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The Split Pea Soup Disaster

Post Date:07/05/2016 1:42 PM
Having completed my first month with Sandy City where I was hired as the city's Emergency Manager, it important that you all get to know me. Born and raised in northern California (Redding to be exact), I had the opportunity to experience my share of earthquakes, but none that were major. I joined the Air Force when I was 21; serving in the active Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and the Air National Guard. While in the Air Force I worked in public relations, as an airborne language analyst, and managed the base command post. Now 32 years later, it is time to retire from what I know so well, and take on new challenges, to which I'm a looking forward.

As the city's emergency manager, you would expect me to preach about the need for a 72-hour kit, preparations for the eventual 7.0 plus earthquake that is coming, or any other emergency that could come our way.

I would like to initially focus on the meaning of an emergency or better yet, a disaster.

We often turn on the television to hear about the winter storms happening out east, the wildfires in the west, drought in the high desert, war in the Middle East, rioting at soccer games, etc. Disasters occur around the world on a pretty regular basis. But a disaster to a country, state, county, even a city, may be different, because of its ability to cope with that incident. But consider a traffic accident where people may be seriously injured or even killed. Is that a disaster? The police and fire are able to handle the situation without requiring backup from another municipality or the county, so probably not. But think about it. What about the family? Are they overwhelmed? Maybe the mother or father was the victim; a situation that could prove devastating for any family, and what if that person was the breadwinner? You get the picture.

Disasters come in all shapes, sizes, and situations. While the east is still digging itself out of the snow, some of our neighbors on 300 East, just off 9400 South got their own taste of a minor disaster several days ago as many had to go to work without a shower. A water main had broken during the night. Sandy Public Utilities was notified and before long, the pipe had been fixed, and residents living in that neighborhood had water restored.

I had the opportunity to go to the site of the break and saw the crew in action. Not only were they quick to fix the pipe, but restored the spot to "better than original status" with a repaired sprinkler system, new sod, etc.

While gazing in the hole, watching the guys working in the water and mud, I thought about how bad it would have been if it were the middle of a traditional winter with freezing weather. I thought about the un-showered residents (and had to smile a little, as I have been there before). And I thought about minor disasters in my life.

With all the water and mud, my thoughts turned a "disaster" I remembered during a 50-mile hike with my Scout troop up in the Trinity Alps of northern California, many years ago when I was 14.

Our trek had begun two days earlier at "Hobo Gulch." We were young, confident, and in good physical shape. Our group consisted of two scout leaders, and about 15 young men ranging in age from 12 to 17.

The hike had been good so far. We had marched over a steep, snow-capped mountain ridge without a trail using our topographical maps. The final descent to the valley floor, our second campsite, had been plagued by sheer cliffs; drop-offs; snow and ice; we even had to jump over gorges and rivers, some 10-20 feet deep. Reaching the bottom, some relished the cold water that wetted their parched throats, while other screamed as they plunging their blistered feet into the lake, icy cold from the snow run-off.

The sandbar was a good place to camp. The sun went down quickly behind the ridge we'd just crossed, reflecting brilliant colors off the lake. Following dinner we took inventory. We had enough food for breakfast and lunch the following day. We had to reach Mountain Meadows by the following evening. Our provisions were cached there, and a member of our scout committee had arranged an airdrop of ice cream on the condition that we were able to set up a target (a 10-foot by 10-foot toilet paper "X") for the drop.

Despite the soreness and blisters, everyone was in good spirits as they dropped off to sleep.

We had five days remaining to complete the final 30 miles to our pick-up point, which gave us the option of hiking straight up and over Sawtooth Ridge or following the established trail around the ridge on more level ground. Our leaders chose the easier route following the trail.

We woke early the next morning, ate, and were on our way to completing the third 10-mile leg of our excursion.

Following our lunch stop we came to an intersection of several unmarked trails. After studying the map and orienting ourselves with a compass, we took the trail that we thought was the right one. We hiked and hiked and hiked and...

Realizing we took the wrong trail, which would turn our 10-mile stint closer to 20 miles, our leaders sent the two oldest scouts (both 17) on ahead in an effort to reach the meadow.

Meanwhile, the group trudged along. As night fell, we continued to hike by moon and flashlight, despite being tired and hungry. On we marched. I was exhausted. At one point, my partner and I were bringing up the rear. It was late and I was ready to sleep.

During a break, we thought they said stop, we're sleeping here, so the two of us got out our sleeping bags and went to sleep in the middle of the trail.

Fortunately, as the group began to press on, the scouts in front of us noticed we were missing and came back for us.

Now with packs on our backs and sleeping bags in our hands, we continued. I don't remember what time it was when we finally stopped for real, but it was late.

We all emptied whatever food we had onto a blanket and divided it up among the group. I think I got a sliver of jerky that night. Although I was hungry, sleep was more of a priority at that time, but Bill, my partner on the trail, kept me awake talking, or better yet screaming in his sleep, "they're leaving us, they're leaving us..."

Needless to say, morning came early. As we hit the trail, we were a little more serious. There wasn't the usual horseplay you would expect from a rowdy group of boys. Although we were far from starving, some of us thought that this was the end. On we walked. I remember the pain of the icy cold water as it filled my empty stomach for breakfast. Lunch time came and we still walked.

Finally, around 2:30 p.m., we reached our destination and met up with the two who'd been sent ahead. The two of them and one of the leaders left to bring back the food hidden in a cave about two miles further up the trail.

Again we rifled through backpacks looking for food. We all came up empty-handed except the scout leader. At the bottom of his pack he found two small packets of soup that looked like they'd been on many hikes and reserved for only the direst moment ... and this was one of those moments. Hot food! We were ecstatic. Then he told us it was Split Pea. UGH! Everyone's hunger seemed to disappear.

Despite our complaints, he fired up the small grasshopper backpacking stove to boil water and soon the aroma of hot soup wafted across the meadow. Hunger pains returned and one by one, each of us enthusiastically sucked down the warm Split Pea soup, and then had the nerve to beg for seconds.

The three who went for the provisions returned a couple of hours later, only to find things back to normal with scouts swimming in the creek or taking naps. Dinner was completed in a short time, and feeling the effects of full stomachs, everyone was soon asleep.

The remaining days of the trip were fun as we hiked and fished a few of the surrounding lakes.

But, to this day, Split Pea Soup is a favorite of mine. And I can't sit down to a bowl and help but smile as I remember that 50-miler and the feeling that I'd been saved from starvation by a small cup of Split Pea Soup.

While this wasn't an actual disaster, as a boy it felt like one. We had to "evacuate" with no option to shelter in place, had to suffer without food, drink water that had not been purified, and wait for assistance to arrive. When we did get relief, life returned to normal, as it did after our neighbors after the Sandy crew fixed the broken water main. Again, disasters come in different forms, and in reality, some aren't even disasters, at least we don't think of them as such. But being better prepared will lessen the impact of a disaster. I hope that many of those, inconvenienced by the lack of water, took the opportunity to use their stored water. If they didn't have stored water, I hope that it prompted them to store water for next time.

If you need information on preparedness, click on the Emergency Management tab on the Sandy City web page. Or call me, Jeffory Mulcahy, 801-568-7279. In addition, all residents of Sandy are invited to the Sandy Citizen Corps meetings the second Thursday of each month, 7 p.m., in the Sandy City Hall multipurpose room, to discuss emergency preparedness in the city.
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