How electromagnetic pulse attack by N. Korea could devastate Hawaii

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Defense experts are on high alert that North Korea could potentially target Hawaii with an advanced massive electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, knocking out the state’s electrical grid and communications systems.

If a foreign government carried out such an attack, it would likely have cataclysmic ramifications on the 50th state, even if the attack occurred hundreds of miles from Hawaii.

An EMP attack would likely result in a damage to its operations and communications, reports Fox News.

“This is not theoretical. It has already happened,” said Toby Clairmont, deputy administrator for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

In reference to significant damage caused to both civilian and military electrical and communications systems after the U.S. government set off a 1.4-megaton nuclear warhead at a height of 248 miles above Johnston Atoll in a military operation dubbed “Starfish Prime” on July 9, 1962.

The report states the test resulted in radio disruptions throughout Hawaii, California, and Alaska, and also disabled six satellites above the Pacific.

Within minutes of the nuclear test, Hawaii’s communications systems and traffic lights went completely dark.

“No one expected the test to impact Hawaii because it was 850 miles away,” said Clairmont. “This kind of blast does not hurt people, but as we’ve seen, it shuts down power and phones and goes after infrastructure and could cause problems at medical facilities.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, told reporters the potential threat of an EMP attack on Hawaii “is real and must be taken seriously.” Gabbard added, “Almost every aspect of our lives is reliant on electricity, much more so than in 1962 — everything from banking to health care to communications to automobiles — so you can imagine the devastating impact such an attack could have.”

She went on to explain that an attack of this magnitude on Hawaii introduces additional complexities. “If an attack occurred on the mainland and the electric grid was shut down on the West Coast, it would create a crisis in Hawaii through the total disruption of our food and energy supply chain,” Gabbard said.

Gabbard is also advocating for utility companies to invest in strengthening their “core infrastructure and electrical grid” and take preemptive measures to bolster security “against the threats of today and tomorrow, whether it be an EMP attack or a cyber attack.”

Dean Cheng, the senior research fellow with the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, chimed in on the matter saying that Hawaii could be a desirable target, partly because the headquarters for the U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith is located on Oahu, and the state boasts 11 military bases, one of which is Pearl Harbor.

Fox News reports:

While some experts claim an EMP attack isn’t a likely concern, National Geographic notes a Congressional commission of scientific and military experts warned in 2004 that an EMP attack could cause a massive blackout and damage financial and power networks.

“Depending on the specific characteristics of the attacks, unprecedented cascading failures of our major infrastructures could result,” the 2004 commission warned in a statement. “In that event, a regional or national recovery would be long and difficult and would seriously degrade the safety and overall viability of our Nation.”

Another report was released in 2008 by the Congressional Research Service that confirmed an EMP attack could result in devastating damage.

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