Back when I researched the science for Blackout, I ran into something that shouldn’t have surprised me but did. Even after I’d done my research, talked with electrical engineers, read books on solar flare, I discovered not all scientists agreed what would happen during an X-class solar flare (Electro Magnetic Pulse/Coronal Mass Ejection).
While I did my research, I also knew I was writing fiction and not a science book. We never know how the world will react to a global disaster…especially people!
Here’s a quick excerpt from Blackout to give you just a taste of how things go for the hero and heroine in Blackout right after they hear an X-class solar flare is coming their way.
“That’s all we’ve got?” the man standing near Griff said in an angry tone, as if Griff could change the truth. “Three days?”
Cassie saw Griff’s reaction, the subtle impatience in his eyes. Griff restrained himself and kept his tone even. “Could be less.”
“Jesus,” another man said, this guy older. He put his arm around his wife. “End times.”
Cassie winced, wanting to berate the man for going that far. But she didn’t want an argument and it wouldn’t help anything. Besides the fact her heart hadn’t stopped banging against her ribcage since they’d read the closed captioning. Penny had quickly taken the television off mute and closed captioning.
Cassie’s mind kept flashing back to the tsunami all those years ago, and a horrible sense of déjà vu threatened to unhinge her hard-won stability.
The reporter, looking scared shitless, had given the breaking news. The gasps that had gone up around the room had evaporated into weeping among a couple of the younger women. Several couples had rushed off, not saying where they were going to or why. That left Penny, Griff, Cassie and the much smaller group of ten.
“One to three days is a hell of a lot better than nothing.” Griff’s voice sounded brusque but calm. “There are things we can do to mitigate this situation.”
The reporting went on, and it didn’t matter which channel Penny checked. They all said the same thing. Another reporter already had a so-called expert sitting in the studio with him.
“Dr. Abrams, thank you so much for being with us here today. I’m sure there are going to be a lot of very frightened people out there. But first can you explain to them exactly what is happening?” the reporter asked.
Dr. Abrams, a middle-aged man with a dark beard and glasses, looked very calm. “Henry, this is indeed a serious situation. The NOAA Prediction Center in Boulder has given notice that a geomagnetic storm could put us in extreme danger.” The roughness in his voice didn’t betray nervousness. “We have about one to three days before the electromagnetic pulse occurs as a result of a coronal mass ejection from the sun. What is called an X-class event.”
“And what does that mean, doctor?” the reporter asked.
Dr. Abrams looked grim. “There is more than one stage to this. First stage is the actual solar flare, second is the radiation storm, and the second is the coronal mass ejection. The ACE satellite launched in ninety-seven by NASA monitors the parameters of solar events and solar winds, the polarity.”
“In layman’s terms what does that mean for us?” the reporter asked.
“Without some immediate preparation such as a controlled shut down of the grid to minimize damage, we’ll have a hell of a mess on our hands. Radio and electricity may be gone through the destruction of electrical circuits. Microchips will fry. Power lines will overload. Cars, computers, subways, cell phones, and airplanes may or may not work…with the exception of special military planes designed to withstand EMP.”
“There goes that new iPhone I bought last week,” a middle-aged man in a suit said just before he rushed out of the front door of the hotel.
“When it gets here we can expect power outages,” the expert on television said. “My guess is that several grids will be shut down in advance of the EMP to make sure there is less damage to the infrastructure. That in itself is good news. But there are large transformers that could be totally destroyed. High voltage transmission would build up, and when that happens it goes into the transformers and destroys whole grids. And it takes eighteen months minimum to make one of these transformers.”
“Eighteen months,” a woman near Cassie whispered, her voice struck with horror.
“Dr. Abrams, aren’t there quite a few of our electronics which can survive this stuff?” the reported asked.
Dr. Abrams stroked his beard for a moment. “People already prepared for this sort of thing will fare the best. Survivalists and preppers who’ve built Faraday cages to protect electronic devices. They have enough food, water, and supplies to take them into the next few years or more. Those are the only people prepared for what will happen.”
“What about transportation?” the reporter asked.
“Transportation will be a nightmare. There’s controversy about which cars would work and which ones won’t. Commercial airlines should shut down operations to make certain their communications aren’t compromised and that no planes fall out of the sky. “
“What’s a Faraday cage, doctor?” the reporter asked.
“It absorbs or reflects electrical charge and preserves the electronics within whatever device it’s protecting,” the doctor said.
“How long could it take us to recover from something like this?” the reporter asked.
“Full recovery of infrastructure could take up to ten years.”
Now the reporter looked disconcerted, his calm facade cracking a bit as his voice went husky. “Shouldn’t we have been better prepared for this?”
“Shit,” Griff said in a disgusted tone so low Cassie figured only she could hear him. “Here it comes. The finger pointing.”
Dr. Abrams said, “We can never be fully prepared for this. Perfection isn’t possible.”
I won’t tell you how the world or the characters in Blackout survive (or don’t). ‘Cause that would be tellin’.
You can grab a copy of Blackout now for 99 cents at
Barnes and Noble