On September 1st 1859 an incident known as the Carrington event, so named after the British amateur astronomer Richard Carrington, caused mayhem in telegraph offices where equipment began to fail and paper caught fire. Telegraph operators received moderate electric shocks if they were using the equipment at the time.
Carrington, who was reflecting an image of the sun onto a sheet of white paper saw a cluster of dark spots on the paper, he saw two huge flashes of intense white light emanating from the dark cluster of sunspots. It was all over in a few seconds, but the effects were wide-ranging. Within hours the effects would be seen or felt across the globe. Carrington had seen a solar flare.
All over the world there were reports of bright colours in the night sky, auroras caused by the flare hurling electrified gas particles at planet Earth. The flare is estimated to have had the power of 10 billion atomic bombs.
In 1859 there was no electrical grid to fail, and computer chips that would be fried should a similar event happen now, were not even imagined.
So what would happen if an event as powerful happened today?
Well, it depends where you live and what type of power grid is in operation. Long line power lines are just that, the cables are strung between pylons in long lines. This system is in use all over the United States and Canada. In the UK the lattice style electricity grid used which offers some, but not full protection against transformer burnout.
Transformers are not simple things to build, there are just a handful of companies on the planet that make them and the lead time is up to 16 months from the time they are ordered. They are extortionately expensive and they are huge, just the logistics of getting one from the factory to where its needed is a logistical nightmare.
Most of us have experienced a power cut. It’s inconvenient to say the least but for some it’s a life threatening event. Anyone who relies on refrigerated medication, such as diabetics would be in trouble after a couple of days as their insulin couldn’t be kept chilled…even more trouble would follow as pharmaceutical companies are no longer able to make new drugs. A once they’re gone they’re gone situation would face anyone on medication that keeps them alive.
Commerce would be non-existent on a country or international level as institutions don’t have alternate systems in place as they once did.
Cash machines would fail.
Shops and stores would not be able to re-stock shelves and food shortages would be both common and widespread.
Forget filling your car with fuel, the pumps are computer operated.
How are you going to heat your home and cook your food?
What will you do when your food runs out?
The list goes on and on.
Could you cope with a power outage lasting a year or more?
It’s not something you can just drop into and hope you get through it. With the vulnerabilities of the grid, such as a cyber attack or even a physical attack on a power station a grid down scenario is almost inevitable at some point.
People are not good when they’re hungry and if they can’t get food to feed themselves and their kids chances are they will try and take it from others. This is where life starts to get incredibly ugly.
Question is, will you survive it?