On September first and second 1859, a major solar storm made a direct strike on Earth. A solar storm consists of a vast cloud solar plasma, a gas of electrically charged particles, flung from the sun explosively during sunspots. Very bright auroras were seen as far south as Colorado. Telegraph keys chattered on their own. Telegraph operators were shocked into unconsciousness. Telegraph lines sparked fires. At that time, there was little electrical infrastructure. Telegraph lines did not yet span the American continent.
A far smaller event in March 1989 blacked out the entire province of Quebec. Transformers blew up and electrical fireballs were seen to roll along power lines. Spectacular auroras were produced.
On July 23rd of 2012 a solar storm of similar size to the vast 1859 storm burst from the sun but fortunately missed the Earth entirely.