FEMA Might be Preparing for a Solar Storm that Could Take out the Grid

FEMA Might be Preparing for a Solar Storm that Could Take out the Grid

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) is planning for a massive solar storm that would be so strong, it would take down the power grid. Noting that the rare, yet “high-consequence” scenario has “the potential for catastrophic impact on our nation and FEMA’s ability to respond.”

According to unpublished FEMA documents obtained by Government Attic, a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) database and non-profit organization, the Department of Homeland Security agency once mapped out a disaster plan for the occurrence of another geomagnetic “super storm” like the one the occurred in 1859.

Buried in a 303-page report is an assessment by the Department of Homeland Security that a massive electromagnetic pulse event caused by a solar flare could leave more than 130 million Americans without power for years. In spite of the admission of the cataclysmic consequences of an EMP event, DHS still has not added the threat to its 15 National Planning Scenarios. In the report, DHS outlined what it called “considerations for federal interagency response planning.” The FEMA report referenced a 2010 analysis of the impact of space weather on the U.S. electric grid.

It referred to an extensive study by John Kapperman and William Radasky of the National Oceanic and Aeronautical Administration, or NOAA, that examined the resiliency of the U.S. electric grid, based on a study that went back to 2008. The study concluded large-scale blackouts caused by an EMP event would affect more than 130 million people in the U.S. “for years.”

Such an event either would damage or destroy some 300 large extra-high-voltage transformers, resulting in a “prolonged recovery period with long-term shortages of electric power to the affected areas.”

The Kapperman and Radasky study focused on states east of the Mississippi River and parts of the Pacific Northwest.

The assessment dovetails with similar studies by NASA and the National Science Foundation that concluded up to 90 percent of the American people would die from either starvation or disease resulting from a direct hit of the most intense X-class solar flare.

The concern about an EMP event is particularly relevant now, since the Sun is going through an 11-year cycle that is reaching its peak, a solar storm maximum, in which it spews flares from its surface in all directions, with some potentially hitting Earth. Some flares can be at least 14 times the size of the Earth. Among the most intense flares to directly hit Earth were the Carrington Event in 1859 and another in 1921.

The FEMA study said an EMP event on the scale of the two flares would result in a catastrophic loss of life.

Back in 1859, the sun flung a giant plume of magnetized plasma out into space. The coronal mass ejection (CME) , the sibling of a massive solar flare, traveled the 93 million miles between the Sun and Earth in only 17.6 hours. Today, it’s known as the Carrington Event and is remembered by the largest geomagnetic storm in the history of recorded space weather.

No other storm has matched it in speed or magnitude. When the shock wave of accelerated particles arrived on September 1, 1859, the disturbances to Earth’s magnetosphere were so great that telegraph communications across Europe and North America went on the fritz. Sparks leaped from the telegraph infrastructure, and machinery was so inundated with electric currents that operators were able to transmit messages while disconnected from battery power. Compasses even wiggled, and brilliant auroras were reportedly seen as far south as the Caribbean.

But that doesn’t mean the ill-equipped government isn’t preparing for the inevitability, in fact, they are. Despite our superior ability to predict these events, the stakes are exponentially higher in a modern, hyper-connected world.  FEMA predicts that a geomagnetic storm of this intensity would be “a catastrophe in slow motion.” Space weather events happen all the time, and many are harmless. For example, an event causing radio blackouts, solar radiation storms, and geomagnetic storms would be abnormal, yet the ripple effects on the power grid and communications would severely limit FEMA’s ability to respond to a nationwide crisis.

Within 20 minutes of the CME’s occurrence, FEMA estimates that 15 percent of the satellite fleet would be lost due to solar panel damage. Solar radiation from the incoming storm would add “3-5 years worth of exposure” to the panels, degrading older satellites to the point of inoperability. Low orbiting satellites, such as Iridium and Globalstar, may be less affected. Cellular service would be disrupted, and a loss of GPS capabilities could complicate FEMA operations, according to Motherboard.

Should a storm of this magnitude hit, there wouldn’t be much the government can do. And of course, this would be the perfect opportunity to round up the masses for a trip to a FEMA camp. Individuals would need to band together to help get things back online, but it would all take time.  Those in heavily populated regions would be hit the hardest and evacuation of over 100 million people would be impossible, and even if it was, there would be no unaffected region to send the evacuees – other than the FEMA camps.

Prepare yourself, because the mere fact that this government document exists could mean that there is something we don’t know.

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