Solar Storms

Storm's Coming

GENEVA (AP) -- A senior official at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says solar storms pose a growing threat to critical infrastructure such as satellite communications, navigation systems and electrical transmission equipment.

You can read the full, but short article here.

This is the rare potential disaster that preppers worry about that the government and (increasingly) the main stream media are also talking about.  I'm no physicist, but as I understand it, the sun's activity happens in cycles, and in the coming couple of years, several different cycles are coming together to form strong solar storms, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections at levels not seen in many, many years.  The last time we had this large of a storm series, we didn't have satellites, airplane, circuit boards, power grids, etc...  In fact, the storm of 1859 caused aurorae as far south as the Caribbean, and shut down telegraph systems around the northern hemisphere.

The effects of CME can be very similar to an electromagnetic pulse, shutting down electronics and "frying" circuits.  So what could this storm look like, and what can we do about it?

With technology today, scientists will know when these CMEs or flares happen, and we'll have some notice before they hit our atmosphere.  Current thought is that if systems are shut down, they will probably escape damage, so some discussion is that upon reports of a major CME, the electrical systems will have to shut down.  It's not as simple as throwing a switch, especially with nuclear plants.  They may end up powering down the majority of the systems and just running minimum safety equipment, possibly shielded somehow.  I am not aware of how they might plan to protect the lines.

Within our homes, we may need to plan to unplug electronics and appliances on certain days.  They think cars will be OK if they are not running, so we may need to adjust work schedules or commute times during peak periods of solar activity (or break out the '74 Monte Carlo for the commute).  I've been building a Faraday cage to contain my GMRS radios.  I'll build a larger one as I add to my supply.  I should finish it this weekend, and I'll get a couple pictures up.  Essentially, it's a case, lined with foil, and the electronics are separated from the foil.  There are some who say it needs to be grounded, but others say that a small box for home electronics is OK without grounding, but if you have a large Faraday room or walk-in cage, it needs to be grounded.  Mine won't be.

I think the key to the next couple years will be to pay attention to news about solar activity, and plan for alternative, protected power.  I feel kind of like I did in 1998 about Y2K.  That turned out to be nothing, but only because industry and government spent billions of dollars and millions of man-hours fixing it.  Today I have a much better overall level of preparedness, which prevents "panic prepping."  By continuing with my steady preps, I'll be much better prepared for a solar storm to cripple the electrical grid... or a hurricane... or an ice storm...  Disaster commonality - so many potential disasters need many of the same preparations.

I'll be trying to stay on top of this, and as things develop, or new ideas are presented, I'll bring them up here.

iPhone Weather Alerts

I found the source information on the iPhone weather alert offer today.  Here's the press release:

More than likely, almost everyone would agree that there's no price tag when it comes to their safety. Weather Decision Technologies, the creators behind the new iMap Weather Radio app, agree.

For 24 hours on May 19th, they're offering this app completely free to the first 100,000 customers.
Just like a weather radio, this app will broadcast life saving weather alerts and hazards. Mike Gauthier, the Interactive Vice President with WDT says, "Mobile Weather Radio is a product we designed to reach people where people live in today's world which is mobile, cellular."

He says, picture this, "This is the scenario: it's 3 o'clock in the morning, your iPhone is laying next to you on the nightstand, your location has just been put under a tornado warning. The phone will literally come alive, it will issue 3 tones and talk to you and tell you your location is under a tornado warning."

Using this app, you can get alerts for up to five locations. You also have the option to view an interactive map with the current radar, or live stream your Storm Team 10 Forecast.

Gauthier explains that WDT has the experience behind this app too.

"We've been doing this weather alerting, weather safety for over 11 years now. We just feel that this is a life saver, and it's going to reach people," Gauthier said.

This app couldn't have been launched at a better time. It hit the market just weeks before the record tornado outbreak of April 27th and 28th, where approximately 15,000 copies of this app were downloaded in a mere 12 hours.

If you're interested this app can be purchased on iTunes for approximately $10. WDT said they plan to branch this app out to the Android market next.

Here it is on iTunes.  Don't forget to check it out on Thursday to save $9.99 and get it free.  My wife is going to do it on her iPhone.  The less that people listen to radios and watch local TV, the more they will miss weather and other emergency alerts.  Mobile devices are the future.


  1. Great info. I am still trying to find a good container that I can use as a Faraday cage. I don't have a whole lot of electronic stuff that needs the protection. I just want to make sure that my new C.B. and handheld radios and scanner are protected just in case we have and emp caused by solar storms. I agree with you on the solar storms, but have you checked out the wild weather we continue to have around the nation? It's crazy!!

  2. I've heard that a microwave will function as a faraday cage. This might be a cheap way to protect reasonably sized items like external hard drives.


  3. BVDD - I'll show mine this weekend. It's simple and pretty inexpensive to make.

    Steelheart - you are exactly right on the microwave... It is a Faraday cage, not to keep the waves out, but to keep them in. An ad on Freecycle or Craig's list could probably get you several free old microwaves to keep your stuff in on the shelf.

    BVDD - the weather is crazy! We just finished our daily torrential downpour with thunder and lightning, tornados are all over the country this month, and the floods... There is something for everyone!


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