Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Dan's Promo Page

We survived the January edition of Snowpocalipse 2014 here at Casa Vila with very little trouble. Her Grace Lady Cita, I, and the fur babies are all safe, warm, and fed. So relax if you were worrying about us. There are many Aphelion friends and family in the Atlanta area who weren't quite so lucky as we, however. But from what I hear, they are also safe, at home, and some have even recovered their stranded cars from the Atlanta roads.

First off, a bit of geography. Atlanta is roughly 90 miles/145 kilometers West Southwest of Casa Vila. We're far closer to Athens, Ga. Downtown Athens is roughly 15 miles South of us, if you want to look it up on a map. Casa Vila is roughly halfway between the city of Athens and the town of Danielsville along Highway 29. If you zoom in your online maps close enough to see a little hamlet named "Diamond Hill" then we are only two miles away from that point. And yes, to answer your unspoken question, Casa Vila is quite rural. But it does have a few advantages over living in a city. And there are also the obvious disadvantages.

Athens probably has more cold-weather road equipment than Atlanta, if you look at it from the point of view of percentages of population per sand truck or snowplow. So from the start of the snowstorm, we were in better shape to handle the icy conditions. The counties around Athens also have road construction equipment, some of which can double as snowplows. We have dirt roads that need to be scraped regularly. Atlanta has no dirt roads, so that area has fewer items that can pull double duty as snowplows. Atlanta can't afford to buy a fleet of snowplows that will sit idle, rusting away, for a decade at a time between uses. Athens and the surrounding area has very good communications systems. Several radio stations, cable and satellite TV service companies, loads of cell phone towers, access to Atlanta and national TV stations, TV stations from neighboring states, and so on. Atlanta has all of that, and more, but not quite as well organized for emergency conditions. We knew by Friday that there were going to be loads of road problems from the ice that Tuesday's snowstorm was going to cause. Atlanta seemed to adopt an attitude of "it's only going to be a little bit of snow, nothing we haven't handled before." Local schools and businesses in the Athens area began announcing Tuesday closings by Monday afternoon. Others quickly followed suit. The upshot of all that is that we were more ready for icy conditions than Atlanta turned out to be. But in Atlanta's defense, the place is huge! When you look at a map of Atlanta, what you are seeing is a large inner city surrounded by hundreds of thousands of suburbs, some of which are cities in their own right. Atlanta has a small Mass Transit system. Just a few trains and a small fleet of buses running on just a few routes covering just the merest fraction of the entire area. Southerners in general tend to look at owning their own automobiles as being the best mass transit system. This handicaps us in several ways when rough weather strikes us. We can't just take the train, we've chosen to get each of ourselves into a car and drive ourselves wherever we need to go, whenever we need to get there. That's millions of cars on thousands of roads, all at once, in not just one small area, but the entire Southeastern US. And the US is a huge country. It would take 2 or 3 days to drive a car from South Florida to Canada on the best roads we have. It would take more than 4 days to drive from somewhere on the East coast, to the West coast. Try superimposing a map of Great Britain, or France, or Germany onto a map of the US sometime. That will be educational. I was impressed by the trains, buses, taxis, and subway trains in England when we visited family and friends there. I often wish my fellow Southerners would choose to adopt similar systems. To be sure the Atlanta MARTA system is quite cool. I love it. But it is too small, and has been restricted from expanding itself by several unfortunate choices made by lawmakers over the years of MARTA's lifetime. I believe that should change, but I have no idea how to make that change happen. I'd love to see a two-way high-speed rail line between Atlanta and several of the other cities in the state. Ideally, there would be a slower local commuter line as well. There are already freight lines going everywhere, but these aren't safe for living passengers. A whole new system would have to be built, at no small cost.

Be that as it may, the loss of life due to this storm was staggering in just how few people were injured or killed! We should have seen ten times as many deaths and injuries. But we didn't. And that is down to the people themselves. The workers who were out preparing the Atlanta roads for the snow and its icy aftermath are real heroes here. The EMTs, the utility repair crews, the people themselves who responded on their own to emergencies and trapped motorists, all are heroes. The businesses who opened their doors to serve as makeshift shelters, those who allowed their employees to walk the stalled roads passing out food and emergency supplies to people trapped in their cars, people who pitched in to rescue others who were trapped by the conditions are all heroes. They deserve recognition as such.

Here, for me, it was a simple matter to drive slowly and carefully home from work while the snow continued to fall. Frightening, to be sure, but simple. The biggest danger I faced was that someone else on the road would do something stupid. Once home and safe, the biggest danger my wife and I faced was that the electricity would be cut off by a falling tree. Thankfully, we were prepared for 4 days or more without power which never happened. We had plenty of food that wouldn't need to be cooked. Lyn filled up every available container with water from the tap in case the power went out and our well pump shut off. We had my large assortment of camping gear to rely on in case our total-electric house went dark and cold. We had a dozen oil lamps, several quarts of lamp oil, and several dozen candles for emergency lights and heat. I have a kerosene heater in the barn, but no ready supply of kerosene. Thanks to friends, I now know where to purchase kerosene and I'll be laying in about ten gallons in the near future. We have a cast-iron Dutch Oven-style BBQ grill that I could have cooked on outdoors, with many fallen trees and tree limbs that would serve as fuel for it. I brainstormed a way to use oil lamps and some of my camping gear to make an indoor-safe emergency stove & heater. And I came up with a way to use some of our household cooking pots with oil lamps to make an emergency heater as well. We have a huge amount of First Aid gear because of my hobby of primitive camping. In short, we have always been ready to face emergencies. I'd ask that each of you also make such preparations, wherever you live. Buy emergency kits, add your own items to those, keep them up to date by replacing expired items. Please, being prepared can save not only your life and the lives of those you love, but sometimes you can save the lives of total strangers as well. It's the human thing to do.

What would I recommend as an emergency kit? That's not easy to answer because each emergency is different, with differing requirements. I'll be as generic as I can to cover several different kinds of emergency, but remember that my mind has been occupied by this cold weather. A tornado or hurricane or earthquake kit will need different, specialized items. My list is by no means the last word on the subject. Adapt and survive!

  1. Several five gallon buckets, with lids! Really, these buggers have so many uses I couldn't possibly list them all. A clean one can hold drinking water. You can use one to gather dirty snow or rain water to force-flush a toilet. You can use one as an emergency toilet, if necessary. One with a lid attached can even be used as a floatation device if you were to find yourself in a flood. You can pack lots of survival gear into a five gallon bucket. They are the lego blocks of emergency survival! Get several! I recommend at least two per person in your family.
  2. First Aid Kits. There are online resources to help you plan one, or there are kits that you can buy. Do this! But add your own selections to the pre-packaged ones!
  3. Oil lamps, lamp oil, candles, and lighters! The more the merrier! Hurricane Lamps, decorative household lamps, it doesn't matter. These are second only to five gallon buckets in usefulness. And don't forget the Lamp Oil! You can buy both at most big grocery stores and department stores. Candles? Lots of them, and many different sizes! Lighters? You'll feel silly if you've got no way to light your candles or lamps.
  4. Emergency Food! MREs, dehydrated stuff, Jerky, cold-cut sandwiches, canned goods, and so on. Load up! You might need it.
  5. Water! You're going to need at least half a gallon of potable water per person per day. Save 2 liter and 3 liter plastic soda bottles, or half-gallon liquor bottles. Fill them before the emergency strikes. Fill your bath tub to use one of your buckets to dip out water to flush your toilets.
  6. Camping gear! Sleeping bags, folding shovels, small tents, tarps- both plastic and canvas, compass, a hatchet, a Bowie Knife, bow saw, Space Blankets, light-sticks, magnifying glass, backpacks, file, claw hammer, a fist-full of big nails, knife sharpener, lots of rope, twine, a large spool of heavy-duty fishing line, picnic gear, lots of zip-lock baggies of several different sizes, Toilet paper, paper towels, and so on. You can set up a small tent inside your house to collect body and lamp heat, you know.
  7. Pocket knives, Swiss Army Knives, Multi-Tools, whatever. One per person in your family or group. Just make sure that the knife blades are as sharp as possible.
  8. Machetes, firearms & ammo, hunting and fishing gear. One each per adult in your family or group. Look, this stuff is way useful as survival gear. There are loads of different things you could get. If you don't like the idea of guns, I understand. But you can't expect someone else to step up and protect you and your family in an emergency. It all falls on you. The cops are going to be elsewhere, and busy doing their jobs. You want to survive against predators both human and animal. Therefore, you will need more than good will and a smile. A hungry coyote is going to see you, your spouce, and your children as a meal. You will need to face this and I want you to keep your family alive. Human predators are far worse than animal ones. PROTECT YOUR FAMILY! I recommend one pistol and 100 rounds of ammo per adult in your family or group, with a .22 rifle per group for small game hunting, a shotgun per group for small game and bird hunting, and one deer rifle or combat rifle & ammo per group- unless it's one of those "Civilization has fallen" disasters in which case each adult needs a combat rifle, pistol, and machete/sword each, with as much ammo as the group can transport.
  9. A grappling hook with rope attached. Think about it, you'll agree.
  10. One of those two-wheeled deer carts that hunters use to haul dead deer out of the woods. Or a wheelbarrow, but the wheelbarrow will be heavier and harder to use. Stuff you can't carry on your back needs to go in the cart. If you have enough stuff, get two carts.
  11. Flare gun, flares, mirrors, whistles, or other ways to signal for help. Including waterproof matches, waterproof match boxes, Altoids tins full of cotton balls dipped in Vaseline to start fires with, road flares, spray cans of WD-40 to make a flamethrower out of, just anything and everything you can think of to signal with!

OK, I did my best. This was as general and generic a list as I could make. I'm sure I left stuff out that you'll see needed to be included. Post in the Forums any things you think need to be added. Just remember, disasters make us react rather than think clearly. Planning ahead helps us react better.

If disaster strikes, don't head for Casa Vila. Lyn & I will have taken everything and bugged out for the best natural fortress I know of, Tallulah George. Thank you very much, keep yourselves and your families safe, and we'll see you at the bottom of the Gorge. Just yell "Aphelion!" every few minutes as you climb down the 1100 foot cliffs into the Gorge and none of my group will shoot you. LOL!



Here are some links to pages I have up promoting the music. Rob Wynne is working on one that will better fit into Aphelion's page format, so that our readers will have a far prettier promo page to read. There are links on that page to the Create Space Preview songs, the Create Space page for each album, the Amazon.com listings, and the link to the digital downloads page.

Dan's Music Page This is my promo page here at Aphelion. All the links below, and more information about the albums, are located here.

The Never Bank On A Learning Curve CD on the Create Space website. My first album, with a wide range of styles and genres, covering the past three years of my working with the MAGIX Music Maker programs.

The Second Helping CD on the Create Space website. My second album, with just as wide a range of different musical styles, showing just how much I've learned in the past three years.

Dan's Studio-D Page on the Bandcamp website. Digital downloads of the albums, or each individual song if you prefer it that way. Just click on the album cover thumbnails and you'll see a list of each song on the album. Next to the song titles are links to read the liner notes, or to download the individual song. You can listen to each song for free. There is also a link to download each entire album at one go. I cannot say enough about Bandcamp! This is an amazing website. I have Rob, and many other friends, to thank for finally talking me into checking it out.

And here's a link to my Sound Cloud page:

Dan's Sound Cloud Page where all my music has been stored for your free listening pleasure. These are not as high a quality recordings as the ones on the CDs or on Bandcamp. But SoundCloud does have the virtue of having everything collected together in one place.

Check those links out, buy a CD or download if you like what you hear. And once again, thank you for your time,



Title: Space Phenomenon Imitates Art in Universe's Version of Van Gogh Painting
Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, and H.E. Bond (STScI)