North Carolina takes the lead on preparing for CME event

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - 12:00am
While the southeast is ramping up preparations for hurricane season, North Carolina is also preparing for another unlikely but potentially damaging event – a coronal mass ejection (CME). 
 
An extreme CME is a large solar flare of energy that if directed at Earth, could have an impact on many of our daily activities. Potential effects include a powerful geomagnetic disturbance that could cause widespread power outages, loss of cellular networks and loss of satellite connections, among others. Just like with other natural events like hurricanes, it’s important to be prepared.
 
North Carolina is leading the country in preparing for this type of event as the first state to host an exercise that brings public utilities and state and federal officials together for an interactive planning discussion. Over the course of a four-hour session, attendees and participants participated in a scenario based on real data from a 2012 CME that missed Earth but was recorded by a satellite. During the exercise, participants worked through questions covering the step-by-step process of necessary actions to take in the case of a CME event. 
 
While many questions were answered during the scenario, as expected, many were also brought up that will need to be revisited. DEQ, along with the utilities, federal government and others who participated in this exercise, will continue to coordinate a response plan to be ready in the unlikely event that a CME should occur. North Carolinians should feel proud that our state is leading the charge in preparing for this low-probability, high-risk event.