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State By State – Introduction

The data in this series of posts describes 19 western states. (Note: Much more detailed retreat locale recommendations will be provided in subsequent blog posts, following this series of articles.) After much consideration, all of the eastern states were intentionally excluded from this analysis because they are either downwind of nuclear targets and/or are in areas with excessive population density. (See my post on population density, back on August 5th.) This wasn’t just the result of subjective bias. I try to use the dispassionate mindset of an actuarial accountant.

As evidenced recently with Hurricane Katrina, population density is perhaps the most crucial factor to consider when selecting a safe haven. The big cities on the Gulf Coast are hell holes, whereas the small towns are getting by fairly well. I know that this will cause acrimony with a lot of my readers who live east of the Mississippi River, but the plain truth is the East has too much population! Unless you are among the uber-rich and can afford to buy an elaborate fully hardened bunker with HEPA [1] filtration deep in the Smoky or Appalachian Mountains with a five year food supply, I firmly believe that you will be safer west of the Mississippi. That is just my opinion, so your mileage may vary (YMMV [1]). However, before you write me a tirade about how wrong I am and how safe you’ll be in upstate New York, please re-read my August 5th through August 10th posts. Also, take a long hard look at the “Lights of the U.S.” photo maps at: www.darksky.org [2]. A picture tells a thousand words.

When thinking about where you’d prefer to buy your retreat and/or retirement home don’t just look at climate. Look at all the factors. Depending on your age and interest in true independence from “the system” you might also consider factors like home schooling laws [3] and home birth laws [4].

Here is my overall Retreat Potential ranking of 19 western states, which I will explain in detail in forthcoming blog posts:

1 Idaho
2 Montana
3 Oregon
4 Washington
5 Wyoming
6 Utah
7 South Dakota
8 North Dakota
9 Arizona
10 Colorado
11 Nebraska
12 Kansas
13 Texas
14 Nevada
15 New Mexico
16 Arkansas
17 Oklahoma
18 Louisiana
19 California

As a point of reference, here is an excerpt from Boston T. Party’s Gun Law ranking (for the 19 states on my list), from Boston’s excellent book Boston’s Gun Bible [5].

1 Idaho
2 Louisiana
3 Wyoming
4 Montana
5 Arizona
6 New Mexico
7 Texas
8 Oklahoma
9 Nevada
10 Utah
11 Colorado
12 South Dakota
13 Kansas
14 Arkansas
15 Oregon
16 Nebraska
17 North Dakota
18 Washington
19 California

And as yet another point of reference, here are the same 19 states, ranked by the length of their growing season (in the warmest part of each state):

1 Arizona
2 Texas
3 Louisiana
4 California
5 Nevada
6 Oregon
7 Washington
8 Idaho
9 Utah
10 Kansas
11 Arkansas
12 New Mexico
13 Oklahoma
14 Colorado
15 Wyoming
16 Montana
17 Nebraska
18 South Dakota
19 North Dakota


Why not Alaska?

A year ago, I heard one “expert” on the radio recommend Alaska as a retreat destination because it has the lowest population density of any State, and low taxes. IMHO, he couldn’t be more wrong! The biggest problem is that from an economic standpoint, Alaska is essentially a big offshore island. Many essential items are shipped or flown in. What happens when the ships and planes stop arriving? It won’t be pretty–at least not in Alaska’s cities. (Ironically, although it is the most lightly populated state, Alaska has the second highest crime rate in the country!) Coastal Alaska is also earthquake prone. Further, you may think that because of the North Slope oil that the state will have plentiful fuel. Bzzzzzt! Wrong answer! There is insufficient refinery capacity of meet Alaska’s “domestic” needs, and insufficient transport to get refined fuels where they are needed. (Current transport is geared to distributing fuel and lubricants brought in from the Lower 48–not locally produced fuel and lubricants.) So the little fuel left in Alaska post-TEOTWAWKI [6] will be jealously guarded–doubtless saved for critical tasks like running farm tractors and chain saws. So there will be virtually none available for fishing boats or between-town commerce.

In a long term collapse, the residents of Alaska’s densely populated coastal cities will likely starve and/or freeze to death. Meanwhile, those in inland towns, albeit better fed, will be geographically isolated so that commerce with the coast will be difficult if not impossible. Bush pilots will eventually be grounded due to lack of fuel, lubricants and spare parts. The only people I foresee surviving are a few seasoned Sourdoughs and native tribe members that still have well-honed outdoor survival skills and are still capable of reverting to a self-sufficient mode. The best set up for this would be a small settlement on a clear water (non-glacial) stream with an active salmon run and a couple of productive “fish wheel” salmon traps.
Another consideration is that the Alaska Pipeline is vulnerable to frost heaving and rupture if the power grid goes down. (It is not widely known, but grid power is used to run thousands of refrigeration elements that keep the permafrost frozen around the pipeline supports.) My prediction: In the event of TEOTWAWKI, the Al-Can highway will have heavy traffic with heavily-laden pickup trucks carrying beau coup gas cans, going in both directions: Greenhorns from the lower 48 thinking that Alaska is the place to be and Alaskan Citizens who realize that Alaska is not a viable place to stay in a long term Crunch [1].

And Hawaii?
Just as in Alaska, what happens when the ships and planes stop arriving? Too much population (1,250,000 and growing!) and too little self-sufficiency. Lousy gun laws, too. The only thing that Hawaii has going for it is a mild climate and the fact that each island produces its own power—albeit with imported fuel. If and when the North American grid goes down, it will be something that Hawaiians will see reported on the evening news. Yes, I know, fish are plentiful and you can walk through the jungle and forage enough fruit in just an hour to feed your family for a day. But the two-legged predators will be out in force. It won’t be safe to go out fishing or foraging. Perhaps the residents of some of the smaller islands will pull through a Crunch. Certainly they might on Ni`ihau–the small western island reserved for natives only and their traditional lifestyle–subsistence agriculture, and fishing. But of course: “Haoles need not apply…”