1989 solar storm

On the evening of Monday, June 22nd, a solar disturbance generated a geomagnetic storm, which resulted in a fabulous display of the Northern Lights in The County. In fact, some said it was the best show in a decade.
The best I ever saw was in March of 1989, when a geomagnetic storm caused brilliant displays of the Northern Lights all the way to Virginia and even points further south. Unfortunately, this storm also knocked out the electrical grid across much of the province of Quebec.

WeatherWhys    But the March 1989 solar storm was nothing compared with what is known as “The Carrington Event”, named after a British amateur astronomer named Richard Carrington. On September 1st, 1959, Carrington noted a solar flare. This powerful flare induced one of the largest geomagnetic storms on record, with astounding reports of northern lights being seen as far south as the Caribbean!
In the Rocky Mountains, the glow was so bright, that gold miners were awakened, and in the Northeastern U.S., newspapers could be read outdoors by the glow of the Northern Lights.
During the Carrington Event, telegraph lines sparked and telegraph operators received shocks!
A geomagnetic storm of this intensity today would wreak absolute havoc on much of our electrical and communications grids. Outages would last for weeks at least, and repair costs could extend into the trillions of dollars.
From National Geographic:
  “But the big fear is what might happen to the electrical grid, since power surges caused by solar particles could blow out giant transformers. Such transformers can take a long time to replace, especially if hundreds are destroyed at once, said Baker, who is a co-author of a National Research Council report on solar-storm risks.
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s Cliver agrees: “They don’t have a lot of these on the shelf,” he said.
The eastern half of the U.S. is particularly vulnerable, because the power infrastructure is highly interconnected, so failures could easily cascade like chains of dominoes.
    “Imagine large cities without power for a week, a month, or a year,” Baker said. “The losses could be $1 to $2 trillion, and the effects could be felt for years.”
So it’s hard to believe that our Sun, over 90 million miles away could do all of that, but it is very much within the realm of possibility. The next “Carrington Event” will be truly catastrophic for modern society.
By the way, an excellent site at which you can track solar disturbances is SpaceWeather.com
Ted Shapiro holds the Broadcast Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. An Alexandria, Va. native, he has been chief meteorologist at WAGM-TV since 2006. Email him at tshapiro@wagmtv.com.