'Solar Katrina' Could Blindside Us

Senate needs to act to protect power grid

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 17, 2010 12:05 AM CDT

(Newser) – America is woefully underprepared for a looming natural disaster with the potential to be much worse than Hurricane Katrina, warns disaster expert Lawrence E. Joseph. Scientists believe a solar storm of a size not seen since 1921 is likely to hit the earth after solar activity picks up in 2012, sending out an electromagnetic pulse that could fry transformers and put electricity grids offline for months, Joseph writes in the New York Times.

Such an event would compromise the food and water supply as well as national security and even basic law enforcement, Joseph warns. We could protect the grid for about $250 million by installing surge protectors—giant versions of the devices used to protect home computers—nationwide, Joseph argues, but while the House has passed a bill requiring grid protection, the Senate's version of the bill contains no such measure. Lawmakers will be making a grave mistake if they fail to fix this omission while the bill is in conference, Joseph concludes.

This image from NASA shows an eruptive prominence blasting away from the sun earlier this year.   (AP Photo/NASA)
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Having gone unprepared for one recent natural disaster, we would make a grave mistake not to get ready for the next. - Lawrence E. Joseph

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