Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Empty Shelves & Fuel Tanks

There have been a handful of coincidences in the past few weeks, in my town, that have resulted in shortages that maybe would not have happened if some of those circumstances had not been present. It's given me a little jolt of what life could be like, and in some sense has been making me grateful for what I do have.

For example, the store shelves at my local grocery (and other groceries through town) have been somewhat empty. Esp. the meats department. Literal empty shelves there. Where other parts of the grocery may have skanty supplies, the meat section is more seriously depleated. Two big factors have resulted in this depletion, from what I can tell. The first is those storms that have been plaguing the lower 48 states of this country. Shipments have been delayed (a couple of weeks, in some cases, evidently) due to horrid weather. The other main factor of this depletion has been the return home of our military men & women from "over there". We had a huge brigade of some 3500 military folks "come home" to our Army base, in just the past couple of weeks. One of these is my baby sister's Fiancee. (YEAH!)

Together, these two circumstances have combined to result in a shortage of groceries. To put it in precise words, our fighting men have come home hungry for home cooked meals, to find the grocery stores already depleated due to delayed shipments. Not to say that I begrudge these military folks their home cooked meals. Not at all. But it has made for a couple of weeks in which I go to the grocery store with a supper in mind, only to find that I must change my plans.

It has reminded me, in some VERY small sense of something I read & saw in a HS school book. The picture was of a Russian woman standing in an empty grocery with only 2 or 3 cans of something on a shelf in front of her. The statement was along the lines that Russian folks do not tend to go shopping for what they want, but what they can get (and this is hopefully in the past, now). That their lives & meals & such revolve around what is available to them, not what they would like. Now, my experience is NOWHERE near as desperate, and I certainly don't want to imply that I have any real understanding of what a hardship this has been for the Russian nation, or for other countries where food supplies are EVEN more desperate. But maybe it has given me a small glimpse, of what has been in Russia, and what could be for our country at some point down the road. (Or even, what was for our country during the Great Depression or during WW2.)

The other shortage that has been occuring here in my community has been a shortage of fuel. A family member works for a local fuel company & has commented on a couple of occurances that have resulted in houses both running out of fuel & unable to get more fuel for their tanks in a very timely manner. We had an abnormally cold Nov. with very little snow to insulate our homes. (I heard a report on the radio yesterday that by this time of year we generally have well over 20 inches of snow, where we have had only 7 inches thus-far this year.) This means that our houses are burning more fuel than usual. The whole BP Alaskan Pipeline problem this fall & winter, as well as smaller pipeline malfunctions at local refineries, has resulted in a decreased supply of home heating fuel. Which has possibly meant that the fuel drivers were not able to fill the tanks with as much fuel as they usually might for automatic delivery customers (those customers who do not generally get a full tank at a time, but smaller deliveries periodically). Now that production is boosting again, however, people are still running short on fuel in their tanks (thanks to the cold) which means that while there is fuel to be delivered, the drivers are run off their feet (or their tires) trying to get to everybody before anybody truly runs out. My family member has commented about how many truck drivers have been working weeks straight, without a day off (which is allowed under their contract) to try to fill the demand. Some of my coworkers have commented about how they made a semi-emergency call for a fuel delivery only to be told that the truck drivers are SOOO backed up, it would be over a week before these coworkers could be gotten to. Scary, that, in a place where temps drop to -30 this time of year. Many people in my acquaintance have installed wood stoves in their homes, for reasons such as this. And not to imply that the fuel companies are not doing their job, but that they are swamped & unable to help matters.

We've been lucky, fuel wise. We have a 500 gal. tank on our house and have found that we can get through a whole year on 1 tankful of fuel. With added protection such as curtains or plastic-wrapped windows, reinsulating doors, and turning down the temp. before leaving for the day, we've been able to boost our efficiency even more. So running out of fuel is not a concern for us this year.

What an eye opener, these shortages have been. And interesting to contemplate that if 1 factor, in each situation, were different, the shortages may not be occuring. (Or, just possibly not at the rate they have been.) Definitely speaks to the need to plan ahead & be aware of all the possibilities that could come up in a year's time.

Anyway, must get heading to work.

Have a Blessed Day!


Anonymous said...

It sound strange I've took care of one elderly gentleman who was getting ready for some type of world crises all the time.
He swore that the stores was going to run out of food and they will be breaking into home and taking your food.
I don't know why people think people who lives in remote area got plenty of food stock

I don't if this is true or not.
If our country is declared a state of Marshal Law that the local food store has to supplies every person two weeks of food.

I remember seeing picture of communism countries people lining up for their in lot ment.

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Wow! And to think I get pissed when my fully stocked store runs out of my favorite black bean burgers. May your store and cupboards be well stocked again soon.

Anonymous said...

Scary, isn't it? Your happenings are slight, but still, a warning. It COULD happen. Not that I advocate stocking shelves like many did for Y2K ... but I do like to have a lot on my shelves so I don't have to run to the store every week. We could live for several months, I believe, on what we have now. Not the variety we would like, but still ..........

Anyway, if the world gets worse, this could be happening all over the place.


Kati said...

Peppy: if there's an emergency, the stores don't HAVE 2 weeks of stock for everybody in a community. As a rule, stores bring in new stock every couple of days (or stagger the shipments so they're getting stock of SOMETHING in every day). Marshal law rule dictates that a store (or a fuel company, or a service) cannot charge extraordinarily high prices for scanty supplies in case of emergency. But it's MY responsibility to be properly supplied for an emergency, not the Store's responsibility.

Whimsical: Thanks. We're pretty well stocked, but DH had asked for Jambalaya, which I needed sausage & chicken for. We do have a bit of stocked pork & beef in the freezer, though.

Connie: yeah, it is scary. And somewhat Ironic. I'm not sure I can see storing a year's supply of food in my house (certainly not with the lack of space we've got), but I can see the sense in having a couple of weeks or even month's worth of canned & dried foods (and certainly frozen, this time of year), so hopefully hard times are not TOO hard. I don't think it'd hurt anybody to be sure that they've got 2 weeks worth of food-stuffs stocked away in their pantries. It's just a matter of orginization & effort, primarily.

Thanks for your comments!