On July 9, 1962, Hawaii was hit by a massive electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, which within minutes took down the state’s communications systems and traffic lights — virtually everything that ran on electricity.
The EMP wasn’t an attack by a foreign government; rather the U.S. government had set off a 1.4-megaton nuclear warhead at a height of 248 miles above Johnston Atoll in an operation the military named “Starfish Prime.” The test caused radio disruptions in Hawaii, California, and Alaska, and knocked out six satellites above the Pacific.
“No one expected the test to impact Hawaii, because it was 850 miles away,” said Toby Clairmont, deputy administrator for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, which is located within one of Hawaii’s most recognizable landmarks, Diamond Head. “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.”
With North Korea developing its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, Hawaii defense experts are concerned North Korea could target the 50th state with an EMP attack. Such an explosion, if executed high enough in the atmosphere, could be hundreds of miles from Hawaii and still damage its operations and communications.
“This is not theoretical. It has already happened,” said Clairmont, noting significant damage was done to both civilian and military electrical and communications systems. See more…