CUMBERLAND — Internationally recognized utilities experts and physicists met in Cumberland on May 21 to review recent findings supporting a possible vulnerability of the U.S. power grid to sustain a yearlong blackout.

The year or longer blackout can be caused by the electromagnetic effects of severe solar storms, similar to the effect of a single high-altitude nuclear event. The combination of experts, senior executives from companies across the country, faculty and staff of area universities and representatives from the city, Allegany County, and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin’s office was welcomed by Mayor Lee Fielder.

Dr. George Baker, the first presenter and a career-long electromagnetic pulse expert, thanked the hosts and facilitators of the event, Chuck and Joni Manto, for the use of their Cumberland home on the National Historic Register. Baker credited Chuck Manto’s Frostburg-based company, Instant Access Networks (IAN), as “the first company to focus exclusively on the protection of mission-critical facilities, owned by the private sector and local government, from the threats that could set the country’s technology back to the time when the historic Cumberland home was first built a century earlier.”

The primary presenter was John Kappenman, who reviewed the recently released National Academy of Sciences report on Extreme Space Weather, in which he participated, and his discussion of the impact of solar storms with leading engineers of the electric utility industry. Kappenman was one of several present who provided technical services to the U.S. Congressional EMP Commission originally promoted by U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.

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