Three X-Class Flares Within Last Hour

September 13th 2005


Three X-Class Flares Within Last Hour

by Mitch Battros – ECTV

Three more X-Class flares have fired off within a 20 minute period. They came from sunspot region 808 formally known as 798. When sunspot regions rotate around the backside of the Sun, and if they stay in tact, it is re-numbered as it rotates around the eastern limb of the Sun. Hence formerly known region 798 is now region 808.

Three X-Class Flares: http://www.sec.noaa.gov/rt_plots/xray_5mBL.html
Kp Index: http://www.sec.noaa.gov/rt_plots/kp_3d.html

Folks, I am going to do something a little different. Instead of, no, in addition to, my ongoing postings of current events, I am going to display why we should be concerned about this latest onslaught of back-to-back solar storms. I write extensively about what has happened historically, and “what could be” in my book ‘Solar Rain’.

This will be a three part article. Part I is focused on how geomagnetic storms affect our “infrastructure” and communities. Part II will be on how geomagnetic storms affect “humans and animals”. Part III will be on what is happening “now”.

Part I - Geomagnetic storms and the neighborhood you live in” – The Solar Storm that Shut Down 6 million people of Quebec, Canada

Astronomers had been tracking ‘Active Region 5395’ on the Sun when, on March 10, 1989, it suddenly belched out a huge cloud of super-hot plasma. Three days later, residents in higher latitudes enjoyed a magnificent Northern Lights display. Even people in Florida got to enjoy the show that had never been seen so far south, and went to bed on the night of March 12, awed by the display.

Around March 11, 1989, as Cycle 22 was getting underway a flare erupted (see plot of sunspot number and X-class solar flares during the last three solar cycles). Scientists saw it 8 minutes later, but the full impact was still two days away, and this one was headed straight towards where our planet would be by then. Meanwhile, the residents of Quebec were still trying to get back to normal following the worst ice-storm in Canada ’s history.

At 2:44 a.m. the next morning, stray electrical currents generated by a powerful magnetic field surged through the electrical circuits of the Hydro-Quebec control center. Giant capacitors along the 735kV lines that had been designed to absorb the spikes tried to regulate the current that ran 115% above normal, but were overwhelmed. To prevent damage, automatic breakers tripped and took them off-line. However, these had been the primary line of defense.

The entire grid was now vulnerable, and immediately things rapidly fell apart. All five lines into Montréal tripped, and a surge in load tripped the supply lines from the 9,450 MW generators at La Grande. This resulted in a sudden drop in frequency, and automatic load-shedding kicked in, but compensators could not recover from the loss of about half the system load. As each piece went off-line, the load was offloaded onto other generating plants, which also tripped out. Within 20 seconds, the entire Quebec power grid collapsed, too quick for human operators to react. Of course, generators were still spinning, ready to crank out their 21,500 MW, but they were all disconnected from those who badly needed electrical power on a frigid Canadian morning. Their current was going nowhere … and people shivered.

Sorting out the mess took nine hours, while most of Quebec was in darkness. This silent disaster disrupted the lives of six million people, yet somehow the 50 million people on the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. remained unaffected thanks to some capacitors on the Allegheny Power Network that did their job. Long term effects were costly, as the huge oil-cooled transformers that had burned up cost millions to replace, which took months. Meanwhile Hydro-Quebec had to reroute power, and, as it had done two months earlier, purchase more expensive fossil fuel power from other companies.

Downed lines due to a co-existing ice storm began to black out parts of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, but the affected areas quickly linked up to form a huge area of both provinces. Pretty soon, the emergency measures unit office at Ottawa-Carleton’s municipal headquarters began to buzz. This was turning out to be no ordinary winter storm. Representatives from regional and local government, hospitals, public health, police, ambulance, fire and Red Cross assembled to closely monitor what was fast becoming a runaway situation. “No one predicted something of this magnitude,” said Merv Beckstead, Ottawa-Carleton’s chief administrative officer.

Stores had long since run out of heaters, fuel and generators, and with no respite in sight, Hydro management was forecasting system-wide disruption of up to two weeks. In hindsight, that was hopelessly optimistic. By the early hours of Thursday, January 8, the area of devastation was still widening, and the decision was taken to declare a state of emergency. This allowed regional government to apply for federal and provincial financial aid and military assistance. It also warned residents that the situation was serious and allowed for an ‘Emergency Vehicles Only’ curfew on the roads—the first time this had ever been done in the history of a region that was used to bad weather.

The story of the Hogan family was typical. Sue Hogan awoke early in the morning and smelled smoke. Her husband Dave went downstairs to check on the wood and oil furnace they had been using for backup heat during the blackout. It was ablaze, so he hollered up the stairs for everyone to get out. Their sons, Ben, 8, Adam, 13, and Gord, 15, groggily threw on some clothes and fled outside. The fire department could do nothing, and the Hogans watched as their home went up in flames. Sadly, they lost their beloved pet beagle but felt fortunate the family of five had escaped unhurt. Neighbors immediately responded with offers of lodging, food and clothing, and Sue was amazed that the community was so behind them. Such displays of caring were repeated all across Eastern Canada as random acts of kindness broke out everywhere.

For example, nine-month pregnant Tasha Geymonat and her partner Jody McKellar of Edwards were headed for Riverside Hospital at 7:32 a.m., but the icy roads were simply too dangerous to continue, even for their Chevy Blazer. They called the paramedics, and Marc Lafleur and Bill Magladry helped deliver a healthy 8 lb. 4 oz baby boy in the back of the SUV. Such acts of heroism became commonplace as shops, banks, schools, public transport and everything else without backup generators shut down.

Weeks and weeks living in an emergency shelter can fray anyone’s nerves, so area hotels slashed their rates. Cell phone companies offered free service, and restaurants offered free meals to emergency workers, as they did in New York following September 11. One grateful resident said, “A country is much more than its weather. It’s the people.” They were finding out what it meant to be Canadian.

Early Friday morning, the army arrived and brought a sense of security to the devastated area. Dressed in green fatigues, they continued to roll in and by 6 p.m., a solid base of soldiers had swelled to thousands, both regulars and reservists. They cleared debris blocking roads, provided emergency medical assistance, helped utility workers to restore power, set up fuel and food dumps, evacuated residents and went door-to-door making sure people were safe.

Sadly, the Army also had to deal with looters. The supplies pouring in from across the nation and the U.S. presented a tempting target, especially in-demand items such as portable generators, dozens of which were stolen. Some generators may have been liberated out of genuine need, but most found their way onto the black market for a profit. Others price-gouged on essentials such as batteries, flashlights and gas. And many posed as Red Cross volunteers allegedly collecting for money to run the shelters. To prevent looting, police dropped all but essential services, but many residents took matters into their own hands, standing guard over their homes with loaded rifles.

The lesson was costly but simple, and I can remember Richard Gelb, my emergency management instructor telling us in a stark and unsettling voice… “you are to convey to those you train in your future emergency management positions… It is not the fire department that is coming to save you, it is not the police department that is coming to save you, it is not the Red Cross that is coming to save you, it is not even us in emergency management that will be there for you. IT WILL BE YOUR NEIGHBOR. Now folks, it is important you convey this in your field training….. Let the people know in a major disaster the likelihood of roads being cut off are high. Of course all emergency management disciplines will immediately be enacted, but the bottom line is a coordinated neighborhood is the most likely to survive.”

It all started with a simple equation…


Sunspots => Solar Flares => Magnetic Field Shift => Shifting Ocean and Jet Stream Currents => Extreme Weather and Human Disruption (mitch battros)


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September 2005

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