Michael Brooks wrote a fascinating article for NewScientist.com:
Over the last few decades, western civilisations have busily sown the seeds of their own destruction. Our modern way of life, with its reliance on technology, has unwittingly exposed us to an extraordinary danger: plasma balls spewed from the surface of the sun could wipe out our power grids, with catastrophic consequences.
Brooks may not realize that coal is hauled by diesel-electric locomotives that do not run off the electric grid:
Coal-fired power stations usually keep reserves to last 30 days, but with no transport systems running to bring more fuel, there will be no electricity in the second month.
However, I do not dispute his larger point that there could be a major long-term disaster:
The truly shocking finding is that this whole situation would not improve for months, maybe years: melted transformer hubs cannot be repaired, only replaced. “From the surveys I’ve done, you might have a few spare transformers around, but installing a new one takes a well-trained crew a week or more,” says Kappenman. “A major electrical utility might have one suitably trained crew, maybe two.”
Within a month, then, the handful of spare transformers would be used up. The rest will have to be built to order, something that can take up to 12 months.
FEMA recommends an emergency kit with at least three days of food and water. Perhaps, we should be prepared for a far longer period of time.
I highly recommend reading Michael Brooks’s article.