Last Friday, space weather observers were caught by surprise as a major solar storm that was supposed to miss us hit the earth with a glancing blow. It produced electromagnetic disturbances in the severe category at mid and high latitudes and NOAA even issued a percentage chance of a Class X solar flare threat. The threat to our power grid is real and we are not prepared.
If you talk enough about prepping, the conversation will come around to the Carrigton Event of 1859 and how it will happen again. The Carrignton solar storm of that year has been termed a perfect solar super-storm.
"Compared to today’s information superhighway, the telegraph system in 1859 may have been a mere dirt road, but the “Victorian Internet” was also a critical means of transmitting news, sending private messages and engaging in commerce. Telegraph operators in the United States had observed local interruptions due to thunderstorms and northern lights before, but they never experienced a global disturbance like the one-two punch they received in the waning days of summer" - Christopher Klein.
A Carrigton event today, would be devastating, According to the University of Colorado, "Of particular concern are disruptions to global positioning systems (GPS), which have become ubiquitous in cell phones, airplanes, and automobiles, Baker said. A $13 billion business in 2003, the GPS industry is predicted to grow to nearly $1 trillion by 2017.
In addition, Baker said, satellite communications—also essential to many daily activities—would be at risk from solar storms."Every time you purchase a gallon of gas with your credit card, that's a satellite transaction," he said.
But the big fear is what might happen to the electrical grid, since power surges caused by solar particles could blow out giant transformers. Such transformers can take a long time to replace, especially if hundreds are destroyed at once, said Baker, who is a co-author of a National Research Council report on solar-storm risks.
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's Cliver agrees: "They don't have a lot of these on the shelf," he said.The eastern half of the U.S. is particularly vulnerable, because the power infrastructure is highly interconnected, so failures could easily cascade like chains of dominoes."Imagine large cities without power for a week, a month, or a year," Baker said. "The losses could be $1 to $2 trillion, and the effects could be felt for years."
And so last Friday, we dodged a bullet, however it is very likely we will see a day when we are not so lucky. We can hope our systems are upgraded to lessen the impact, but up until not there has only been mostly talk of doing so.
You can take measures to protect your families. In this article from "Off the Grid News", the usual advice of Faraday cages is discussed. But, the best way to begin to protect your family for the next Carrigton event is the same way to protect them for many emergency preparedness scenarios: build up your food storage, work on your security, work on ways to be more self-sufficient and less reliable on today's supply chain for food by starting a real garden, and embrace what we call survival skills that many of our grand parents called everyday living.