In an emergency, how you spend your energy in the first few minutes, and sometimes hours or days, is critical in determining the final outcome of the situation. This is one of the reasons preparing is so important. It helps you make the right decisions to survive. But miscalculations during the same time period will cost you, perhaps dearly.
For example, a major solar storm would be easy to misdiagnose, primarily because the biggest one on record (that experts predict could wipe out the global power grid if it was repeated) happened in 1859. So how will you know?
1. British news outlets – This one may sound silly, but it’s true. England has been one step ahead of the U.S. in predicting solar storms with a system designed by Metatech (former employer of John Kappenman who was interviewed on Off the Grid Radio). They may report information related to a solar storm sooner or more accurately. Setting up a Google alert would be one way to stay on top of this information. Know the terminology and look for reports of “coronal mass ejection,” “massive sun spot,” or “solar flares.”
2. Weather radio – Don’t just have a radio in your survival supplies, have a Weather Radio. NASA technology may be able to predict a solar storm anywhere from half an hour to up to three days in advance. This may not make the regular news or weather though. Most people see these storms as regular and meaningless occurrences, and forget or don’t know the possible severity.
3. Radio disruption – September 18, 1941 was the playoff game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately no one heard the end of the game since a solar storm disrupted radio signals. If it is a regular power outage you will probably still have radio. If it is a solar storm, the signal will be affected.
4. Cell/Satellite TV disruption – If your cell phone, satellite TV, or GPS cuts out, and then the power does too, you should suspect a solar storm. The satellites that relay these technologies would be hit by the storm waves a few seconds before earth. The signal may not cut out all together however. You may just start hearing someone else’s phone conversation, or see another channel on TV without changing anything.
5. Power outage – If the power is not out, then even if a solar storm has hit, it apparently is not big enough to be of the kind that we should be gravely worried about. However, this could be the final sign you see.
Just like any natural storm, a solar storm is not a single second event. You may experience radio or other disruptions over a period of minutes or hours before the big part of the storm hits, the one that deals the final blow to our power grid.
6. Northern/southern lights – Every solar storm on record has also recorded massive lights, even in places that usually never see them. If you are seeing auroral lights and don’t usually, take note that something serious is going on with our sun. During “The Fatima Storm” of 1938, the lights were so intense that people in Salzburg and London thought their whole city was on fire.
7. Ball lightning – Like solar storms, ball lightning is a little-understood phenomenon. However, it could be correlated with solar storms, and may help you know that something is up.
8. Widespread fires or electrical arcing – In a major solar storm on Sept. 26, 1909, the New York Times reported bright flashes in the gaps in telegraph wires. You could expect to see some of the same arcing of electricity between electrical lines. All this electricity flying around is bound to cause some fires, as it did in several past solar storms, including those in 1882 and 1921 to name a few.
9. Airplane movements – According to the hearing before the subcommittee on environment, technology, and standards before Congress on October 30, 2003, one reason for investing in solar storm forecasting equipment is that it will “disrupt satellite and ground-based communication systems.” If you notice erratic movement such as planes flying unusually close to the ground or one another, it may be because they have no control tower guidance.
10. Shooting “stars” – As noted earlier, massive solar storms interfere with satellites, even causing them to fall out of orbit. If the conditions are right and enough of them are affected, you might see them appear as shooting stars as they fall.
It would be easy to think that, instead of a solar storm, what we are actually seeing is a localized power outage, a nuclear attack, or perhaps some other kind of weather anomaly. If we react to a solar storm as we would to any of these things, we are likely to waste precious time and resources on the wrong things! Remember that you may see only one or two of these, depending on the time of day a storm hits. Knowing your neighbors and being able to compare notes will help in determining if a solar storm is occurring.
Preparation isn’t just merely the accumulation of material goods, but also the knowledge we amass to arm ourselves to endure through the times ahead. Understanding and preparing for a solar storm is one of the ways we arm ourselves to survive.
Other articles in this issue: