Would Baltimore Survive a Nuclear Attack on D.C.?

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While rising ocean levels may flood Charm City, there are some other disasters that we’d have a decent chance of surviving. Like, what if someone detonated a nuclear bomb near the White House? According to a government study, the explosion would destroy everything in a half-mile radius. The flash would be so bright it would blind Beltway drivers. But it wouldn’t be the end of the world — for Baltimore, at least.

The study looked at the impact of a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb, which is big — about 5,000 times bigger than the Oklahoma City bombing’s blast — but not as terrifying as the Cold-War era bombs dropped from the sky. The kind of nuclear weapon you could fit in a van couldn’t produce Hiroshima-level destruction. “If you are thinking about (a city) being wiped off the face of the earth, that’s not what happens,” says Brian Michael Jenkins, a senior advisor to the president of the RAND Corporation. So the White House would be flattened, but the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Washington Monument, and the Pentagon would probably sustain only light damage.

The big problem for Baltimore would be the radioactive cloud. In the spring, prevailing winds would bring it north and west of D.C. — not so good for us — but if the hypothetical bomb went off in the summer, it would probably travel southeast. Phew.

If this ever actually happened — God forbid! — forget fleeing panicked into the streets. You’re safest inside, down as deep as you can go. Another helpful tip:  “Anyone caught outside who heads indoors should remove shirts or jackets and shoes and brush their hair to remove large fallout particles.” Yikes.

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