Weather Considerations When Choosing a Retreat
We all know about weather, right? Warm and sunny with a clear blue sky and a gentle breeze is nice. Cold, windy, rainy or snowy – all that is nasty.
Perhaps weather has even had a moderate impact on your choice of where you live at present. And/or maybe it is something you like to complain about.
Well, whatever you formerly felt about weather, and however important weather was to you in your choice of current location, multiply that by, oh, let’s say one hundred times, to now appreciate how important weather will be to you in your retreat.
There are several reasons for this.
Weather Will Impact Us More Directly
First, currently we massively modify the weather as we experience it personally, without even really thinking about it. We heat or cool our homes, our cars, our offices, our shopping malls. If the weather is too hot, we can stay out of the sun, somewhere air-conditioned to be cool. If it is too cold, we can get out of the cold, and turn the heating up a bit more.
In a Level 2/3 situation, we won’t be able to conveniently do any of those things. We won’t work in a nice comfortable air-conditioned office – we’ll be working outdoors, in the fields, much of the time. If it is hot out there, we just have to suck it in, and the same if it is cold.
Heating or cooling our houses will be problematic. Energy will be in short supply, rather than essentially limitless as it is at present, and that which might be available will be massively more expensive. We may be able to heat our homes by way of a wood burning stove or fireplace, although even a convenient ongoing supply of firewood is far from assured (imagine if you had to hand carry every log you burn, several miles from where you felled a tree to your dwelling).
Cooling our houses will be even more difficult – a/c units use a lot of energy and are moderately complex – if they fail, they’ll probably then be out of service for the duration of the Level 2/3 event.
Snow Will Be More Serious a Challenge
Another weather impact that will become more severe is snow. Currently, and particularly if you live in an area with regular snow falls in the winter, snow removal is more or less something you almost take for granted. The good news part of that is that, almost certainly, your local city roads department have teams of men and machinery that keep your roads passable. They start off by laying chemicals down on the road surface to stop ice forming, then they go through with snow plows and grit/salt spreaders, and although there may be many feet of snow on the fields, the roads are, most of the time, passable.
Little or none of that will happen in a Level 2/3 situation. There’ll be no working machinery, and even if there was, there’d be more essential uses for any remaining diesel fuel.
If you’re in an area that gets significant snow accumulation during the winter, you need to figure on being essentially cut off from other places, other than travel by snowmobile or horse – both of which are – albeit in their differing ways, complex and expensive solutions.
So, at our retreat, our personal life experience will be massively more impacted by weather than it is at present.
Weather Impacts On Our Water and Food Supply
One key element of weather is rainfall.
If an area doesn’t have an adequate supply of rainfall through most of the year – hopefully balancing carefully between ‘too much’ and ‘too little’ than you’re either not going to be able to live there, or will need to have an absolutely certain alternate supply of water – either from a well (or wells) or spring(s) or from a river/stream (and you’ll have no end of hassle getting the rights to take water from ‘your’ river/stream if such rights don’t come already attached to the property title).
Of course you need water for yourself, and of course you will also need water for growing crops and for any animals you may be raising too.
Note also that the hotter the temperatures, the more water you’ll need (due to increasing amounts of water being baked out of the ground by the sun, and due to evaporative losses from any holding tanks you have. Sure, you’ll drink more water too, but that is a totally trivial consideration compared to the extra hundreds/thousands of gallons of water you’ll need each day to care for your crops.
Another key element of weather is what is termed the ‘growing season’ – which in the US is a fairly arbitrary measure that simply tells you the number of days between the last frost in spring and the first frost in fall, or, even more simply, between the last day that night temperatures fall below 32° in spring and the first day in fall that they start to drop below 32° again.
As such it isn’t really telling you much about how fast your crops may grow or how bountiful they will be, but it is one of a number of quick easy measures that gives you some rules of thumb to apply to the weather and its impacts on your ability to grow crops.
Other factors that impact on crop growing range from things like soil type to average and peak temperatures to sunlight hours and intensity to elevation. And, as already discussed, rainfall or compensatory irrigation.
A more meaningful measure to assess plant growth rates is Growing Degree Days (click the link for a definition).
In your present life, you probably don’t need to grow all the food you eat. Indeed, more likely, you don’t grow any of it at all. But when you’re at your retreat, you’ll either need to grow all the food you need, or alternatively have some other product or service you can trade with other local residents for their surplus food.
If you’re hoping to trade some other product or service for food, that requires two things – first, it requires you to have some other product or service you can create or provide on a renewable ongoing basis, and secondly, it requires people conveniently close to you who both have a need for your product/service and who are able to exchange surplus food of their own for your product service. Unless all of these requirements are met, you’ll go hungry. From this perspective, there are less variables outside your control if you make your first priority to be able to grow sufficient food, directly, yourself, on your own land.
Either which way, either you or your neighbors need to be able to grow food readily and in generous amounts – there’s no way you’ll be getting in regular twice weekly air freighted shipments of fresh food from South America! If your retreat location is not in a fertile area that readily grows crops, both you and all your neighbors will suffer a depressed – or even an unsustainable – standard of living.
It is definitely a positive if the general area you choose is good for everyone in that area and their food production. It is much better to be part of a moderately prosperous and sustaining region than it is to be surrounded by people even more desperate than you in their attempts to survive in a future adverse situation.
Choose a location with better weather. You could potentially grow twice as much food there, and enjoy a substantially better lifestyle, than if you go somewhere with bad weather.
Weather and Energy
We mentioned before about how extreme weather can require us to consume more energy to compensate for the bad weather. But weather can also help us with energy. For example, if we’re somewhere with lots of clear skies and sunny days, then we can get more energy from solar cell arrays than we could from somewhere bedeviled by constant cloudy overcast days.
And if we’re somewhere that has wind that is neither too strong nor too weak, and reliably steady, day in and day out, maybe we could get some wind power too from a wind turbine.
If we had to choose between a place optimized for solar or a place optimized for wind power, we’d probably advocate choosing the better solar location. Solar cells have no moving parts and are reasonably resilient and can be expected to last 20, 30, even 40 years and more with little or no maintenance required (other than keeping them clean). Wind generators, on the other hand, are complex, unreliable, and maintenance intensive.
When Bad Weather Can be Good
There’s one situation when bad weather can be a good thing. If a Level 2/3 event occurs in winter, it is reasonable to assume that most people, when evacuating the cities, will probably stream south or in whichever other direction most quickly gets them to warmer parts of the country. They’ll hurry through the colder areas with no intention of attempting to settle there.
This would not so strongly apply if the Phase 3 and 4 stages of an event occurred during a balmy warm summer. Some people, gifted with some foresight, would still head towards warmer climate areas, but others would live in the moment and go anywhere nearby where food and shelter were possibly present.
Weather – Very Important. But Only One of Many Factors
Okay, so we’ve spent the last little while talking about how vitally important weather will be to you in your retreat. All of that is true.
But it isn’t the only factor to keep in mind when determining where to locate your retreat. Unfortunately, the parts of the US with the best overall weather are usually totally unsuited for retreating to, due to other factors that also have to be considered.
If one considered only weather, much of California would be great to retreat to, for example. But the state laws make it close to impossible to realistically plan for a viable retreat in California (either before or after WTSHTF), and many of the other great locations are too close to major cities, too.
All the best weather locations have already been settled in – sad, but close to true. That makes evaluating weather issues harder, not easier, because you’re going to have to decide which parts of the overall weather subject you can most and least compromise on, and to balance out the better or worse weather with other issues that relate to your retreat location as well.
But, having said that, and recognizing you will never get a ‘perfect’ location by any measure at all, while it is acceptable to allow some compromise in weather, you mustn’t go beyond the point that prevents you and your neighbors from being able to grow more than enough food to survive and have a bit left over besides.
How to Evaluate Weather Issues to Determine Suitable Retreat Locations
Please see related articles for more on this vital topic (weather) and a discussion on how to actually rate different locations on their weather suitability. Here’s a category listing of weather related articles.