A nuclear attack would most likely target 1 of 6 US cities. Simulated images show how a Hiroshima-like explosion would affect each.
- A nuclear attack on US soil would most likely target one of six cities, according to one expert: New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington, DC.
- Simulations show how each of the cities would be affected by a 15-kiloton blast - the kind detonated over Hiroshima.
- New York City would have the most fatalities. San Francisco would have the least.
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It's the disaster for which no city is prepared: A nuclear bomb strikes the US, triggering a blinding flash of light, a giant orange fireball, building-toppling shockwaves, and dangerous nuclear fallout."There isn't a single jurisdiction in America that has anything approaching an adequate plan to deal with a nuclear detonation," Irwin Redlener, a public-health expert at Columbia University who specializes in disaster preparedness, told Business Insider.Advertisement
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has some simple advice for those catastrophic circumstances: Get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned.
But Redlener said the overall federal guidelines aren't enough.He thinks even the six most likely targets - New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC - wouldn't be ready with a sufficient response. Those cities would be particularly at risk, he said, because they're some of the largest and densest in the country. They're also home to critical infrastructure like energy plants, financial hubs, government facilities, and wireless transmission systems.
To help people understand how a nuke would affect large cities around the world, nuclear-weapons historian Alex Wellerstein created an interactive tool called NukeMap that allows users to simulate the consequences based on customizable variables. Using updated Cold War models of nuclear explosions, Wellerstein's simulator can roughly predict the number of casualties and injuries from a nuclear bomb in a given place, big or small. The data is meant to be "evocative, not definitive," he writes on the simulation website, since nuclear attacks are difficult to model.The following images created using Wellerstein's simulation tool show how each of the six cities Redlener named would be affected by a 15-kiloton blast - the kind detonated over Hiroshima during World War II.
Wellerstein's NukeMap tool lets you detonate a hypothetical nuclear bomb over any major city in the world.
In the event of a 15-kiloton blast, 64,000 people in San Francisco could perish — but that's the smallest number of any city of this list.Advertisement
If a fireball were to hit the city's Mission District, the Golden Gate Bridge would remain standing.
If Houston were attacked, 90,000 people could die.Advertisement
The Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston would both be safe from damage if the bomb were detonated near the city's downtown.
In Los Angeles, 100,000 people would be killed.Advertisement
In the simulation below, LA's historic center is located directly within the fireball, so everyone there would likely perish.
A 15-kiloton explosion could cause 120,000 deaths in Washington, DC.Advertisement
The Pentagon and Ronald Reagan Airport might escape thermal radiation if a bomb were detonated over the National Mall.
In Chicago, a nuclear bomb could kill 151,000 people — almost as many as Houston's and San Francisco's death counts combined.Advertisement
People at the University of Chicago and Willis Tower would be exposed to severe doses of radiation under this simulation, which is based on an explosion above the South Loop neighborhood.
A nuclear bomb dropped on New York City could kill 264,000 people — the most of any city on this list.Advertisement
If the blast were to strike lower Manhattan, most of Brooklyn and Queens would be safe, but some windows there might still shatter.
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