What would we do without electricity?
Commonly Called a Black Sky Event.
By Sandy Estabrook
When a Black Sky hits, we have three days before food spoils, medicine and water run out, batteries die, and effectively society will collapse.
First you would have to ask, what caused the loss of power. On the grand scale there are three ways.
Two of them would wreak instant havoc on society where it is estimated total collapse will take place within in hours. This effect will see all and anything that uses electricity exposed to our atmosphere to cease to functioning - most permanently.
One of those two is a happening of nature and very much within the realm of possibility. That is a solar geomagnetic storm, which if focused at earth, a burst of solar energy - a CME (coronal mass ejection) would overwhelm the nation’s power grid and shut down all communication networks. If this happens, we would have about a half a day to prepare from when it is first detected before it arrives. If it's a direct hit, results would be catastrophic. Power plants, substations, and transmission lines for entire cities or regions could be fried. So would most electronic apparatus.
Imagine not seeing the all too familiar site of folks
staring at their iPhone.
This has already happened. Luckily it was at the dawn of electricity in 1859. At that time the only thing electric was the telegraph. Still the CME was strong enough that operators reported sparks leaping from their equipment - some bad enough to set fires. Northern lights were reported as far south as Cuba and Honolulu. As these events are pretty much on an eleven year cycle there have been others but fortunately focused away from earth. You wouldn't want to be in the International Space Station, an airplane, fast moving car, subway or elevator. Also, in 1989, ground currents from a regionally less intense geomagnetic storm knocked out a high-voltage transformer at a hydroelectric power plant Quebec, plunging the Canadian province into a prolonged 9-hour blackout on an icy winter night.
Two - the man made version, the damaging magnetic waves of a CME are also the result of a nuclear or special purpose bomb which could be exploded high in our atmosphere for just the same purpose - and leaving humanity in the effected region to fend for itself.
The third possibility - the easiest and most likely, most of us have read about is Cyber Warfare. It is the means by which a foe gains access to our most secret computing and data facilities, be they governmental or industrial. You may know it as hacking. We mostly hear of it when it is a major department store like Target or service industry giant such as JP Morgan Chase bank gets hacked. Even tech companies like Yahoo and eBay are not exempt.
For the most part, aside from the stealing of information and secrets, their impact has been minimal - just costly and embarrassing. Physical harm has been negligible (so far).
Electricity is humanity's life blood
especially if you are on dialysis.
One of the most clever offensive cyber hacks was the Stuxnet virus which was specifically designed for just one purpose - to impearl the Iranian equipment in their nuclear research and facilitation projects. In this case is spread peacefully through the internet until if sooner or later hit upon the equipment for which it was designed to disrupt and or destroy. The problem was other countries using the same devices were also hard hit. And its still probably out there of no consequence except for Siemens SCADA systems which have remedied the problem.
If our power grid has been cascaded into shutdown by a hacking / black sky event, generating equipment need not be destroyed, although there could be local burnouts. There be no impact on battery powered devices and equipment until their charge is lost. Cellular would hold up for a little while. Cars and trucks would run. Refrigeration and gas station pumps no. And a biggie, municipal water pumps and sewer lift stations -no. And lastly items have disappeared from store shelves.
It would be essentially a race against time to get the grid up and running to power communication systems, gas pumps, emergency equipment etc which could take weeks inviting anarchy in city streets. If our power loss was due to a CME event, that's a whole other story. Every thing would come to a stop.
If you are fortunate to have a generator,
will you be able to get gas?
Gas stations run on electricity too.
Our electrical grid, as mentioned, could be taken down by a subtle and devious hacker. We already know hackers have been snooping around our energy companies for weaknesses to exploit. The stories are many and frequent. Last September, news broke that hackers had laid siege to the U.S. power grid, probing deep into dozens of energy firms, looking for weaknesses to exploit. The Department of Homeland Security issued a threat warning about an ongoing stream of malware attacks that could one day lead to a Black Sky event, crippling cellphones, erasing bank accounts, devastating hospitals, and disrupting every sector of the economy. The most recent story appeared in the Wall Street Journal that inspired this essay, says it this way; The threat to the U.S. electric grids is so serious that in June a group of presidential advisers said the country needs to prepare for a "catastrophic power outage" possibly caused by a cyberattack. The NIAC and chief executives of companies engaged in critical industries, said resources need to be stockpiled in community enclaves to prevent mass migrations of desperate people. "They've [hackers] had access to the button but they haven't pushed it," said Jonathan Homer, Homeland Security's chief of industrial control system analysis.
A CME event Scenario; The weather is fair on a typical day. You are in suburbia. (As for the City - I don't want to even go there)
Early risers couldn't turn on the lights or check the clock. Your iPhone is dead - nothing. You make your way to the bathroom take a shower by the light of the window. The water is still warm and pressure is still there for the moment.
You look out the window and see a glowing sunrise on the horizon. Funny, nothing is moving - no cars, no sounds except the birds. You cant turn on the TV to find out what's happening, still you decide to wake the family and you head to the kitchen. Oops, you cant even make your cherished cup of coffee with you Keruig. But you can boil some water as the stove (natural gas) is still working - although you now have to light it with a match - do I have one? The clock on the stove, microwave and refrigerator - all dark. What the hell is happening.
You think, It must be a blackout like the one you read about when a little defective relay plunged the whole NE United States into darkness. But there were cars and radio and even CB radios worked. Not his time. What to do?
You head outside and meet up with some neighbors and start discussing the situation. One asks with reply, have you tried to start your car? - Dont bother. I tried to charge my iPhone in the car nothing happened. I even had to use the key to open the door, the remote wouldn't work. Holy crap what the hell is happening.
Just about then Joe ran up to join the conversation and put in his two cents. "You know, I once read about some kind of sun burst activity that could shoot high energy magnetism this way, or something like it. As per the article's suggestion, I put my boats walkie talkie in a metal tool box along with a portable radio and double 'A' batteries". The boat's VHF radio was in his hand and working. We all listen anxiously to the static ridden transmission saying; "We have experienced a solar flare and all electronics and the regional electric grid was down. Communications are practically non existent. The extent was unknown. Stay indoors. If you are on the water in a powerboat, anchor your craft if possible, under sail, return to port. If you are in a car or truck, vacate and head for closest civilization. This is the United States Coast Guard Montauk Point. - Out". The message repeated.
The next 72 hours are critical to your survival. A century ago this wouldn't have been a big deal. In fact it would have hardly been noticed. But subtilely mankind has become dependent on electricity as much as the oxygen we breathe. Think about that.
What to do?
If the power loss is as a result of full blown CME event, you'll have to resort to your primal instincts unless you have prepared and or are at or can get to your safe location aka: "Bug Out" home. And PREPARE.
Assuming the power loss is as a result of a regional power grid cyber hack, we will have a better shot of survival. Much has been written on this which you can find on line (now) while we have internet of course. Most articles / survival guides assume minimum electricity, fuel to run a generator, clean water or means of making it and food storage. And rural / country living. The first commandment of survival is be prepared to get out of the city.
A Tale of Two Towns in survival mode. Where would you rather be.
Sarasota, Fl (crowded urban community) typical villa type (1500 Sq.ft.) in 55+ Retirement community with attached garage. Property is community. It is 5 miles to Gulf of Mexico. The house is all electric heat and A/C. (No natural gas) A cable company. provides TV, Internet and telephone (we use cellular). Naturally there is no basement and we have no storage of significance.
Negatives: You'll sweat like hell in summer without A/C. Both water and Sewer depend on Electricity (lift stations) - a big negative in survival mode.
Wilson, NY (Rural farming community) A small house (1050 Sq.ft.) with a full basement and detached oversized 2 car Garage. Property is owners on about 1/2 acre . It is 1 mile to Lake Ontario . The house is heated (range too) by Natural Gas service which could also run a generator. Also provided is town water (gravity tower) and (big plus) a septic system. (Well water is avail - temporarily shut off). Satellite TV, copper wire telephone land line with DSL.
Negatives: 1) Winter, 2) NY's politics, 3) Getting here on short notice.
Consider also, in Florida we cant set up a generator, grow vegetables, erect a ham radio antenna. Our 55+ community is not a self sufficient farming country with fall-winter game season.