THIS UNNAMED GEOLOGICAL formation is the likely result of wind, rain and time eroading away surface material to expose what at one time would have lava (magma) that had cooled and solidified. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
COMING INTO OR out of the Chisos Mountains, this is the northwest view and is several miles south of Panther Junction and the headquarters for Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THE CLARET CUP is covered in barbed spines and blooms a reddish, cup-shaped flower from about April to June or July in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THIS VIEW FROM a formation called, “The Window,” looks out from the westside of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
INDIAN HEAD MOUNTAIN and its southern region offers this “leaning” wall of geology at the western boundary of Big Bend National Park. The rocks of the foreground are boulders ranging from man-sized on up. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
MASSIVE AND TOWERING, this wall of the geology is at least a couple of hundrend feet high and situated in the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
WIDE-OPEN PANORAMAS and mountainous terrain such as this are routine along roadside in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THE SOUTHWEST SIDE of the Chisos Mountains, also known as the Chisos Mountain Basin and home to the lodge in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2011 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A FALLEN TREE is an impassable barrier in an otherwise debris-free dry riverbed in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
INDIGENOUS TO TEXAS, New Mexico and Arizona, Javelinas in Big Bend National Park genetically differ from swine. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
LOST MINE TRAIL in Big Bend National Park, looking southward over Juniper Canyon, the Chisos Mountain’s Northeast Rim and into Mexico. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A TREE SILHOUETTED against the night sky as seen from Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THIS VIEW EAST of a volcano is an illusion of the setting sun streaming through the Chisos Basin area behind Casa Grande Peak in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
WRIGHT MOUNTAIN in background at Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A VIEW WESTWARD after sundown from the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A CAMERA COMPENSATION for the limited light after sundown provides this view westward from the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson/Camera One. All Rights Reserved.
SANTA ELENA CANYON after sunset, as seen from the Chimneys in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson/Camera One. All Rights Reserved.


Author, Photographer, Researcher, Artist, Adventurer and Buccaneer Extraordinaire

“Or at least that’s the plan each morning after coffee.”

Publication History: The New Dark Age of an EMP. Copyright © 2011 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved. Excerpts from this work are permissible if author attribution is included. However, beyond this no part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Tolleson, DL. “The New Dark Age of an EMP.”, 2013.

Tolleson, DL. “The New Dark Age of an EMP.”, 2016.

Description: Commentary » Past » Present » Future—1,551 words.

Commentary: This originally appeared as a May 21, 2011 entry in The Great American Novel Blog on this web site under the heading, The New Dark Age of an EMP. The orginal entry remains available in the 2011 Archive via the Compendium.

—DL Tolleson

DL Tolleson

So your alarm doesn’t go off and you wake-up one morning late for work. If you take the time to go through an abbreviated morning routine, you quickly realize that the lights are out, the coffee maker isn’t working and the refrigerator... Well, you get the idea—the power is still off.

The upside is that since you’re late to work you skip the cold shower. After mismatching your socks in the dark of the room, you manage to rush out the door while dressing on the run. Once outside, you notice that most of the cars in your neighborhood—or in your apartment complex—are still there.

That’s weird, you think. Then you jump into your car, turn the key and...

Nothing. The car won’t start.

Just great.

So you whip out your trusty cell phone to call in late and it doesn’t work either.

When it rains its pours.

You step out of your car to see one of your neighbors cussing his portable AM/FM radio. Having already learned everything you are just figuring out, your neighbor is now miffed at being unable to hear news from his non-working radio.

Now, on top of all that, you see another neighbor returning from a short walk to the local store. He reports that the store is powerless and the ATM at which he stopped isn’t working.

Maybe a transformer went out, you think.

What you don’t know is that across the entire country, no one has power.

In fact, across the entire nation any car build after about 1980 isn’t starting and will not run.

Worse still, during the night thousands of passenger airplanes lost power in mid-flight and plummeted from the skies. At those thousands of crash sites millions of people have died. And even if the survivors could be transported to hospitals, it would be pointless. You see, the same problem has hit the hospitals. During the night critically injured people in hospitals across the country died when the life support equipment on which they depended lost power while back-up generators failed to kick-in. And anyone depending on life support equipment during operative procedures died on the operating table.

Of course, standing in front of your home, you don’t yet know all of that. You also don’t yet know that if you are living at a higher elevation than the local water supply you will do without because the electrical infrastructure necessary to pump it up to higher ground is now gone. And since the electrically driven valve systems at the water stations are fried, the available tap water might be only what is left in the lines.

Gone, too, is any chance of accessing your bank holdings and finances. You are now unable to conduct any electronic transaction, communication or—eventually—use what will become valueless paper money. In the months following this morning, people in need of life preserving medications will die. As you stand there in the yard, perishable food everywhere is spoiling without refrigeration. Without a means of replenishment, non-perishable food supplies in major cities will be depleted in under a week—more likely within three to five days or so.

People without stored food and water will die of hunger. Society will breakdown and eventually in the cities, “every man for himself” will be the rule of the day. Martial law will be declared in some places, but for the most part even that will be of little consequence because the automation to enforce it will not exist. The outlook is so much bleaker than even this that it staggers the mind to contemplate.

Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it?

Well, it is true that a somewhat similar story is played out in a recently published novel called, One Second After, by William R. Forstchen. But the storyline is not science fiction. It is science fact. It’s a reality that just has not yet happened.

What I’ve just described is the morning after the explosion of a nuclear bomb high above the center of the country. Exploding at an extremely high altitude, the chances are there isn’t a blast crater, little if any architectural devastation, no fallout and radiation of comparative insignificance to those of us on the ground. Instead, the massive explosive power of the bomb interacts with atmospheric elements to create a phenomenon that brings America to its knees in the way described above.

Here’s how that happens: When the nuclear warhead detonates in the upper stratosphere, the byproduct of high-energy gamma radiation travels outward in every direction. The downward-traveling gamma radiation interacts with air molecules to produce two types of ions: Positive ions and recoil ions—the latter of which are called Compton recoil electrons. The interaction which creates these ions also produces a charge that separates (or ejects, if you will) the newly created Compton recoil electrons. As the Compton recoil electrons expand outward they interact with the earth’s magnetic field (as part of a process called, charge acceleration). The end result utilizes earth’s electromagnetic field to deliver an instantaneous electromagnetic pulse overloading every electronic circuit it its path. This is called an EM Pulse—or EMP.

And that’s not all. Simultaneously there also occurs something called a magnetohydrodynarnic EMP that moves relatively slow (as in perhaps one or two blinks of the eye) and which is similar to the effects of a geomagnetic solar storm. This particular aspect of the catastrophe sends low frequency current into the earth that travels along transmission lines, contributing to the event’s extensive damage.

All of that—the whole thing—occurs in the matter of seconds. One second everything is fine and one second later every electronic component not “hardened” (protected) against an EMP is fried. What is protected against such an event? Mostly high-end military equipment built to withstand and retaliate in the event of a nuclear strike.

Everything else is pretty much toast.

None of this is temporary. The only replacement components available will be in other countries—provided they haven’t been similarly attacked and are predisposed to provide help.

And even if those places (like China or Japan, for example) still exist and are willing to help, it will easily be years—nearly a generation worth of years—before we climb back out of the new dark age.

Could this really happen?

Absolutely. Easily. It isn’t likely to be the results of a massive strike involving dozens of nuclear warheads such as we feared from the Soviets as recently as the early 1980s. Rather, it would more likely be only one or two warheads, launched from off of our shores using a submarine, container ship, barge, oil transport or similar vessel. Speculatively speaking, it could even be launched from our own soil. Regardless of the exact point of origin, anything launched from so close to home would be practically impossible to identify and destroy before it reaches the altitude necessary for the job.

So who would do it? Take your pick from any candidate calculated to have motive, resources and opportunity. A state-sponsored terrorist equipped by any one of our nuclear enemies comes readily to mind (Iran and North Korea, for example). Whether we contemplate the traditional devastation of a nuclear blast or the more wide-spread crippling of an EM pulse, it is no stretch of the imagination to envision a one or two-warhead attack by people who have shown no compunction when using children as instruments of death, beheadings as praiseworthy and genocide as a routine. We would be foolish to dismiss the motivations of our opposition and the wherewithal of their sponsors.

How informed is our government? Well, pursuant to a National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year of 2001 an EMP Commission was cobbled together to study the matter. They were tasked with identifying the steps necessary to protect military and civilian systems from an EMP attack. The Commission was reestablished via a follow-up statutory enactment of 2006. In all there have been made public at least two fairly extensive reports and one written testimony arising out of a 2008 appearance before the House Armed Services Committee.

These reports are freely available as pdf downloads when you visit online the Emp Commission by Clicking Here. Probing to detailed depths, their reports clearly enumerate the preventive steps necessary for EMP survival. In reading their literature, it becomes alarmingly obvious that we are a nation unprepared for an EM attack. Even though the reports don’t say it, an EMP attack would eventually plunge us into something just short of a modern dark age.

With our economy already facing crisis, unemployment looming at the threshold of double digits and Quantitative Easing of the money in line to devalued the dollar (a common precedent of the process) the questions facing you are, What have you done to prepare for a short term or long term emergency? Have you stored nonperishable food? How about water? Have you thought about personal and home defense?

An EMP blast could happen at any time—even before you finish reading the next sentence. Are you prepared? If not, don’t let further inaction be the source of regret when you are sitting in the dark without electricity and thinking back to having read this warning.

Preparation costs very little. Failing to prepare can cost your life.