A potent reminder of why you should keep cash on hand

The power failure yesterday in San Francisco demonstrated, yet again, that cash is still essential.

Johnny Sadoon, owner of Sutter Fine Foods on Nob Hill, sat against a register eating vanilla ice cream from a Häagen-Dazs carton. He figured he had but a few hours before he should start to worry about the food going bad and the ice cream melting in the freezers.

He had kept the store open despite the blackout and a few customers perused the darkened aisles, but because the credit card machine doesn’t work without power, sales were few and far between.

“No one pays cash anymore,” he said, spoon in hand as a siren wailed outside. “I’m angry. I’m annoyed.”

There’s more at the link.

I can already hear some readers scoffing that a short-term power failure like that is nothing to worry about, and no reason to increase their cash reserves at home . . . but what if it isn’t short-term?  The Pentagon appears to be thinking about that already.

Amid warnings that North Korea and Iran have plans to take out parts of the U.S. electric grid through a cyber attack or atmospheric nuclear blast, the Pentagon is taking steps to both protect the nation’s communications and power lifeline.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has charged BAE Systems to map a system that can detect a cyber attack and gin up an alternative communications network for military and civilian use if the grid is fried, according to Defense Systems, the online newsletter.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey has been warning for years that the grid is extremely vulnerable, and recently the Pentagon and some states have taken the warning seriously. Woolsey and former EMP Commission chief of staff Peter Vincent Pry have pointed a finger at North Korea, which is now threatening the U.S.

DARPA’s focus is on thwarting a cyber attack, but Pry and Woolsey have also warned that North Korea or Iran could attack the grid with an atmospheric nuclear explosion over the East Coast that will disable the grid and that could end up leading to the death of 90 percent of those in the East.

Again, more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Given North Korea’s record of unsuccessful missile launches, I daresay the nuclear threat at this time is relatively low . . . but it may not stay that way.  That’s probably why President Trump appears determined to do something about it before it gets more serious.  As for a cyber-attack, even if it’s thwarted, it may result in local or regional disruptions of the power supply for days, or even weeks, while normal operations are restored.

I can only repeat my frequently-expressed recommendation, in my articles on economic conditions and emergency preparations, to keep extra cash at home, in a secure location.  If possible, I strongly suggest you have enough for at least one month’s normal expenditure on everything – rent, utilities, regular payments, groceries, fuel, the whole enchilada.  Even if a month’s cash is impossible, at least try for a week’s worth.  That way, if things do grind to a halt, electrically speaking, you’ll have enough to buy emergency supplies . . . while others, who haven’t taken that precaution, are left waving useless credit and debit cards at silent, powerless (literally) card machines.

(I might add that a decent supply of cash, under such circumstances, can result in a windfall in supplies.  On more than one occasion I’ve seen a desperate store owner, knowing that he was about to lose the entire contents of his refrigerators and freezers to a power failure, sell them at half or more off their regular price.  If you have a freezer at home, and a small generator to keep it going until power is restored, you might pick up several weeks’ worth of meat at far less than the usual cost – to say nothing of multiple gallons of ice cream!)



  1. Yeah.

    But then the rats will bring out the guns and declare war on hoarders as they are doing right now in Venezuela. Being prepared and well off there can get you arrested…

  2. We had a major ice storm back in 2009. The day it happened, one Dollar Store had power and could use debit cards or checks. It took a couple days for the banks to open, and for the first couple days they would only allow a $200 cash withdrawal. I didn't have power for exactly 21 days, luckily the insurance company put us up in a hotel.

  3. I lived in the middle of the area hit by the ice storm of '98. My house in the country was without electricity for 13 days. The local convenience store had one tiny emergency generator to run the gas pumps but it couldn't run the electronic payment machines so all transactions were in cash. Fortunately the city of Ottawa was 25 miles away and had power but the ATMs in the east out of the city ran out of cash as thousands of people, myself included had revert to cash. Ever since then I've kept a few hundred in the gun safe.


  4. Cash is the sane way to go. We converted several years ago and don't use our credit cards for anything but emergencies. We also bought a generator after the "power failure" a couple of years ago near the coast (No. CA). The gas is fresh.

  5. First, move away from any major city. Do it as soon as possible. You will live a less stressful life, and it is much safer.

    The idiots are like radioactive materials. They are mostly harmless until they reach a critical mass, then they undergo a chain-reaction. We moved and have lived the semi-rural life for more than 20 years.

    Two, if you are concerned about power, save a little every month for a year, and invest in a whole house generator (with transfer switch). In both residences we have had over the last 20+ years we have had this feature. You will never regret it. Our first was diesel, with ample fuel storage to last for moths, and our current is natural gas. (Which, by the way, is a fairly secure supply, since the NG supply system uses NG to power its pumping system backup generators.)

    I cannot say this more strongly: cities breed danger. As civil government weakens in its resolve to rapidly and strenuously put down the "usual suspects", they are emboldened and become more powerful.

    I spend several days and nights non-stop at the Rodney King riots. If anyone here thinks you can win in a situation like that, you are kidding yourself. And, with the current political wind, you are the one who will be prosecuted.

    Avoidance is your best protection. The prudent see danger and "get outa Dodge".

  6. The thing about the grid is, while a deliberate attack might be devastating, there are far more likely scenarios that would also devastate. The Power Companies have been telling anyone who would listen that the grid needed reinforcement for decades (I think I first encountered the refrain in the late 1970's), and the Usual Suspects have dismissed this as 'profiteering'. "Alternative Energy' policies have placed further strains on the system. My personal bet is that while the grid may come catastrophically down in the near future, the culprits are likelier to be the Political Light and their idiot policies than any external enemy.

  7. We went into Gatlinburg the day they reopened the town after the wildfires to help support our local merchants. Didn't bring cash. Oops. There was no internet service. Returning 1 1/2 weeks later the clerk remembered us and offered the same discount on a holster, belt and purse he did the first time. The businesses where our children are employed were undamaged and they are again hard at work. Sometimes cash is king.

  8. The recent synchronous power outage may have been coincidence. It may have been the result of 'weak spots' in the grid stressed by EMF from a small CME (sun flare).
    OR…it might have been someone testing their abilities to affect the grid in preparation for a larger attack.

    As for the NORK's not being able to launch a missile high enough to cause an EMP?
    That is a matter of WHEN. Not IF. Given enough time they will eventually perfect
    that technology. How long that will take is the only real variable nobody can state. The same can be said for Iran and other unstable turd world enemies. Eventually one of these countries WILL achieve the necessary technological acumen
    to do this…..and one of them WILL attempt it. And like any terror attack….the
    attacker just has to bet lucky to succeed. We, the defenders must get it right 100%
    of the time to prevent a successful attack. Those are shitty odds.

    In reality when you combine the threat of a rogue state EMP attack with the odds of
    a Carrington Event type CME from the sun the chances of our technological society being trashed in an instant goes from the wishful thinking of not likely to the reality of a virtual certainty at some point in time. Thus everyone must plan accordingly.

  9. Ireland had some trouble a few years back when the banks all went on strike. The cash in circulation soon dried up so personal cheques (checks to you over there) became defacto bank notes.

  10. Of course as we move to more "renewables" the grid will become less stable. See South Australia last September. I'm sure California looked at that and decided that anything the Aussies could do, they could do better.

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