Thursday, March 29, 2012

More Panic in the Cities

We discussed the countryside bound panicked hoards  that are expected by all the most exciting apocalypse-in-progress (aip) novels.  We have already commented on One Second After earlier, but the modern version of the genre goes back at least to the movie Panic in the Year Zero, which itself is said to have  been (without attribution) based on Ward Moore's Lot and Lot's Daughter.

A love fest? Yes indeed!

O.K. let's play a scenario game.  We live in the world of Lucifer's Hammer, No Blade of Grassthe prequel to Starvation Ridge, Nova's second book in the American Apocalypse before the Norse Goddess shows up, or Crawford's Lights Out.  We are the heroes of the story, we have noodled around for a while, had a little drama, and now we are waiting for the bad guys - the city hordes - to show up. 

However, we are going to change the rules a little.  We will insist on at least a modicum of reality.

So what happens?

If they are driving normal passenger vehicles, the hordes can make it about 300 miles.  That is somewhat the standard range for an off the shelf passenger vehicle.  However, as Busted Knuckles noted in our earlier post, most of us are running around town with about a quarter of a tank of gas.  Considering a quarter tank is good for maybe 60  miles of city traffic, that is not all that surprising.  day-to-day, it gets us where we need to go. 

So the reality is, at some point they are going to have to get out and walk at some point.  I mean it is possible that they could raid a Dick's Sporting Goods and show up as the second coming of a Wehrmacht bicycle company, but it just doesn't happen that way in fiction.  Given how hard it would be to round up more than a hundred adult sized bikes, it also does not make for much of a horde.  Kids bikes of course are more common, so it would remain a viable option for the four foot-and-under crowd.  If they teamed up with the rampaging mice hoards it would certainly make a unique threat mix.

Now we will pause a moment to look at some numbers.  To be exact, the load that a U.S. infantryman carries on foot:

  • Average fighting load:   62.43 pounds
  • Average full load % body weight: 34.90%
  • Average Approach March Load (AML): 94.98 pounds
  • Average AML % body weight: 52.59%
  • Average Emgergency March Load (EAML): 128.35 pounds
  • Average EAML % body weight: 73.62%.
  • The average mission duration: 48 -72 hours.

So when these heavily loaded troops (we are not back to our urban hordes yet) get to the area of engagement, if they really open up and blaze away, how long will their ammo last?
  • About 5-10 minutes.
from Modern Warriors Combat Load (pdf), Spring 2003 p13,

That's right, if they really open up and let someone have it, they will run out of ammo in 5 minutes. This is actually something of a military truism. The "Five minutes of rooty-tooty" in World War 2(John D. Salt, The Nugget, Feb 2008) becoming the 10 minutes of rooty-tooty with lighter modern ammunition  so to speak.  It is not just U.S. troops.   It is one of the reasons that the ever astute Germans made a point of making an immediate counterattack after loosing a position.  They wanted to catch their opponant before they were settled in and were still low on ammunition.  You simply canot carry enough ammunition to keep you in a long fight with semi- or full-auto weapons.

The typical load out for an infantryman with a M-4/M-16 is 7 magazines with 30 rounds, and 140 rounds in stripper clips for a total of (210+140) 350 rounds.  At the leisurely pace (even on semi-auto) of one shoot per second or two,  the ammo will be gone in 5 to 10 minutes.  For what it is worth the light machine gun crew (SAW) is carrying about 1000 rounds and will run out quicker on full auto.  Note that someone carrying heavier rounds (.308) will likely even have less ammunition: rounds-per-pound  of 19 versus 37 (from here).
No we are back to our hordes.

That infantryman is carrying a lot of weight.  It is what they carry around to accomplish 2 to 3 days of work. Granted they have more, and better equipment than your typical hordesperson (we want to be PC here), but they are also not hauling around any kindergartners, family heirloom silver sets, or other odd critical items that a four-hours of sitcom/reality shows a day educated person might think they need to survive.
Our average hordesperson  is not likely to be in as good of shape as our combat infantryman.  It is difficult to see them carry much in the way of provisions and ammunition and great distance.  Groups of people move slowly, being really generous our horde makes 10 miles a day.  If they are going to maraud further than 30 miles, they are going to have to trade of hauling ammunition for hauling food.
That trade off may not be difficult, it is my understanding that the typical gun owning U.S. household has less than one-hundred rounds of ammunition.  Much of that is likely pistol ammunition.

So what is our horde looking like?

Note that our scenario is not the same as those traffic jamb that occurs on our southern exposed coasts when a mega-hurican threatens. It is far worse.  The gas stations are not open, and the highway patrol is not keeping things orderly.  There is no expected friendly destination point for most of these people.

The front edge of the horde can make better mileage and time if it does not run into any roadblocks.  It scatters into a fairly loose gaggle of individuals that are potentially dangerous.  However, most of the horde is going to get caught up in the traffic.  Bridges will be your most severe choke points.  There are an awful lot less bridges over major rivers than people think.  Only in the cities themselves - the point of escape, are there usually multiple bridges over a river.

U.S. Geography is so variable that it is hard to predict.  But most of your hordes are not going to get very far before they have to start walking.  The quarter tank of gas gets them well into the suburbs, and not much else.  A few go further, but they of course are much more dispersed.  At this point they can walk 20 miles over the next couple of days before they run out of food.  When they show up at the place they are supposed to be marauding, without our combat infantryman's fire dicipline, they will shoot up their (less than) 100 rounds of (mostly pistol) ammunition in a matter of minutes.  If fire is returned, they will go to ground too soon and hit nothing.

It doesn't make for a lot of novelistic excitement.


kymber said...

oh Russell - bahahahahah! i was killing myself reading this! you need to write a proper PC, apocalyptic, hordespersons novel! i'd buy it in a second!

this is the funniest thing i have read in a long time. maybe you could start writing chapters of your new book on this blog. you could call it "the travelling wilburys".

ok off now to go and read it again - bahahahah!

your friend,

Anonymous said...

You neglected the need for the horde to pass up what they have been conditioned to see as lucrative targets, that is the rich in the city and the suburbs to get to the countryside. For suburbanites that would mean passing up the shopping centers to get to drive through country. All the stopping and checking will take time and time burns food and most importantly water. There is a heck of a lot less drinkable water out here than people think - no electricity means no well pumps. At 10 miles a day, it can be a day's walk between flowing streams and that is if you know where they are. Water is heavy and bulky to carry. There are many more reasons; conditioned dependency, winter cold, summer heat, lack of camping/survival skills, and maybe most importantly that they would have to cooperate rather than prey on each other. All of those and more add up to the horde not being very large or getting very far.

russell1200 said...

K: I was being completely serious!

LOl, O.K. maybe not. I am toying with the idea of a survivalist novel written from the point of view of pets left behind after some "World Without Us" event. Maybe some sort of cross between "The Incredible Journey" and..."The World Without Us."

A: I agree. Except that I didn't neglect. I started to go there, but decided that the length was getting out of control, so I deleted the urban-suburban interaction portion. Drinking from suburban/urban streams with an influx of unprocessed human waste (people will pee/poop in them) without effective filtration will get very ugly.

Depending on how much forewarning people get, water may be the first thing to drive people out of their homes.

kymber said...

Russell, buddy - start writing your book. i think that with your extensive knowledge, and your dry wit - it could be a best seller!

your friend,

PioneerPreppy said...

I have never placed much concern in the average garden variety refugee from the city. I rarely meet one that could walk even a few miles before falling over like a beached whale.

What concerns me will be the organized gangs, either a pre-collapse one continuing on or a newly formed one. Either will be recruiting cannon fodder and start becoming somewhat organized and logistic centered. Even government employee remnants would be ipso facto the same thing.

Those are the refugees who worry me.

Humble wife said...

I am one that needs but four miles to grant me what I need...and believe that if times ever became as you describe...I would need to flee as rail lines as well as highways would be lines of travel. Sadly I live near a rail line.

Write the book...I would read it!! And btw-cool character name=Jennifer! She could be the sound, serious, sober, and positive character that is always willing to roll up her sleeves and do what needs to be done-

Pioneer Preppy-although the gangs worry me and would consider their lack of knowledge and skills as a deep threat- because they will kill and destroy long before they realize what may be needed in any crises...

russell1200 said...

K: LOL- we will see. Time is always an issue. And first efforts are usually pretty bad.

HW: Roll up sleeves? Jennifer? I had a girlfriend named Jennifer when I was young: polar opposite of what you descrive - but very cute! LOL Is Jennifer a cats name, dogs name, or parakeet?

PP: I know you don't worry about suburban softies, but the the fictional hordes have to be coming from somewhere: LOL. I think your concernes are (correctly) to some degree it is a factor of which big urban area you happen to live near. If I a m not mistaken, you are somewhat near St. Louis- which has had a "difficult" reputation for a very long time. There are of course other "difficult" urban environments. For most people, I think the local authorities, and neighbors are likely to be the greatest threat. They know where you are at, and are more likely to know (even if second hand) what you have on hand. Your most worrisome gang types I think will be the local meth-heads who get an idea in their head.

russell1200 said...

HW: I forget to comment of the RR-line.

From a military point of view, the big issue with the RR-line would be the relatively gentle pitch required and the bridges.

But I don't think RR lines are shown on too many maps, and most people crossing over the tracks are going to view them as a road to nowhere.

I am sure a few people would use RR-lines, but our modern culture isn't a bunch of 1930s hobos waiting to happen.

As with PP, I think your big problem will be local officials and informed local meth-head types. If you live in rural America, you have meth-heads somewhere in your area.

Humble wife said... Parakeet? Or dog?Or perhaps, little old Humble Wife-victim of the late 60's and named a popular name of the era!! Sigh~ a parakeet? You made me laugh out loud.

I had forgotten how disconnected our nation has become to rail travel and how it criss crosses our nation. Most do not appreciate that rr lines almost always have a city/town or community about 20 miles due to need when rr built to refuel. So destination and potential food for modern crises could be but a small distance-maybe two day or three day travel for out of shape desperate folks.

Anyhow I am thinking your first girlfriend did a grave disservice to a wonderful name or at least a name that has carried me a good long time~although I believe I may resemble the cuteness factor or did many years ago~~ :)

Thanks for the time and effort you make to post, I enjoy reading and challenging myself to process scenarios when I visit!

Have a great day

russell1200 said...

HW: Thank you.

I think if I wrote a appocalyptic family pets novel, I would have to be very careful with the names. LOL