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Solar storm 2024: What should you do to prepare?

(NEXSTAR) – It’s been almost 20 years since we’ve seen a geomagnetic storm as strong as the one heading our way this weekend. Power operators and other groups that maintain critical infrastructure are preparing for what might happen when the coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, hit Earth. But is there anything you should be doing?

A G4-level solar storm, such as the one expected to hit as soon as Friday evening, can cause issues with the power grid, radio communications and the accuracy of GPS.

The most noticeable impact for the everyday person – not working in aviation, satellite communications or on the International Space Station – would be issues with power grid. Power outages are possible, but mitigation procedures are already underway to avoid major disruptions, explained NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC).

“For most people here on planet Earth, they won’t have to do anything,” said Robert Steenburgh, a space scientist at SWPC. “If everything’s working like it should, the grid will be stable and they’ll be able to go about their daily life.”

For those who want to be prepared in case the solar storm impacts their area, the SWPC pointed to a FEMA list of recommendations:

  • Build an emergency kit, much like one you’d use in case of a natural disaster
  • Freeze plastic containers with water to create ice packs. They can help keep food cool if you lose power
  • Fill up your car’s gas tank in case your local gas stations lose power and can’t pump gas
  • Charge your devices and keep extra battery packs in case you are without power for an extended period of time
  • Make sure you have a way to get in and out of your house/garage if the electric garage door opener stops working

Steenburgh gave one more piece of advice for Americans, especially those living in northern states: prepare to look at the aurora. It’s expected to be visible as far south as Alabama and Northern California.

“That’s really the gift from space weather – the aurora,” Steenburgh said.

People having trouble seeing the northern lights should try using their phone camera to get a better view.

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