During a recent work trip to Custer City, in the Black Hills (South Dakota side), Gareth and I noticed that direction signs to a Fallout Shelter were both in place and of recent vintage, at Custer City Hall and Fire Station.
It reminded us again that many Americans STILL fear the threat of a nuclear strike, deep in the Heartland, three decades after the end of the Cold War.
A recent article in Insider warns of the “six most likely targeted cities” in the Fifty States. These are New York City, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC. The article warns that none of these cities are in any way prepared for a “nuclear detonation.” And that they are home to critical elements of our society and economy – “infrastructure” such as “energy plants” and financial hubs, government facilities and communications systems.
Well, from what I know of these cities (and I’ve been to all of them, and lived in/very near two of them), they are right about not being prepared. They weren’t prepared back in the 1980s and 1990s, much less today.
FEMA’s advice to dwellers in these places is simple, generic, and stupid: “get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned.” I figure that makes it easy for archaeologists in a couple or three centuries to treat those places like the 19th and 20th Century treated Pompeii. Lots of dead bodies and artifacts left in place.
So even if I agree with the “not prepared” part, I question several things. First, are these places REALLY absolutely critical to our Fifty States: our society, culture, and economy? Second, what IS the best way to prepare as an “ordinary citizen” in case of an explosion? And finally, what are the real targets? (Is this just another way of boasting about which city is greater?) (Oh, and why are some other cities left off?)
Of course, any analysis like this has hundreds of assumptions. This one includes the idea that this is a “one-off” attack, not the Russians or Chinese (or French) launching a massive first-strike. And assumes that the target is intended to be something that has a massive impact on the Fifty States’ economy and life. Of course, size has to be considered as well: the article uses the “media standard” of a Hiroshima-sized 15-kt, delivered by North Korean missile or smuggled in by a terrorist or enemy national. Taking their assumptions, I still doubt their conclusions.
First, if these are critical to the Fifty States, they are NOT the targets that a reasonable rational attacker would use, especially if they hope to negotiate something with some American government. (I’m not saying that the attackers would be rational, but still…) A smaller city, or less critical one, would be a better (and an easier) target. It could be a military target, but more likely a cultural target.
A small nuclear device would not destroy any of these big six targets, either. There is a fascinating website which has a “NucMap” you can use to select a target, size of device, wind direction, etc. to see what would happen.
For many angry and frustrated Americans, a 15-KT nuke in a van on the Mall halfway between the Capitol and the White House might be characterized as “a good start” to draining the swamp. At least if done during office hours with both Congress and the President in town. The vast majority of the 64 thousand dead and the 90,000 wounded and ill would be politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists. And while ruined, both the White House and the Capitol would still be identifiable ruins.
In similar manner, a Hiroshima-size bomb in a delivery truck at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street in NYC killing 122 thousand and injuring 133 thousand would be seen as a way to severely damage world capitalism by the extreme Bolsheviks of the planet (or at least a way to make Chicago the global financial center). And the Statue of Liberty might survive!
The other targets would have like opportunities and downsides. A bomb in Hollywood striking against the American mass media and its corrupting influence on the world would “only” kill about 24 thousand and injury another 38,000 while leaving most if not all of Los Angeles’ industry, transportation, and commerce intact. A bomb delivered in a semi to the heart of the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago (home of the very first nuclear pile) would kill 35,000 and injure 130,000, and wipe out the Loop. In Houston, a bomb at the intersection of Dallas and Louisiana Street (home of the Petroleum Club) would slaughter 64,000 and wound 43,000. And lastly, a 20-foot shipping container delivering a weapon to the corner of Castro and 18th Street (the Castro District’s heart) in San Francisco would kill 26,000 and injure 75,000, while radioactively dusting Uptown, the Financial District and more.
Better targets for “shock and awe” might be military communities (San Diego, Norfolk, San Antonio, for example). Or historic cities such as Boston or Philadelphia. Or “secondary” government centers like Denver, St. Louis, or Albuquerque.
The fact is, even these cities and virtually every city in the Fifty States is virtually totally unprepared for a nuclear explosion.
More on this subject in later commentaries, but let me answer one major question. What do you and I, as non-government officials, lovers of liberty, and without immense wealth do to survive such an attack? The easiest and most productive (and even the least costly in many ways) is move OUT of the big urban areas. Of course, surviving a nuclear attack (and the chaos and response to follow) is far from the only reason to get out of Dodge and find a nice community in Wyoming, Montana, or South Dakota.
Think on these things!