit to the city for a day or attending one of the many sporting events or shows occurring there every week the possibility of a major earthquake is always present. I have seen the San Andreas fault in the North well into and past Plam Springs then extending as far South as Puerto Vallarta, it's long, powerful and active. That's just one fault, many others are running in every direction when visiting the city for a day are there any other precautions we should take?

I'm not sure how much sense it would be to take a large earthquake emergency kit into the city for the day. It may be prudent to take it along on the trip if the person is driving to fisherman's wharf or the Giants game as an example, leaving it in the car, if one was driven would be the best choice. Bart is the transportation of choice when traveling there for a game or show. An earthquake emergency preparedness kit when loaded with jackets and extra clothing can become amazingly heavy and awkward. Unless a kit is in a trunk or some sort of a handy wheeled carrier, the emergency preparedness kit should be left in the trunk or at home, it is more convenient to put together a smaller one. Call it the "escape kit", water, a flashlight, a jacket, and hat, along with something to eat, it can fit in a small messenger bag making it easy to attend to. The "escape kit" can be used at home as well, sometimes for example in the chance a wildfire erupts, a person has minimal time to escape. Having to walk several or many miles to get to a muster or relief station, a light kit will make the walk easier.

Suffering an earthquake during a brief visit to the city would be considered a rare occurrence, it does happen, however. We remember the Loma Prieta earthquake 6.9 magnitudes, on October 17, 1989, felt from San Francisco to Monterey, making communication important. There is no way to know which fault has slipped, it could be disastrous to escape in the wrong direction. Does a shaker happen often enough for us to be overly concerned about it? No, not overly, but a healthy concern is warranted and to have a small escape kit on your belt may be prudent. Water is an absolute, above and beyond all else we must have water.

(Follow this Link for water recommendations.)

 I don't expect any of my grandkids to be stranded in the city after an earthquake, however, it does happen. I was taught CPR at one place of employment, a large portion of the crew was in attendance. The office manager, a lady, was in attendance and contrary to most of the attendees had never been instructed on how to perform CPR before this time. That evening she had a tennis lesson during which a person at another court collapsed and stopped breathing, she administered CPR and mouth to mouth saving the person's life, it happened within 4 hours of taking the class. It happens more often than we realize, I can think of at least 3 other incidences of me explaining something or learning something then within hours of having to use it. So these emergency response conversations are important to have, especially when centered around your earthquake emergency plan, it should be a separate document attached to your main emergency plan. (It sounds like a lot of paperwork but it's not) Both plans should have spelled out what actions to take whether we are home alone or away from the house (as our example of being in San Francisco.) People are more likely to buy into the preparations if they are included in creating the emergency documents, all members of the family must know the plan and understand it perfectly, the preferred way is to make sure all family members have input into both plans. Practice the plans, go over them verbally and physically, where are the evacuation kits, who takes what, who's responsible for the dog or grandma? All of it is important, as well as spelling out what to do if an earthquake strands you in a big city.

It's well worth creating a document, (Link to FEMA's in-depth guide to family preparedness) a small emergency pack, and a means of communication to carry along on a day trip. Making it a generic kit will make it more versatile, just make sure everything in it is actually items needed for survival. Thanks for reading and sharing my blog, pass it on and share it then follow me on G+, Thanks again.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

How important is Self-Awareness?

The two fledgling Red Tail Hawks appeared to fall out of the tree the nest is in, dropping about 20 feet then suddenly at the same instant they swooped skyward. It appeared to be the first time they left the nest, mother hawk was out of my sight, but it didn't mean she was not watching them. The fledglings leave the nest 45 days after hatching, that would mean these two hatched around June 1st, 2018.
These are not the Red Tailed Hawks I saw. This is a stock photo.

Crows fly by constantly, almost always being chased by smaller birds, 2 or 3 normally, but sometimes an entire flock is in pursuit of the raven black predator. They rob the smaller nests of the baby birds, crows have a varying diet which includes everything from fruit and nuts to small furry mammals. After the eggs, hatch crow chicks remain in the nest for 21 days, at that time they fledge and they like the Hawks take a dive off of a tree limb. Emerging from their eggs it takes a mere two weeks for them to attain the same size as their parents. Remaining in the nest for 21 days it takes another 14 until they are capable of being on their own, however, it takes 51 days from hatching until they leave the nest for good, just under two months. Most animals are dependent upon their parents for at least a short while after birth, or after hatching. The larger the animal the longer the dependency and gestation is.

The Elephant is one of the largest animals living on our planet, they have the longest gestation period of any land animal. Twenty-Two months is the normal pregnancy, the result is the birth of one baby weighing about 230 pounds (105 Kilograms). Drinking 3 gallons of milk a day for a two year period, on occasion it is extended longer. At 4 months they begin to mimic their parents eating plants and normal Elephant food, still needing milk from their mothers. The Elephants, like humans, stay with their mothers for 16 years, comparable to humans, however, if the mother dies the young Elephants have little chance to survive. Mammals have a longer dependency period than all other animals.
Elephants are amazing animals

That period of dependency may be more accurately described as a period of self-deficiency, the polar opposite of self-reliance. Humans are born with the inability to perform even the most basic of tasks upon birth, we are fully dependent on our parents for at least 6 years. Human babies cannot lift their heads for the first two months of life, we roll over at 4 months, sit up for around 6 months, and begin to stand at 9. Quite a contrast to a gazelle fawn which is able to run full speed within a few hours after birth. Humans have to learn a lot during those first 1/2 dozen years, each step of the way we build on our self-reliance skills. We build confidence in every step we take, continuing with running, swimming, and various sporting activities. Taking almost 10 years to be able to understand and execute the most basic functions of our lives.

Those basic functions have a lot to do with the ability to predict how the actions we take today will relate to us in the future. Known as "Subjective Conscienceness", some scientist researching the Conscienceness theory claim that is what separates humans from animals. It is a large component of becoming "self-reliant", without knowing if it rains day and night for two weeks we may have to endure a flood, there is no way we would be able to prepare for it. By the time we are 20 years old most of us have found out not to touch a stove to find out if it is hot.

(follow this Link to a paper on subjective consciousness for more in-depth information.)

That's how we learn, by doing, making mistakes, and injuring ourselves in the process. Everything we do teaches us something, us humans learn mostly from example, then we test it out, trial and error. An error is the easiest route to success, it may sound odd but that is the fact, how many times have we all failed at our first attempt? Upon failure many times we make the exclamation "let me try it again, I know I can do it." From taking our first steps to jumping out of an airplane later in life, self-reliance is gained almost by self-sacrifice.

We plan, many times we are obsessed with a task and over think it, sometimes I will go over every step of a project many times, I will write notes, make drawings and make a mock-up in the garage. Other times we know from experience that a certain procedure or plan will work, from experience, sometimes from advice. People relating their experiences performing tasks will only take us so far, there comes a time for us to stop talking and get to work. It is when we get to work that the learning begins in earnest, learning opportunities abound. Every mistake, every error, every miscalculation adds to our knowledge, gaining confidence is the end result, the more we do the more confident we become. Welcoming mistakes is a positive approach, in fact dropping the word mistake from our vocabulary is a step in the correct direction. Personally, I refer to them as learning opportunities, the third or fourth-time successful completion is often the reality. There are people that never make a mistake, or so it seems.

Those who do not commit errors or make mistakes are normally the people not doing anything, or in some cases, they are good at hiding them. A case in point is when I was employed at a company making food processing equipment. The job involved a lot of metal work, welding, and crate building, it's easy to make a mistake in fabrication, in fact, it is accepted. One man never seemed to make mistakes, everything he did was correct, he made one attempt and the projects he worked on were good to go. No one spent all day watching the guy, it was accepted as he was a very gifted tradesman, and he was. One day we were tasked with cleaning all of the junk from around the building, the rear backed up to a train track. The back doors of the shop were rarely opened, in fact normally spider webs had to be wiped off of them for their annual exercise. The back of the shop was an undesirable place to be, besides the tracks, homeless lived under the Oleander bushes, and the sun beat down on the Northwest wall during the summer. We went to the back alley and found a pile of discarded material, this employee took every mistake he made and threw them out the back door thinking they would never be found. We found them, it was not a big deal the guy was still a gifted craftsman but it left me with a realization that all things are not as they appear. He most likely learned more from his mistakes than anyone due to his embarrassment as evidenced by his hiding them. Self-Awareness goes hand and hand with Self-Reliance, we must be aware of our actions in order to learn and add to our life's skills.

(This Link leads to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on becoming Self-Reliant)

Reading numerous blogs, forums, and articles I came across one in a forum I follow loosely where a question was posted on how to start being self-reliant. How to start? I find that question puzzling, we start at birth and build on our knowledge our entire life. There is no start and no end, (sounds a bit like Astro-Physics doesn't it?) We learn continually, or we should, I did write a comment, I suggested the writer starts with water, learn everything possible about water. It's as good as any place to begin if one feels totally un-self-reliant, that is dependent on other people for even basic tasks of life. Going out and doing, experiencing life, planning for weekend excursions, maybe take up backpacking, anything that will expand our horizons is, in fact, becoming dependent upon ourselves. What happens when we do get older and we are truly on our own? To what degree are we ever really self-reliant, how many of us are capable of living on our own with no human interactions in the way of socializing or assisting in day to day life? We can think of crafty ways to perform certain tasks, like loading a heavy object into a vehicle or fixing our meals but, how important are interpersonal relationships, can we ever be self-sufficient without them? Is it possible to be self-reliant in the most obvious areas, raising food, providing shelter for ourselves, keeping entertained and improving our lives? Does self-reliance include our need for human relationships, do we need people to survive, how much do we rely on each other.
How much do we rely on one another?

Being self-reliant is in many ways dependent on other people, our neighbors, friends, and families. That's what a community is all about, some of us are mechanical, some are farmers, some can make clothing and you name it we each excel in some tasks. None of us are able to do it all, I have observed most of us end up performing tasks we are naturally adept at. Self-reliance is a bit of an oxymoron, we depend on each other, no man is an island. We pass on our skills and knowledge to the generation following us.

Folklore, apprenticeships, and yes schooling prepare us for life to a certain degree. The knowledge passed from generation to generation is important, however, if a skill is passed on the one being taught must possess some natural ability, or at the least a desire to learn the tasks. Being Self-Aware is instrumental in our goal of becoming self-reliant, we must know our limitations, without that knowledge we may be headed for frustrating experiences. Sometimes we are so far in the dark on a subject, at least I am, we don't know what questions to ask, we have no self-awareness. We on occasion believe we know everything about a subject when in fact we know very little, knowing the difference is being self-aware. Which will create curiosity, in turn creating a quest for knowledge, making us more self-reliant, and better able to accept self-responsibility. It all creates confidence in our abilities and knowledge, enabling us to each become a responder during an emergency versus a victim.
Folklore, storytelling, and passing on experiences to the next
generation, are all a part of being Self-Reliant.

Victimization has no place in being self-reliant, blaming, claiming to be a victim, and being despondent about being unfairly treated as well are not in the plank of being as independent as we can possibly be.

How is it possible to create a list, write a book, or explain to someone how to become self-sufficient? We cannot, it would include every human activity we engage in, that is the reason we learn from the day we are born, like an Elephant, 16 years, or a bird in just a matter of a few months. My suggestion is to do as much as possible, let our curiosity run wild, experiment, and try out everything we can. I will be Orwellian, "Failure is a success." Allow mistakes to happen, learn from them, welcome them, and get up and get back on.

Thanks for reading and sharing, leave a comment and follow me on G+. Self-reliance is one way of saying "I am confident in myself, and family, friends, and neighbors."


Friday, July 13, 2018

Power outages may indicate a larger event that caused it, most are short this blog is common sense, above all.else.

Electricity means nothing to this guy.
It is 9:30 pm, we just lost our electrical service, it happens about once a week on our little island. There are 1500 houses in our small town, it is unincorporated so it's not a "real" town. A short power interruption is not a catastrophic event, in fact, a lot of evenings are spent outside. A breeze comes up every night, it is called "The Delta Breeze" when it runs it's course through the Central Valley of California. Lowering the temperature by 20-30 degrees F. it offers a cool relief after a warm day as today was.

The temperature during the day was nearly 100 degrees F. in the cities located in Central California. The temperature was 75 degrees in San Francisco Bay situated 45 miles west of our California Delta Island. I have noticed when the temperature difference is that profound between the bay and Fresno the wind comes up. The wider the differential the stronger the breeze is, during the day it is most noticeable. The evening breeze is different, it is a gentle wind with just enough velocity to make it's way from Stockton to Bakersfield.

The wind that is common on our island, and throughout most of the largest estuary west of the Mississippi is different during the day. It blows a lot, being a steady companion from the end of June until just after Labor Day in September. Fifteen to twenty miles per hour gusts are common, on occasion we will be on the receiving end of a wind storm. We had one several years ago which reached a wind speed of 80 mph, close to the velocity of a stage one hurricane.

Those wind speeds cause damage to a town like ours, during that one a boat shed at the marina North of us was blown over and into the river. This was not a small boat shed, it housed 10 boats, and pole supported building was about 30 feet from the water to the roof. The wind picked it up and flipped it over causing it to land upside down in the water, destroying it. We did suffer another electrical outage at that time also.

This interruption most likely will not last for a long amount of time, most of them taking less than 5 hours to run their courses. Still, I have all the stuff we need set up, I am a flashlight fanatic, I suspect there are many of us. I have flashlights, lanterns, and spotlights situated in numerous locations throughout the house. My wife lit candles, placing them in strategic locations to enable us to walk around I suppose without having to rely upon our flashlights. I handed them out to the two grandsons staying with us for a while, kept one for myself, and attempted to give one to my wife. She wanted to use the flashlight on her telephone, candles, and everything but the one I tried to give her. We should reserve the power in our cell phones for communications, that is just a crazy idea that I have.

(This link leads to FEMA's Disaster Emergency Communications)

During a short outage, there isn't a worry about running out of water, food or needing emergency shelter, it is merely dealing for a short while without the convenience. We have a few items we use during these short events, one came in handy tonight. A cell phone charger, it's a small portable gizmo that is charged with a USB cable and holds enough of a charge to energize 3 completely dead phones. It is so handy my better half doesn't use a car charger any longer she just uses the emergency one, in fact when she uses it her comment is "you should get one." I most certainly should have one, and I believe I will purchase one.

That's the way it goes, during an event we think of all the gear we could have used if we had it. Having a means to charge communication equipment is an extremely important asset to have at the ready just for blackouts. It is one of those items that stay charged until it is needed, plugging it in at night is a survival technique many people use. Other electronic gear should be plugged in prior to going to bed, cell phones, laptops, and rechargeable flashlights to name a few. While we are sleeping normally a brownout or blackout does not affect us, the problem occurs when the lack of power causes another event to unfold.

Heavy equipment should be plugged in as well, a mobility scooter, electric wheelchair, and a kit are best set up for use at a moments notice. Laying out a complete set of clothes, shoes, and socks next to the bed is a prudent practice also. Now that is not a worry for an electrical outage which is the length of this one, or the length I am predicting it to be. It is a concern if the outage causes another more intense situation such as a wildfire. If a vehicle runs into a power pole and the lines separate with sparks being ejected in every direction, the possibility of a wildfire is at the top of the list. It should be on everyone's minds to be ready for an emergency situation of that magnitude.
In a rural area, there are a number of potential causes of an electrical

You know as well as I that most of these last for short periods of time and busting out the sanitary stations, blankets, and tents is not even close to being a reality. To me when an event is short-lived there is a certain amount of comfort to be taken in the dark and quiet house. Food is not a concern, as water is not, and shutting off the gas is not a priority. During the warm summer nights, the solitude and quiet enjoyed while sitting outside makes the blackout virtually unnoticeable. Whereas during the winter months during an electrical outage, pot roast, warm fires, and early to bed are welcome reactions to the brownout. We cope with short events well, as we should because we experience enough power interruptions on a regular basis.

Winter outages force us to face situations associated with cold temperatures, rain, and snow. Heat would be the second item on my list, just under the first which would be lighting to enable me to see how to light the fire. During the summer I collect firewood, tree trimmers set piles of cut tree limbs on the shoulder of the road. Its a custom on the island to set items on the road that are up for grabs, free for the taking. I collect firewood when it is available to load in my wagon and bring it home to add to the woodpile. The supply of wood is used during the summer by anyone going camping so the level has a tendency to change. Stacked and ready to use there is normally between 1/4 and 1/2 of a cord, some split, and some rounds. In our climate 1/4 of a cord will last 10 days, depending upon the temperature. In freezing temperatures staying warm is the highest of priorities.

Staying warm is important, but not during the summertime. The challenge during a summer power outage is becoming overheated, If an electrical outage lasts longer than a few hours extending into the next day shade is a naturally cool spot. During our time living in the Coachella Valley (southern California Desert) we would go to the local shopping mall to be near the indoor ice rink. For a short-term event staying cool is merely an inconvenience. Still, there is no need to unpack massive amounts of equipment.

The preparation for a short electric interruption is minimal, flashlights, cell phone, and candles being at the top of the list. Still preparing for a longer-term event is to our advantage, it takes slightly more for three days than it takes for an inconvenience. Most of us have a flashlight set up someplace for use during an outage, either a flashlight or a light on our ever-present cell phones. Both are acceptable for a short outage, although if we use a cell phone we should also have a means of keeping it charged. Communications could be the difference between life and death in the direst of situations. Cases of water are easy to store, one case per person per week works out to the recommended 1/2 gallon per day. If it is a short event more water won't hurt a thing, it stores well and will be ready if there is a next time. A box of granola bars in the pantry, along with our food supplies located there will be enough food for at least a few days, I see a week in ours. If it is an event we are able to stay in homes during such as an electrical outage we will survive just fine, a longer period of time with a major event dictates other actions.

I won't go any further, a short-term outage is a relative non-event, most of us are used to them. The major problems come as I stated above if the outage causes a larger event, or if a larger event caused the outage. That is where communications come in if a wildfire caused it we should then be informed enough in case an evacuation is in order. Often it is possible to see how widespread a blackout is just by looking out the window. If the neighbors on each side have lights and you don't, well you own the outage. If you look across 5 miles of open space and the lights are out in the nearest City, that is another situation possibly hinting the event may last a while. Call the neighbors, if yours are like mine one of them has already called the utility and has the scoop on what has caused the problem.
Wind causes many blackouts.

This blackout lasted just about an hour, now I will gather up the flashlights and candles returning them to their proper places, ready for the next downturn. We will have a short one next week at some point, most last less than five minutes, just long enough for the clocks to be re-set. Still, a minimal amount of preparing will pay off in the long run, and it is actually simple to set up a small functional emergency station. We don't need a trailer load of stuff, just useful, reliable, and handy to use items. Most of the fundamental equipment takes very little introduction for most of us, we know how to turn on a flashlight for instance, and most people have a handle on their cell phone functions. Don't get lost in the planning, or setting up of gear when it comes to a short occurrence, common sense, usable items and by setting it close to an emergency kit by the door will serve us just about right. It doesn't have to be expensive, stores like the dollar store have items that are usable during such an event. I suggest making a plan then supplying ourselves as dictated by what we have determined to be our needs as written in our plans. (Follow this Link to FEMA's disaster planning template web site)

Thanks for reading and sharing, short outages take little planning, however, we should spend some time thinking about what we may need, (a flashlight) then setting up what we decide is important next to our escape route, just in case. Thanks for reading my blog, leave a comment and follow me on G+.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

We can't stop natural disasters form happening but we can guard against them with knowledge.

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail", (Ben Franklin)

How much preparation is needed, how much equipment do we need to have on hand, and what is more effective preparing or having stuff? The big unknown is how long we need to prepare for, what are we preparing for, and do we really need all of the equipment and do-dads we are told we need? 
A pack could be part of your planning.

It is of little use to gather a bunch of survival gear while having no idea of its use, why it was purchased or how to use it. On the internet, there is no lack of e-commerce sites in the "survival" niches telling us how much to prepare. That is fine, a lot of the information is helpful, a lot is folly, and a lot is merely marketing. How much preparation is needed? There are several levels, and a wide array of theories actually, I will discuss some in this article, it may help to make sense of a big and involved subject.

I am an advocate of keeping a one week's supply of water, food, and necessary supporting tools, lighting, and communications on hand. Most Government agencies and private non-profit organizations recommend 72 hours or three days supply. That is a good directive, a fine place to start, something is much better than nothing. For each person that has a plan and supporting supplies is one less person that may panic and end up in a bad situation during an event. Seven days seems like it may be a long time however it is shorter when we take into account these three ideas.

(Discover FEMA follow this Link)

The first one is if it is a widespread occurrence first responders may take a week or longer to find us. A case in point was Hurricane Harvey that swept through Texas last year. Some people were stuck in their homes upper floors for longer than a week. The community did throw in and rescue people in private boats, but the event was just so catastrophic and widespread it affected a lot of people and their homes. The victims needed a weeks supply, just water would have been a blessing for some of them. The locals performing the rescues in private boats may very well have been in the 33% of prepared citizens.

Second is if the event is not a week-long we may have a houseguest if a disaster strikes when relatives or friends are visiting most of us would feel responsible for their safety. In fact, during the planning stage of an emergency response, I suggest this be included. Many guests will have no idea of which natural events could threaten the area they are visiting, or have any information on what recourse they have. Emergency telephone numbers, evacuations routes, and basic knowledge of the City or towns layout are all bound to confuse them, it is up to us to keep the confusion to a minimum.

The third is at the onset of a disaster I prefer to be in a position of being a "responder" versus a "victim". If we over prepare, that is store more than what we need, it will benefit the small society that will be created once we all would have to rely on one another. It is prudent to remember 66% of us will not have any preparation set up at all, During a long-term event, which I classify as one week or longer, these neighbors, friends, and yes strangers will be looking to the people who are prepared for help. I want to have at least enough water for someone that is thirsty, and a means to purify more. We will most likely be the only people with the information needed for survival, muster sites for evacuation, local authority contact numbers, and an AM/FM radio which enables us to stay informed. 

The first task for us to undertake is to make a plan, you have most likely heard that a million times, or so it seems. The fact still remains that we may have heard dire warnings of an impending doom and gloom event for many years. As the event creeps closer to happening normally we receive warnings from many different directions, Government agencies, Private organizations, and Television broadcasts. Still, we have a tendency to ignore the warnings right up until the catastrophic occurrence takes place. At that time many of us will proclaim the way we were surprised and exclaim how we never expected it Still after the lava cools, the smoldering is gone, and the flood has dried up, most of us will continue on with our lives starting the cycle once again. 33% of us will be prepared with written planning, a stash of supplies, and a lifestyle of living ready for anything to happen. There is a word for that and not the one you would guess.

Self-reliance, how self-reliant are we as a society? Just that a mere 33%, the rest are a mixture of two camps. One is those who just don't realize anything could possibly happen, the second do realize but are just too busy to plan, do not have the financial resources, or procrastinate to the point of inaction. Self-reliance, Self-awareness, and Personal responsibility could also be defined as "Self-preservation", each man for himself perhaps. What are some of the things we can do to become self-reliant in the face of an emergency?

Make a plan, the place to start is on the FEMA template page, (Link) There is a template in many different languages, templates for schools, businesses and even templates for large meetings. There is a lot of information provided by the Government to help us make it through the initial disaster period of three days. A plan to "cross those bridges when they come", is not a plan, it is an excuse for not planning, as is "everyone will be in the same boat." Most of us would prefer not to be in that boat, the idea of having not an inkling of what is happening does not sit well with the 33%.

The second step is to start a "stash", begin with water. the daily recommendation is 1/2 gallon a day per person. That renders down to one 24 pint package of water per person per week, a family of four would need 4 cases in reserve. Most of us have at least seven days of food in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer so that most likely is not an issue. Unless yours is a family that never eats at home and has bare cupboards which are highly unlikely. There are major precautions that should be adhered to once the power is lost, and during every event, we should expect to lose utility services. To me living without electric service is the least of worries, sure it will cause a considerable amount of discomfort for many of us, but we will, for the most part, live through it. Unless a family member is dependent upon life support equipment, in that case, extensive planning with input from experts is needed. It all depends upon how much we are committed to preparing for our own survival.

Don't forget the can opener.

Just what do we need, how important are creature comforts to us? It's a decision that must be made on a personal level, including medical needs, and how committed to it a person is. Many times we are advised to purchase an emergency generator, for example, there are mixed opinions on that purchase. I take the stance of not needing one, I have several reasons for feeling that way.

One is the lack of use, the only reason I would want one would be to save the food in the freezer, but how many of us could justify saving $500 worth of frozen entrees with the purchase of a $1500 generator? I'd rather stock dehydrated food that is designed for long-term storage, but even at that, most events don't last over a week or two. 

The second is I don't need one for life support equipment, and to make it without lights is OK, hurricane lamps and kerosene will work just fine. It won't be needed for heating, or cooling, our house is heated with wood, I can connect a car battery to the pellet stove and it will run. Charging cell phones with a solar charger are preferable to me, as is lights if I need electric lights. These being a few reasons I don't see a need for a generator, I mention them to inspire thinking on the subject. It may be comforting to not have the internet, television, or beeping, blinking things going on all day and night for a while.

The third is the maintenance and support equipment, most of us would buy a generator and store it in the garage, then after 5 years or longer attempt to start it. We are lousy at keeping up with preventive measures to make sure stuff still works. Gaskets dry out, gasoline degrades, and batteries are reduced to junk when ignored. Most of us no longer change the oil in our vehicles, it is unreasonable to think we would service a generator even though we think of them as "life-saving" equipment. Fuel would have to be stored for long periods of time in large quantities which I would describe as over 100 gallons. Fuel would have to be cycled through the household uses, as well as treated for water. I would rather rely on solar for the limited amount of electricity I would use. There are other more important issues to me.

Sanitation, someplace to use the restroom, wash up, and prepare meals. A sanitary station consisting of a privacy tent, porta-potty, and a means of taking a shower is paramount to me. It is something we take for granted, when we walk into our home bathrooms we flip the switch and a light comes on. Hot water comes from a faucet soon after we open a valve over the sink, and that chrome lever on the toilet performs a miracle every time we flush. If we suffer an injury cleanliness is the most important part of safeguarding from infection, and infection is a serious situation when isolated during a catastrophic event. It is impossible to deal with when a means of sanitation is not available.

Those are a few of the issues I have considered and included in my planning, yours will most likely be different for the most part. It all depends upon what type of disaster the area we live in is prone to. Wildfire, flooding, tornadoes, house fires, or any of the other many natural and man-made situations we may be confronted with. As we complete our written plans, and during our practicing to be certain it works more issues will arise that have to be included. Each will be unique to our various situations, one size does not fit all. One person merely needs a bottle of water and a flashlight, others need a fully equipped class A recreational vehicle, and you know what, it's all OK. It is all OK, the most important part is to have a plan that has been formulated with the entire family, and each household member having input, which encourages ownership, which creates buy-in, then success.

Plans are not set in stone, it is unreasonable to expect a plan to be executed 100% perfectly. A good bullseye is 80% if a plan or piece of equipment covers 80% of our needs it is a successful plan. A generator, for example, would take care of 20% of our needs, a sanitary station would supply 100% of our sanitary concerns. Our priorities are in the decisions as well, what makes sense to me doesn't make sense to everyone else. That is why we must all create our own disaster preparation planning, that is also why it is so important for each of us to have one.

After a disaster occurs it is too late to make a plan, it must be created and practiced well before an event takes place. After the plan is created and practiced, it will become part of your lifestyle. Some families will be satisfied with a 72 supply, others with a week, and still, others become proponents of long-term survival. Those are events lasting a year or longer, some having dedicated second homes (bunkers) to retreat to which is an entirely different set of convictions and have planning issues unique to them.
A photo of an abandoned ammunition bunker.

Build a survival plan, sit down and think about the two or three scenarios you may face. Common sense mixed with reality will set you on a path for surviving the first three days, seven days or a year. Maybe you prefer one pack, maybe your preference is to grab a bottle of water and go. Whatever it is and how involved it becomes is up to each of us. We must also plan on the chance we may have to get up and go with no time to take anything with us. The planning will still pay off, escaping with nothing but the clothes on our backs should be part of our plans.

We can begin community organizations, one I have in mind is the CERT program. Often supported by local governments it is the "Community Emergency Response Team", It is a nationwide effort if you are interested in further information follow this Link. Some neighborhoods incorporate it into their "Neighborhood watch" programs, still, others start from scratch to create their own unique programs. The main idea is to have something set up for our own self-preservation, our own survival, and hopefully be in the position of being able to help others during the event.

Thank you for reading and sharing, give survival planning some thought, even a minimal amount of planning and equipment is better than nothing. 


Monday, July 9, 2018

Record breaking high temperatures how to cope with them is in this article, can anything beat lots of water?

It is hot outside, breaking all temperature records all over the
It's summer, this year it is a really hot summer, high heat temperature records are being broken in numerous places across the country. I lived and worked in one of those areas, the Southern California desert for just over 3 years, we decided to leave during a power outage when the ambient temperature reached 126 degrees F. We rented a house in the small town of La Quinta, California, it was a Spanish style with a pool. The water was 110 degrees, no wind, and it was a "dry heat", according to the people who had lived there for a long time. I would answer "So is an oven", rarely getting a chuckle. In reality, very few people would live there without air conditioning, we decided not to even though we did rely on it.

A strange thing about the desert, I never have been able to understand. No matter where a person is driving, there is always someone walking on the shoulder of the road. I have been 50 miles from the nearest anything, there are a lot of places isolated like that, and someone will be walking. I have looked across the desert and seen groups of 4-6 and more people walking in the blazing sun with an old gallon milk jug filled with warm water. Most of the time the people were walking north from Mexico, entering the country to find work in the fields of the Southwestern United States. One other strange thing is no matter where a person is there are boats in yards everywhere, but there is no water.

Water is the lifeblood of the desert, typically drinking a minimum of one gallon of water every day, still, the crew I worked with would suffer from dehydration. Flies die at 120 degrees F. they are attracted to water when a puddle is made instantly it is covered in flies. It's a life and death situation not only for the smaller insects and creatures but for humans also. It is hot outside and the heat is extremely taxing when working in it.

(Follow this Link to FEMA's water recommendations.)

The companies in business in the Coachella Valley are aware of the dangers of hot ambient temperatures. As an example, we worked outdoors at a power generation plant, a biomass burning wood waste from the Los Angelos area. The company I worked for had a rule, we worked outside for 1/2 hour then rested in the air-conditioned shop for 3/4 of an hour. Still drinking lots of water, spiked with energy drinks. There would be a safety meeting once a month, a doctor would be there regularly to talk, and answer questions about the heat. It was informative at the least and life-saving at best, I ascribe to the later, it was life-saving. "Stay Hydrated", was our battle cry as we sweated profusely in our soaked clothing. The wet clothes were a blessing as well, it is easy to monitor the loss of minerals in our systems by the white deposits left as the moisture dried away. That would be an alarm our bodies needed attention.

A typical wood fuel pile, that's a lot of wood.
Energy drinks were a common subject, they add electrolytes to our water enabling our bodies to catch up with the deposits on our clothing. However there is a danger in the energy drinks as well, the Doctor would brief us on that as too. He told us to not drink the solution exclusively or straight, dilute with 50 percent water, which I did and still do to this day. In fact, a pint of Gator-aide in a gallon of water suited me just fine. Still, when all of the precautions are adhered to danger still lurks in the heat, dehydration is unpredictable. I worked with a man from Texas, he was a hard worker and being from that Southern State no stranger to the heat. He like the rest of us drank copious amounts of water all day long, we sweated but rarely expelled water in any other way. On a particularly hot day, we were on the side of a huge wood pile working on a piece of equipment when he went down. His eyes rolled back, mouth opened, and down he went, we all sprung into action. Part of our training was as "first responders", due to the distance we were out of town it took the fire department 1/2 hour to get to us. We had to be "self-reliant" on our crew, and we were. Three of us carried James off of the wood pile, we had no vehicle so we carried him the 300 yards or so to the shop. He lost conscience but did not stop breathing or enter into shock, soon after getting him into the cool air he came around just about the time the paramedics arrived. He ended up being OK, a real demonstration that no matter how acclimated we thought we were to the climate the dangers still existed.

(This Link will lead to Wiki how's page on dehydration treatment.)

I am aware in the hot climates most people will tell there loved ones to "stay hydrated" when they leave the house in the morning for whatever their day will bring them. I am not sure if that sentiment is common throughout the country but I am confident it is in the Western States. FEMA's recommendation is that we need a minumum of 1/2 gallon a day of water for survival, that is a wide brush stroke. That amount of water may be fine at 75 degree weather with a slight breeze, or working indoors but every situation should be looked at on it's own merits. I have lived in sub-zero weather where I did not drink hardly any water all day long, and I have also lived in high temperature regions where a gallon of water was not enough. We must not wait until we are thirsty to drink water, sipping all day long rather than gulping at 1/2 hour intervals is preferable. Resting when overheated and the proper clothing is also of the utmost importance when living in the heat.

Being from a Northern State I have a hard time understanding why more Westerners do not wear broad brimmed hats. This sun is intense and relentless beating down on an unprotected bare head. Likewise with long sleeve shirts, sun screen, and dark glasses, all designed to protect us from the deadly ultra-violet rays of the life giving and stealing sun. With the low humidity comes relief in the shade, when under a tree, or in broken sunlight, the ambient temperature will be 20 degrees less than the sunny side. Setting up sunscreens is important while being in the sunlight as well. Tarps, umbrellas, and the shade of a tree are all welcome retreats when enjoying a cool drink of water. We had air conditioned bulldozers and other heavy equipment, however, some of the smaller tractors had no protection from the heat at all. Umbrellas are available for mounting next to the drivers seat and supplies shade, but still, we were limited to 1/2 hour in the sun, then 3/4 hours in the shop.
The hat is fine, the dark clothing however
doesn't play well in over 100-degree temperatures.

The shop was (and still is I'm sure) fully air conditioned, as was the fire box. During the summer we would experience emergency repairs, the heat is hard on everything in the desert. Outside the temperature would easily exceed 110 F. inside the boiler it was a comfortable 75 degrees, air-conditioned. Without it being cool inside there would have been no way we would have been able to stay inside working, easily it would have reached temperatures of 150 degrees. The fire box was 150 feet tall, we worked the entire height from a giant scaffold for 12-16 hours every day until the "outage" was complete, it would never have happened without air conditioning. Our crew would retreat to the beaches of San Diego, (2 hours away) at least twice a month for the six summer months, the cool ocean air and beautiful cooling sea water would recharge our batteries.

Yesterday in San Diego it was 108 degrees, 120 in Palm Springs, it would not be much of a reprieve but the cool ocean water would be. Roasting on the coast from Santa Barbara south is predicted for this weekend as well, the beaches will be packed. Stay hydrated will be the greeting many people will have for friends, neighbors, and loved ones. Travel on the freeways will be tested, the heat is hard for cars to deal with also, it is advisable to not travel unless it is vital. Keep lots of water in the vehicle, more is better than less, stored in a chest with just enough ice to keep it cool. Drink plenty of it, and bring a few containers of an energy drink as well, moderation like everything else is best. Drink Gator-aid sparingly and follow it up with generous amounts of aqua, lots of water.

A mistake I made through ignorance of chemistry, I suppose it would be called, was when I executed an idea to make a "batch" of one of the electrolyte drinks. I saw the water cooler and thought it was a good idea if I were to take a powdered packet and mix it in the 5 gallon container of water. I thought we would have a cold drink and it would be better when Gator-aid was a part of it. I remember that the color of the concoction was green, it remained in the water cooler over night. Now I don't know what caused this to happen, but it did, and I felt bad and frankly really kind of dumb. The first person to drink from the water cooler took a long drink, it was in his stomach for about 1/2 of a second when suddenly he vomited. All I can figure is there was some algae or bacteria or something in the bottle or register that interacted with the drink and made it something else which was toxic. I learned at least two things from that, one of course was to not put that stuff in a water cooler bottle. The second is to clean the cooler once in a while. I caution people often to not to make the same mistake, and to clean the water bubbler on occasion.

Thank you for reading and sharing this article, de-hydration is a serious and far too often deadly consiquence of high outdoor temperatures. It is advisable to stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day, venture out in the early mornings and late evening just before dusk. Drink plenty of water and yes "Stay Hydrated". Thanks again.