Preparing for the next outage
By Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House and a Republican candidate for president, lives in McLean with his wife, Callista.
Callista and I live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, and, like many in the region, we lost power in the recent storms. The blackout, combined with a record heat wave, made homes nearly uninhabitable. The storm and heat were this region’s greater leveler: Rich or poor, urban or suburban, six-figure income or just barely getting by, we were all cast on the same strange shores.
Without power, the comforts of home become worthless. You sit in the sweltering heat, realizing you are living in a box that, without electricity, is a trap. You pray for the “juice” to return before your groceries go bad. You either make do in the heat or find refuge with friends who have electricity.
I write this now because of my concern for national security and our power grid, which are susceptible to doomsday-level damage if hit by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) strike or a major solar storm.
It is almost unthinkable, yet possible, that an enemy could detonate a nuclear weapon over the atmosphere over the continental United States, triggering an electromagnetic pulse(EMP). This would short-circuit our power grid, taking power offline for months, perhaps even years.
A similar crisis could be sparked by a solar storm like the Carrington Event of 1859, a type of geomagnetic disturbance that occurs about every 75 years. Statistically, we are long overdue for such a storm. There have been some recent examples of the potential impact, such as the millions in Quebec who lost power for several hours in 1989 as a result of a space storm.
Our nation’s communications infrastructure, modes of transportation and many fundamentals of survival all rely on a power grid that is vulnerable. The current system lacks safety features needed to prevent damage to critical electrical infrastructure.
In 2009, my friend — and sometimes co-author — William R. Forstchen published a truly frightening book, “One Second After.” (I wrote the foreword.) The story is fiction but based on hard facts. It is a cautionary tale about the threat of EMP strikes and major solar storms, known as coronal mass ejections.
William turned to bipartisan congressional studies published in 2004 and 2008 and interviewed many experts. His book made the New York Times bestseller list and helped to trigger what some call the “prepper” movement.
During the recent power outage, William and I talked about what would have happened if this had been an EMP attack or a strong solar storm. > > > READ MORE