Solar Tornado?

Dozens of U.S. Planes Narrowly

Avoid Solar Storm Chaos

You’re dodging EMP-danger more often than you realize.

For example, have you ever been on an airplane flight that was rerouted for weather? Your captain might have come on and said something like, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re taking a slightly different route today just to keep things smooth. It may add a few minutes to our flight, but we’ll have you safely on the ground in our destination right around …”

He’ll give the time and then maybe talk a little about whatever city you’re flying to.

What he isn’t saying is that the “weather” you’re avoiding isn’t a thunderstorm. It’s a solar storm. One that could knock out the electrical and communications equipment on the flight.

Let’s just say, if you had flown through the weather in question, your flight would have been a lot more exciting than you bargained for.

Dozens to hundreds of flights every year are rerouted to stay out of the way of these solar storms. Avoiding them is a lot like avoiding tornados. You don’t get much warning.

Usually, airlines have a half hour or less to change their flight plans to avoid these disasters-in-waiting.

And airlines aren’t the only ones dealing with solar storms. Utility companies regularly scramble to adjust voltages and loads in order to protect systems from the strong currents that come with solar storms.

So far, we’ve been lucky. We haven’t been hit by a major solar storm.

We’ve had near misses though. A smaller storm in 1989 knocked Quebec’s power out for nine hours. And in 2012, we missed a major electromagnetic storm by one week.

Eventually our luck will run out. When it does, we’ll see what happens when a major U.S. city (or two or three … or all) loses power for several weeks.

Just imagine that. New York City without power for two weeks. Or L.A. Or Detroit. What would a city of that size look like after two weeks without power? What would the cascade effect be? Even if you don’t live in New York, would you feel the effects if eight million New Yorkers lost power for an extended time?

You almost surely would. There’d be social tension. Supply shortages. Price gouging. Refugees. Economic crises.

A report issued in 2013 cited that a major storm would impact food supplies, financial markets, transportation, and hospital services. An event the size of the one that happened in 1859—our last direct hit by a major solar storm—could leave 130 million Americans without power for months.

Imagine the downward spiral if that happened. The breakdown in lawful behavior. The number of lives such a disaster would claim.

You have 30 minutes …

The 30 minutes advanced warning that companies and government agencies get about solar weather depends on a satellite network. And those satellites are aging—one of them is well past its expected life span.

If just one of those satellites fails, the advanced warning could drop from 30 minutes to zero.

So, imagine you have between 30 minutes and no warning at all before the power goes off. And when it does, you don’t know when it’s going to come back on. What would you do in that little window of time to protect yourself and your family?

Shelter in Place: If any warning is given, such an announcement is likely to cause widespread panic. If you live in a big city, it may eventually be a good idea to leave and go stay with family or friends in a smaller, more self-sufficient town. But leaving when all hell is breaking loose on your doorstep can be very dangerous. Until the streets calm down a bit, you should have the supplies on hand to shelter-in-place. I recommend that you have at least three months of food, water, medicine, and other necessities so that if leaving your house will put you in peril, you have another option.

Have an evacuation plan: If it’s too dangerous to sit tight, you’ll fare better if you have a plan in place for making a quick exit from your home. The three questions you have to answer are:

  1. Where will we go?
  2. What will we take with us?
  3. How will we get there?

It’s best if you have the answers before disaster strikes rather than trying to make them up as you go.

Always have a back-up plan: Preparedness plans are like battle plans. They rarely survive first contact with an emergency. Think through what you will do if you run out of supplies, if someone is injured, if your mode of transportation breaks down, if a road is blocked, if you get separated from your group, or if anything else unexpected happens.

If you’re ready to handle these three things, you’ll be better off then nearly everyone else when it comes to surviving the havoc caused by a major solar storm.

The question is, are you ready to deal with a major, long-term disruption to the power grid right now? Because chances are high this will happen in your lifetime. And it could happen at any moment without warning. If you’re not ready now, you might never get the chance to be. So, what are you waiting for?