Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 13, 2016

Get right out of town

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

Not exactly about Alameda but relevant given the discussion around development that inevitably leads to someone saying something like, “but what happens in an emergency how is everyone going to get out?”  Some people will point out that in the case of an earthquake most people will hunker down anyway which is why we are told to get together earthquake supplies to last for a certain number of days.  The likelihood of everyone rushing off Island all at once after the last shake is over is pretty slim.

However the recent hurricane evacuations are instructive as to how evacuations, if of a disaster level big enough to necessitate the Federal government to step in and coordinate.  From a Wired article about the hurricane evacuations:

Evacuees are fairly predictable, says Brian Wolshon, a transportation engineer with Louisiana State University who studies evacuation. There’s the cautious minority that gets out quick. And there’s the rabble scurrying about town picking up the necessaries—cash, food, water—snarling traffic before the mandatory evacuation begins. After a day or so, this majority takes to the roads in a rush.

Options breed confusion, so officials sacrifice free will (and comfort) to keep traffic moving, Wolshon says. “It’s kind of like moving cattle—you don’t want people thinking.”

Rural regions often direct their residents toward one major highway, physically blocking off smaller roads. This undoubtedly results in jams, but some officials would rather have their populations—with their attendant gas, medical, and food needs—bunched together than spread throughout the hinterlands. Metropolitan areas are more likely to shut down an entire stretch of interstate, forcing cars onto side roads until they converge on bumper-to-bumper congestion miles from a flood zone.

The TL;dr is you’re not getting out of Alameda at 45 mph.  You’re not going to take tricky back roads or side streets if there is a big enough disaster to necessitate it.  You are going to sit in bumper to bumper traffic with everyone else trying to get out of Dodge at the exact same time.  That’s the tried and true evacuation plan.



  1. It’s not leaving Alameda that will be a problem, it’s protecting it. Based on the Haiti model,if their are no resources form 3-5 days in the Bay Area due to riots or natural disasters, the police probably already have a plan to combat looters from trying to get in to Alameda to rob and steal as resources from surrounding communities dwindle and law enforcement is stretched thin. This is why most aid does not actually reach the needy. Why don’t you ask the police chief about this?

    Comment by Captain Obvious — October 13, 2016 @ 6:46 am

    • Never mind that when discussing development and “traffic” people cite not being able to evacuate aka leave the Island quickly enough if there are too many people. Not hunkering down and fighting off the zombie hordes.

      Zombie hordes and people losing their collective minds is a whole other topic best answered by asking Jennifer Roloff a question about Black Lives Matter or citing nebulous “those people” as though if everyone lost their collective minds somehow people in Alameda are immune to being assholes.

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 13, 2016 @ 6:57 am

      • Your problem, Lauren, is that you have never been in Alameda during a real disaster. Listen to those who have been here. You can only speculate, and you are mostly wrong.

        Comment by vigi — October 13, 2016 @ 9:14 am

        • vigi, when it comes to the scope of the pending earthquake, you haven’t been in Alameda in a disaster either. Since ingress and egress will be a problem and it will be miles to safe haven, I imagine we will have to hunker down and that invasion by looters will be minimal problem at least for the first 72 hours. Oakland may be in worse shape.

          Comment by MI — October 13, 2016 @ 9:34 am

        • Tell us, oh Wise One, how was it?

          Comment by BC — October 13, 2016 @ 9:38 am

        • The Hayward Fault’s next move will hit Alameda much, much harder than Loma Prieta.

          Comment by dave — October 13, 2016 @ 9:41 am

    • A quick look at numerous natural disasters around the globe pretty much discount the raping/looting myths that arise in the aftermath. It’s doubtful that Alameda would be affected in that regard, given the lack of ingress points.

      Comment by jack — October 13, 2016 @ 9:07 am

  2. This is assuming that everybody will be here. Loma Prieta occurred at 5:05 PM and the main concern will be how to get back on the Island to be with your family.

    Comment by frank — October 13, 2016 @ 9:06 am

  3. All this noise about an “evacuation plan” is amusing when I recall how, all during the Cold War, Alameda NAS was considered a prime nuclear target for the Soviet bloc. Now that’s worth worrying about how to get off the island for. Strangely, we didn’t seem that worried at the time.

    Comment by vigi — October 13, 2016 @ 9:18 am

    • Those were the good times Vigi, now we’re part of the Soviet bloc and need now worry.

      Comment by jack — October 13, 2016 @ 9:21 am

  4. I have never understood this red herring mass evacuation fear either. The only thing I could imagine would trigger a mass evacuation attempt would be a tsunami of epic proportions. The likely lead time on such an occurrence would probably be fairly short. In such an event, I promise you the difference between an island of 75,000 people trying to flee will be indistinguishable from 85,000 people doing so.

    In the event of a zombie apocalypse, I will be stealing someone’s very nice sailboat and hitting the high seas. Text me if you want in.

    Comment by BMac — October 13, 2016 @ 12:24 pm

    • BMac, I’m in! As long as Vigi isn’t invited. Well wait, if we ever make land somewhere it might be helpful to have someone who knows how to break and enter.

      Comment by Eyeroll — October 13, 2016 @ 2:45 pm

      • Big Mac and eggroll…And if you don’t make land you both will be eaten.

        Comment by jack — October 13, 2016 @ 3:31 pm

        • I finally laughed today. thank you

          Comment by MP — October 13, 2016 @ 4:02 pm

  5. After a major earthquake, the bridges and tube station will be closed to all traffic until they have been inspected and deemed safe for use. If they are not damaged they will be re-opened for vehicular traffic.

    Comment by dc — October 13, 2016 @ 6:22 pm

  6. “tubes”, not “tube station”. Thanks spell check.

    Comment by dc — October 13, 2016 @ 6:24 pm

  7. Come the tsunami, I’m going to be sitting on my roof in my canoe. It rides the waves like a champ.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — October 13, 2016 @ 9:55 pm

  8. Come the tsunami, I’m going to be sitting on the roof in my canoe. It rides the waves like a champ. Kowabunga!

    Comment by Jack Mingo — October 13, 2016 @ 9:56 pm

  9. When a big earthquake hits, the bridges and tubes will be down, closed, broken, and probably impassable. Leaving the island will not be an option, and only fools will try to waste time, gas, and leave. Trees and power lines will be down all overt the city, further limiting our ability to move.

    The best plan: put aside enough water, food, and camping supplies to survive for 5-7 days without water, gas, indoor plumbing, or electricity. And sit tight. Have a working emergency plan in place for alternative shelter with friends or relatives in case you live or work far from Alameda and are stranded in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Richmond, or Dublin: it will be a long walk home.

    The same bridge and tube closures than will keep us on the island will also keep others off of it: the fears of looting and pillaging are largely imaginary and science-fictional.

    The ferries will be working (now you know why they call it the Water Emergency Transportation Agency). The ferries will help some people return to Alameda or leave Alameda to get to their homes, but don’t expect normal service.

    For intra-island transportation, plan on walking or using a mountain bike. Both will be safer and faster than driving a car around on cracked streets blocked by downed trees, live power lines, and broken gas mains…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — October 17, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Create a free website or blog at