Homeland Security officials are worried that a solar storm in the future could leave millions of Americans without power and cause massive infrastructure failures throughout the nation.
That’s according to a 2012 FEMA document outlining the government’s response plan for severe “space weather” that wreak havoc on the power grid and electronic equipment.
“An analysis of the space weather impacts indicates that the greatest challenge will be to provide life-saving and life-sustaining resources for large numbers of people that experience long-term power outage from damage to the U.S. electrical grid,” the FEMA document says.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is responsible for monitoring solar activity, has predicted that a solar storm could render useless 300 electrical transformers that are difficult to replace and leave “130 million people without power for years.”
Large solar disruptions occurred in 1859 and 1921, but at the time electrical systems were limited.
According to federal officials, a storm on par with the 1921 magnetic storm could black out the eastern U.S. and Pacific Northwest.
“The extreme geomagnetic space weather event will cause widespread power outages to a large number of people (approximately 100 million people) in a multi-region, multi-state area of the U.S. due to geomagnetic induced currents damaging EHV transformers, especially along coastal regions,” the report says.
House lawmakers voted last week to pass the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA), legislation that would put in place infrastructure protections against solar storms.