Because of the urbanization of the U.S. population, if the entire eastern or western power grid goes down for more than a week, the cities will rapidly become unlivable. I foresee that there will be an almost unstoppable chain of events: Power -> water -> food distribution -> law and order -> arson fires -> full scale looting
As the comfort level in the cities rapidly drops to nil, there will be a massive involuntary outpouring from the big cities and suburbs into the hinterboonies. This is the phenomenon that my late father, Donald Robert Rawles–a career particle physics research administrator at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories–half-jokingly called “The Golden Horde.” He was of course referring to the Mongol Horde of the 13th Century, but in a modern context. (The Mongol rulers were chosen from the ‘Golden Family’ of Temujin. Hence the term “The Golden Horde.”) I can remember as a child, my father pointing to the hills at the west end of the Livermore Valley, where we then lived. He opined: “If The Bomb ever drops, we’ll see a Golden Horde come swarming over those hills [from Oakland and beyond] of the like that the world has never seen. And they’ll be very unpleasant, believe you me!”
In my lectures on survival topics I often mention that there is just a thin veneer of civilization on our society. What is underneath is not pretty, and it does take much to peel away that veneer. You take your average urbanite or suburbanite and get him excessively cold, wet, tired, hungry and/or thirsty and take away his television, beer, drugs, and other pacifiers, and you will soon seen the savage within. It is like peeling the skin of an onion—remove a couple of layers and it gets very smelly. As a Christian, I attribute this to man’s inherently sinful nature.
Here is a mental exercise: Put yourself in the mind set of Mr. Joe Sixpack, Suburbanite. (Visualize him in or near a big city near where you live.) He is unprepared. He has less than one week’s food on hand, he has a 12 gauge pump action shotgun that he hasn’t fired in years, and just half a tank of gas in his minivan and maybe a gallon or two in a can that he keeps on hand for his lawn mower. Then TEOTWAWKI hits. The power grid is down, his job is history, the toilet doesn’t flush, and water no longer magically comes cascading from the tap. There are riots beginning in his city. The local service stations have run out of gas. The banks have closed. Now he is suddenly desperate. Where will he go? What will he do?
Odds are, Joe will think: “I’ve gotta go find a vacation cabin somewhere, up in the mountains, where some rich dude only goes a few weeks out of each year.” So vacation destinations like Lake Tahoe, Lake Arrowhead, and Squaw Valley, California; Prescott and Sedona, Arizona; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Vail and Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and the other various rural ski, spa, Great Lakes, and coastal resort areas will get swarmed. Or, he will think: “I’ve got to go to where they grow food.” So places like the Imperial Valley, the Willamette Valley, and the Red River Valley will similarly get overrun. There will be so many desperate Joe Sixpacks arriving all at once that these areas will degenerate into free-fire zones. It will be an intensely ugly situation and will not be safe for anyone. In some places the locals may be so vastly outnumbered that they won’t survive. But some of the Joe Sixpacks will survive, and then the more ruthless among them will begin to fight amongst themselves for the few remaining resources. They will form ad hoc gangs of perhaps 6 to 30 people.
Once the Golden Horde has been thinned (and honed to ferocity) and they’ve cleaned out an area, the thugs at the pinnacle of ruthlessness will comprise the most formidable rover packs imaginable. They will move on to an adjoining region, and then another. But the inverse square law will work in your favor: Imagine that you take a jar of marbles turn it upside down on a wooden floor and then lift the jar suddenly upward. The marbles will spread out semi-randomly. But the farther from the mouth of the jar, the lighter the density of marbles. Hence, the rover packs will attenuate themselves into a huge rural expanse that is peopled with well-armed country folks. By the time the looters work their way out 150 miles from the big cities, they will be thinned out considerably. The rover pack is your primary threat in a total collapse, no matter how remote your retreat. Here are your potential adversaries: A squad to company size force (12 to 60 individuals), highly mobile, moderately well armed with a motley assortment of weapons and vehicles, and imbued with absolute ruthlessness. Be prepared.