Stayin' alive

It's the end of the world as we know it.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
Dec 18
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Expert tips for surviving the end of the world, whether it be with a bang or a whimper.

We're all expecting the world to come to an end on Friday, thanks to the now-famous Mayan calendar which seems to end on Dec. 21 of this year. But as the end draws near, we can't help but wonder how we'll go — what did the Mayans know that we don't?

Is the earth expected to spontaneously combust, or what? We’ve compiled a series of potential scenarios, along with some advice from local experts, to help you plan for your survival, come what may this weekend.

ASTEROID CRASH AND AFTERMATH

Wouldn’t it be fitting for the end of life as we know it in central Arkansas to come about through crazy weather activity? I don’t think anyone would be surprised. Arkansas doesn’t exactly have a track record for predictable seasons.

Jeff Baskin, chief meteorologist for Fox 16 News, admits that something like an asteroid impact on the earth’s surface could definitely lead to the kind of weather patterns that would no doubt leave us facing the possibility of the end of the world.

“Let’s say the earth was hit by an asteroid on Dec. 21,” he said. “It wouldn’t even have to hit in Arkansas. Let’s say it hits in Canada somewhere. It’s going to send out a massive shock wave, and that’s going to heat up the air,” Baskin explained.

In a meteorologist’s terms, that shock wave is going to be like a huge warm front as it travels towards Arkansas — a front warm enough to heat up Arkansas’ temperature in the mid-forties to somewhere in the hundreds. “That warm front would take a matter of minutes to spread across the state.”

Along with the warm front would come high winds, probably at several hundred miles per hour. And not just winds, but strong eddies formed from the warm air of the shock wave confronting the cooler air surrounding it, creating circulations stronger than EF5 tornadoes. All of this would be enough to knock down buildings and cause widespread fires and flooding.

But it doesn’t end there. “Of course, [an asteroid impact] would also create earthquakes all across the earth. It’s hard to tell what magnitude, and whether we’d get the shock wave or earthquake first.” So whatever was still standing from the winds, fires and floods produced by the shock wave we could expect to be knocked down by earthquakes.

Is there anything we can do to prepare ourselves for disaster of this magnitude?

“There is one way to survive such an event,” Baskin said, “and that is to get underground. Very deep underground.” Several miles underground, in fact, and he recommends packing supplies — gallons of water, food, blankets and the like — “enough to last several years, possibly generations.”

The need to stay underground for so long and with a wealth of supplies stems from the aftermath of the asteroid’s impact with earth: the collision would launch tons of dust and debris into the sky, blocking out the sun’s warmth and light for weeks, maybe months, dropping temperatures and propelling us into a modern day ice age. “We believe this is what brought the demise of the dinosaurs,” Baskin said.

So in other words, if you do survive, what you’re looking at here is a Brendan Fraser-type underground existence from Blast from the Past. No, thank you.

THE POLICE PERSPECTIVE

The police will continue to serve and protect, said Chief Sam Williams of Maumelle. And residents can lend a helping hand.

“If you see Mayans selling calendars door to door, don’t buy one,” he said. For starters, he continued, the calendars themselves aren’t even accurate and likely spotty, ending in only a few days. Second, you can’t go selling stuff that way without a permit, so that sort of thing should always be reported.

In fact, just go on reporting any suspicious activity, the chief said: Mayans, aliens, zombies, robot uprisings. Call volume in the event of a large scale occurrence might impact response times, but the police take their job seriously, so they’ll get there eventually. Because, yes, they’ll be on duty and someone will be working dispatch at the station.

“They’re going to have to, because people are going to go there,” said Williams, this time in all seriousness. “Because when things turn upside down, the first place people turn to is the police station.”

Of course, the timing kind of stinks. With the circled date for the end of the world falling on a Friday — and headed into a holiday weekend to boot — the Mayans could have been more considerate.

“Earlier in the day would be better [for the apocalypse],” Williams said. “By late afternoon, well, everyone’s going to want to head home.”

It’s year-end, and the overtime budget is stretched, you know.

Practically speaking, Williams is always vocal about people leaving their keys in the car — with it running — to head into the store and coming back to find it (or something in it) missing. Locking those doors is always a better option, and that holds true in the event of an apocalypse as well, he said. Doubly so if you’re stepping out of your car to stare up at an alien mothership overhead. If that’s the case, officers will be en route to direct crowd control.

“Cops can’t help from being in charge,” Williams said. “They love structure. The love order. And yet they get into the least ordered environment there is.”

Williams points to the scene where police are running crowd control in Independence Day and a public address speaker is imploring folks not to discharge firearms at the space ship. That’s good advice, because doing so in city limits is against the law.

People tend to think that when things go pear-shaped the law doesn’t apply — like driving four wheelers on city streets when it snows, Williams said. But it does, even for things that “may not be in the policy manual.”

DIVINE INTERVENTION

If there is an upside to a large-scale reduction in the human population, it is that traffic will flow a lot easier. At least, that’s part of the take of writer, director and apocalypse connoisseur Levi Agee, whose film Rapture Us, in production as a short with hopes to make it a feature, deals specifically with a massive disappearance.

See, certain religious teachings hold that the faithful will be removed from the earth before things get heavy. Agee said his film explores that idea in a different context.

“We have these apocalyptic myths and stuff to maybe internally justify the world resetting or the idea that we’re able to be wiped away. That’s probably our biggest fear, so we put lot of thought into the end of world, like the Mayans or if an asteroid hits us.

“I have a kind of a bizarre point of view of the apocalypse... and I’ve been trying to justify it from a secular point of view,” he said. “If this global event were to happen and people disappear or were missing, and I don’t know the cause for it, but if this happens, what will proceed?”

Well, one idea is that a world full of atheistic or agnostic people would, for practical purposes, redevelop things like churches into public spaces. Maybe recreation centers or health clubs.

Of course, there’s some unpleasantness at hand too, dead rising from the grave and whatnot. Agee said he’s fascinated by the idea of how someone might rationalize seeing something like that, something that should not be possible. Those up on disaster fiction or even religious doomsday literature might think they have a leg up and be prepared. But the more likely response is plain old terror.

“You’d probably crap your pants and go hide out in the wild,” Agee said.

And, hey, that’s an option. Because, well, what’s really on the table? But Agee said his vision is of a better humanity that doesn’t just give up.

“When you have nothing left to lose, when someone gives us a scenario in which there are no rules anymore, where you don’t have to go to work the next day, are we going to be animals or are we going to be leaders who try to figure out a new structure, a new civilization?”

For his part, Agee said he’d probably head to Six Flags and try to figure out whether he could put the roller coaster on automatic for a few hours. But then it’d be back to the business of starting anew.

“Part of me would want to go to TCBY and stick my head under the ice cream machine, but another part of me would want to go reclaim civilization. To each his own, I guess.”

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