In Part 2 of Why 1800’s Technology I laid out the second level consequences of an EMP event which takes down the power grid and damages electronics. They include (but aren’t limited to):

No Transportation
No Communications
Millions, perhaps tens of millions, of individuals and families displaced from their homes faced with no simple way to reunite or make it home
Non-Operational government from local through federal level
No Law Enforcement
Military units cut off and isolated with no way to communicate or coordinate
Social Disorder with no effective response

While those sound bad enough the tertiary effects of the above effects over a period of just a few days are far worse.

Most healthy people can survive for 3 weeks without food and three days without water. That’s an old saying that carries enough truth to be a useful guideline.

Imagine a small city such as the one near where I live. Roughly 70,000 people would have:

no power
no clean water other than what was on hand in their homes when the event occurred
no food other than what is on their shelves since the refrigerated food would have to be eaten within a day or two or be lost.
no fuel with which to cook beyond a few backyard grills, perhaps a some charcoal or a bit of firewood

Even assuming that people were extremely stingy with what they had on hand they would still begin to run out within a few days. Once they do run out of water they can still probably get by for a few more days on the liquids in canned goods, perhaps a neighbor’s swimming pool. Eventually, after 2-3 or 4-5 days, the majority of people would run out of available water.

As thirst sets in they will start leaving their homes in search of water and food. The city government, if any remains, would be overwhelmed by tens of thousands of people seeing help. Local Law Enforcement would be totally ineffective and no real help would be available.

The nearest higher level government presence of which most people would be aware would be the military base about 40 miles north on a secondary highway. Many people would hope that the federal government would be able to help them and they would head in that direction. Others would head in different directions hoping to find help in other smaller towns or the farming communities in the area. A sizable percentage of those 70,000 people would be on the road heading for what they hope would be help.

In reality the number would likely be a lot higher since people from surrounding areas would have likely already headed towards the city looking for help and while the population of the city itself is about 70,000 the suburbs and surrounding residential areas are probably two to three times that.

Imagine 100,000 people, and perhaps twice that, on the roads, highways, side streets all desperate for water and likely food as well. Many not knowing any better or perhaps no longer caring would drink from streams, creeks and the local rivers. Even worse some would drink from the uncountable pools of water since the area is home to a lot of swampy ground. While some would a large percentage of the people would not ensure that the water was filtered and sanitized before drinking.

It wouldn’t take more than perhaps 48 hours after the migration starts before disease begins to strike from untreated water. The sanitation problem would become astronomically worse as people began to die, bodies were left uncollected and the effects of widespread dysentery and similar diseases became ever present.

The bottom line is this…

Within a few months (90-180 days) after an EMP event comparable to the Carrington Event 80%-90% of the population in the affected areas would be dead from dehydration, disease, starvation or violence. Some estimates suggest the population loss could be as high as 99% after 6 months. Others place it as low as 75%.

The survivors of such an event would find themselves in a world almost inconceivably different from the world they knew today. With few exceptions their skills and knowledge would be virtually useless in a world where the systems and social milieu which engendered those skills and their knowledge no longer exist.

In Part 4, now that you have an idea of the world with which the survivors would be left, the significance of 1800’s technology will become clear.

The Librarian

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