Western Washington — A Retreat Potential and Disaster Assessment, by B.H.

I am writing to you at length today about Western Washington and its retreat potential and Assessment of disaster scenarios. Last year I made a career move that required us to move to Western Washington from Eastern Washington. We moved into what is considered the South Sound area of Western Washington (WWA) this area includes the State capital of Olympia and its bedroom communities of Tumwater and Lacey. Lacey and South East Olympia border the “Argonne Forest” of Fort Lewis. On a side note the 3rd Stryker Brigade is starting to rotate back home—Great job to you all and were glad to have you home on American soil!

Let me take a moment to describe some important geographic details about WWA. Imagine a vertical strip of land 60 miles wide and bordered along the north/south axis by ocean and mountains. The entire WWA is riddled with rivers running East to West from the Cascade Mountains into Puget Sound or directly into the Pacific Ocean. Starting in King County the population center expands outward to the North and South with heavy concentrations in Pierce(South) and Snohomish (North) and East into the cities of Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland and Issaquah. Interstate 90 runs directly through these cities and stops directly next to Qwest Stadium (Seahawks). Running North/South directly through WWA is Interstate 5 (“I-5”) which at times is 8 lanes wide to just two lanes in Lewis and Cowlitz Counties.
I have spent one year driving almost all of WWA for my job and I am convinced that WWA is not in anyway viable for retreat potential and at best would be a death trap during any Disaster. The main two reasons are 1) Population/Culture and 2) Nodes of Transportation/Infrastructure. I have found it best to describe and discuss these blended topics rather than individual subjects. I’m sure what I’m about to discuss may be quite redundant to most SurvivalBlog readers but what is new information is the application to the specific region called WWA or Puget Sound.

The first point of concern is and always should be size of population and without being too redundant you can imagine the jar of marbles exercise being applied to Seattle area and it’s obvious that no truly rural area truly exists in Western Washington. The golden horde numbers well over 2 million people just in the Puget Sound area. The greatest concern is that the majority of these people are left-wing big government liberals. The Seattle or “West-Side” culture as called by the Eastern Washington (Eastsiders) is very decadent or metropolitan lifestyle. The average Sounder relies heavily upon morning lattes, delivered sushi for lunch and fast food for dinner so the kids can get to soccer practice. It’s a decadent lifestyle but frail and unsustainable. This coastal community relies heavily upon government interference and actually tends to vote socialist in every election. In fact, I predict the socialist’s will kill gun shows in Washington in the 2008 legislative session since they control both houses and the governor’s mansion. They may also ban .50 caliber rifles if they push hard enough.

When you drive the I-5 corridor you get to notice lots of similarities in the average driver. The average Seattleite drives a Subaru and/or hybrid auto. Most cars have bumper stickers that reflect the overall socialist thread of the population. The most predominate are “Free Tibet”, “Al Gore for President” and the usual “Bush-hating, anti-war, I’m a coward let’s give up- why can’t we just group hug” bumper stickers. The most appalling I’ve seen is one pledging allegiance to the UN. It took a lot of effort not to run that guy off the road and hang him as a traitor.

If I had to summarize the culture of the average West-sider I would have to say they are socialist, nanny-stators who think it is they’re duty and obligation to use government to force people into living their lives the way the liberal sees fit. No property rights, no gun rights just what is best for the collective good. They won’t be happy until we are all walking or riding bikes and digging for grubs so “Mother Earth” won’t be plagued with the human parasite.

The second point of concern is node of transportation/infrastructure. Most people think of rain when they think of Seattle. Rain and runoff go hand in hand. As moist pacific air moves inland the Cascade mountain range forces the clouds up which squeezes the rain out of the clouds. This is the reason Seattle gets so much precipitation and Eastern Washington is dry and arid. All the rain runs down and drains back into Puget Sound or the Ocean via dozens of rivers. You can’t drive more than 20 minutes going North or South on I-5 without having to cross a bridge. There is water everywhere. This leads to concentrated traffic flow on all North South arterials and since the Mountains only allow a few East-West passages through mountain passes. All traffic flow in Western Washington is overly concentrated.

Also added into the equation is the state politics over the last two decades. Liberal democrats have obstructed common sense growth and infrastructure planning and building. The result is growth management bordering on the criminal when it came to adding on new infrastructure and roadwork projects. No new lanes have been added to the I-5 corridor in over 10 years. Some projects to add additional lanes are nearly complete but it is too little, too late. The population growth due to Microsoft, Boeing and a blockbuster economy similar to Silicon Valley has put the carrying capacity of current roads way below what is necessary. Not to mention the cost of living is 20% higher than Eastern Washington and real estate over inflated to double the cost of Eastern Washington.

The results are catastrophic even on most average of days. I have seen traffic at a dead stop at 2 PM on a Tuesday because someone got a flat tire and had pulled over to change the flat. Our Northbound traffic had slowed to a stop and Southbound traffic was slowed to a crawl just because people wanted to see what was going on—which was absolutely nothing. I don’t think a vehicle with a full tank of gas would make it 100 miles during an evacuation scenario or crises. I fill up when leaving the South Sound and it takes me almost two hours to go North to I-90 just to get started going East.

In closing, I could go on for days with examples of how bad it is. But the only conclusion is that Western Washington is a death trap when it comes to evacuating. I would like to hear from some readers about potential enclaves in the “rural” parts of the Olympic Peninsula or far southwestern sections about potential retreat locations. I will concede that the heavy timber growth and easy access to water and wildlife could lead to favorable retreat locations but only if road access is cut-off or the population is on foot and not in vehicles.

The year that I have spent here has convinced me to move back to the Intermountain West and commute to WWA for work only. Which means I am now forced to set up alternate evac routes and caches to get over the Cascades and to home/retreat in case of an emergency. Time to go re-check my Bug Out Bag.

Jim, thank you again for the opportunity to add to the discussion on your blog. I have been a long time reader; 10 Cent Challenge subscriber, and [content] contributor and I look forward to many more years of learning from you and your readers.

JWR Adds: Any SurvivalBlog readers that live in Western Washington and that have plans to “Get Out of Dodge ” to a retreat in the eastern half of the state (or beyond, to northern Idaho or western Montana) should make several alternate route plans, and practice driving them. Crossing the Cascades in winter can be dicey, even in “normal” times. Roughly 26,000 vehicles a day travel the Snoqualmie Pass route. But during a crisis, the Snoqualmie Pass bottleneck may very well turn into a death trap. Without a lot of study, here are some tentative suggestions:

Plan A, for the sake of speed and simplicity should be I-90, assuming good weather and that you can get on the road ahead of the Golden Horde. Plan B might be to drive south and parallel the Columbia River Gorge, on the north shore. Plan C would be to take one of the smaller pass roads (such as White Pass and Stevens Pass), assuming good weather. Many of these are closed during winter months. Plan D might be to take surface roads, a car/passenger ferry, or a privately owned boat north, then make your way east by 4WD pickup or SUV through lightly-populated British Columbia and Alberta, and then drop back down into the States once you are safely far enough east. Because of Canada’s restrictive gun laws, this would only be an option if you have nearly all of your guns, ammo, and gear pre-positioned at your retreat. You might be able to carry a flare gun, edged weapons, impact weapons (such as a baseball bat) and road flares (when lit, these make great “stay away” intimidators), but probably not much more. (OBTW, as I often tell my consulting clients, in the event of a search, “dual use” items must be found in appropriate context by law enforcement officials. For example, your flare gun and flare cartridges should be stored in the same dufflebag as your nautical charts and tide tables. And your baseball bat should be carried with a baseball mitt looped around one end, and stowed alongside a couple of softballs.) Traveling lightly-armed would be a calculated risk. But if it is winter the Snoqualmie Pass is jammed, and the other passes are closed for the season, then it might be worth the risk.

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