New York nuked. How do I survive? (Warning: grim topic)

OK, let’s say the worst thing that can happen, happens; namely a nuke goes off in New York. What can I do to maximize my family’s chances of survival after the nuke detonation.

Assume the following facts about the nuke:

The nuke is set off at the site of the former World Trade Center. It is a 1 megaton device and is set off from the ground (or reasonably close to it).

Some relevant information about me and my family:

I work about 1700 feet from the blast site. So, it is safe to assume that if I’m at work, I’ll pretty much be done within one second. Would the fact that I work in the interior of a building with no windows mean anything? (I doubt it).

I live six miles away, as the crow flies. I live east (and downwind) from the blast site. So, for home purposes, assume that I’m home with my family. I live on the first floor of a three-story (upstairs, downstairs and basement) two family house. My car is in decent working order. I have three children between the ages of 6-9 and a wife. Everyone in my extended family has a working car except for my mother, who lives about 2 miles away from us (further from the blast site). Under optimal conditions, it’s about a ten minute car ride to her house. So, if at all possible, I’d like to be able to pick her up.

Assuming we survive the initial blast (is that even possible at six miles?), would it be safe to just pile everyone into a car and head for New Jersey and points further west? I wouldn’t head further east, since that is downwind from the blast site. Assuming we survive the initial blast, how long do we have to get out of the area before lethal radiation poisioning sets in?

So, putting aside human factors (rioting, looting, etc.), what are my family’s chances of survival? What could be done after the fact to increase those chances? I already know #1: Don’t look directly at the fireball. Where do we go after that?

Zev Steinhardt

Here you go Zev. This link will show you all you need to know. Basically, it’s grim, and I prefer not to get into details. Just check out the site. Or come live in my neighborhood in CT we’re out of the blast range :slight_smile:

I’m afraid the functionality on the site you provided doesn’t work. It keeps linking to an invalid URL.

Zev Steinhardt

I live with-in ten miles from a Nuke plant, and we just received KI pills - potassium iodide - in the mail. They help protect the thyroid from the effects of radiation if something were to happen. It was a grim reminder we live in an unsafe world. Mrs. Phlosphr and I are seriously thinking about relocating the AZ or NH. Not sure though. Try a Google search for Nuke blast calculator or Nuke + Fallout + Survivability… Peace

Duck and Cover. Just hide under your desk.

the fireball alone of a 1 megaton device is several kilometers across.

The blast radius is even wider.

Zero survival probability.
Even the old Little Boy class device, less than 20 kilotons, would probably kill you instantly. Or make you wish it had.

Yeah, that’s what I thought. I was wondering if I’d have any chance at all (however remote).

Zev Steinhardt

I seem to remember from the cite I linked - when it worked - the blast radius is 10 miles from 1 megaton nuke with a 50 mile immediate fallout. 100 mile 72 hour fall out depending on the wind.

It’s not good Zev. But you live with what 8 million other people taking the same risk. It’s not like people are just going to uninhabit New York. And plus Al Queada’s recent M.O is not to hit the same place twice.

According to teh site Phlosphr linked to:

Seems that if you are at work in your scenario you’re done for. About the only ‘good’ thing to say about it is you probably won’t even know you’re dead as it’ll happen too fast to be noticable.

You’re right in the middle of those two if you’re at home. You’ll probably live it would seem but chances of injury are pretty high.

Unfortunately you aren’t out of the woods yet…

This of course depends on the prevailing winds after the explosion. Wind or no however I think you are close enough to get more than your fair share anyway (as dust and such settles after the eplosion all over the place.

Finally, to top it all off, you will probably see a complete breakdown of society in the area among the survivors. Every man and woman for themself. Roads would almost certainly be crammed to uselessness with people trying to get out.

Not a pretty picture ZS. If misery loves company realize that I live about 3 miles from downtown Chicago and while we may not be as prime a target as New York I think we make the short list.

Believe it or not I was taught this sort of thing in the Army.


  1. No, you will not survive if you’re at work. The blast would vaporize your building at that close a range.

  2. There is a chance you will survive the initial blast if you are at home. However, that’s a chancy thing. Anyone unfortunate enough to be outside who has a clear line of sight to the explosion will likely be burned to death by the flash; if they are looking towards the WTC site at the time, they’ll probably be blinded as well. A one-megaton bomb will set fire to almost anything combusible at six miles on a clear day. The range of a bomb set off at ground level won’t be as far as if it were exploded in the air, but six miles is close for a 1-megaton bomb (even by superpower standards that’s a huge bomb.) Your house will probably be set on fire by the thermal flash, and if exposed your car will probably be destroyed as well, set on fire and the tires melted. If you’re inside at the time there you could likely escape your burning house, but your car will be burning like a campfire.

One cannot overemphasize the importance of NOT LOOKING AT IT. Even after the initial flash, the fireball will be blindingly bright for several moments afterwards, enough to blind you and cause third degree burns. It is absolutely essential that you be shielded from the thermal flash during and immediately after the explosion.

Remember also the danger of having almost everything on fire; gas mains can explode, fuel tanks rupture, gasoline-fuelled vehicles can blow up.

Even if your car is spared - if it’s behind your house relative to the WTC, say - it’s possible the electromagnetic pulse will render it useless anyway. Unless it’s a really old car.

  1. Following the thermal flash will come a shockwave that, at 6 miles, will probably knock your house down. Again, the shockwave is weaker than it would be if the bomb were airburst, so if there is a lot between you and the WTC site, your house may be spared. However, the devastation at 6 miles will be huge; most buildings will be destroyed. A 1-megaton bomb will knock over most structured at 10 miles.

The shockwave will be followed by tremendous, hurricane force winds, extraordinarily hot and very powerful. At 6 miles it could be enough to kill you if the heat and shockwave haven’t already.

You would also have substantial seismic damage as well.

In general, I would say that at six miles your odds of survival are not good if a bomb that powerful were set off. At six miles you will be subjected to thermal effects and a shockwave so powerful that escape would be extremely difficult.

However, it is unlikely a terrorist bomb would be so large. 1 megaton is larger than most nuclear weapons. You would probably be looking at a detonation of 10-200 kilotons (a 200 KT bomb is still a friggin’ big bomb) and in that case your odds of survival are actually pretty good at 6 miles.

It’s difficult to say how quickly you’ll be poisoned by radiation, since it depends on how the weather is. That won’t kill you instantly with a smaller bomb, so you may as well PUFO as quickly as you possibly can.

  1. Stay low, in the basement if possible, until the blast effects of the bomb - thermal flash, shockwave, and wind - are passed.

  2. Then, assuming you don’t have a fallout shelter built into your home, get away from the explosion as quickly as possible.

  3. It is possible that you may have family members needing immediate medical attention. However, the number of people injured in a Manhattan nuclear blast would exceed the available medical services of the entire State of New York, so you should be prepared to render medical aid on your own. Even for a small bomb, anyone unfortunate enough to have a line of sight to the burst will be burned. Have first aid supplies close at hand. Antibiotics and disinfecting agents are critical for treating bad burns.

  4. Have a contingency plan in case your car is rendered useless by EMP. Strollers, baby carriages, bicycles can all be used to transport kids and supplies. Naturally, your leaving may be directed by federal of Guard troops or other government agents. Follow their instructions if they seem to know what they’re doing; avoiding panic and cooperating will be key to keeping things going as smoothly as possible.

  5. It won’t be hard to see where the fallout is headed; the mushroom cloud will visibly move with the wind. So you can adjust your direction of flight accordingly. It also would not hurt to wear surgical masks or some other form of protection, and maybe raincoats or ponchos, and gloves. If you can avoid breathing in irradiated particles and keep it off your skin, you can minimize your risk as much as might be possible.

At your distance, I would think it is QUITE probable that you and your family can survive a nuclear blast of the sort a terrorist would set off. Just keep a level head.

Again, I’ll never mind living out here with 10 billion tons of bedrock between Washington DC and my home.

Well, if it happens when I’m at work, it’s All Up for Baby . . . Way to brighten up my Monday morning, guys!

BTW: The stuff I quoted assumes a 1 megaton groundblast.

Well, I did warn you. :slight_smile:

Zev Steinhardt


Thanks for the helpful advice. It’s also nice to know that things wouldn’t be nearly as bad as I thought they would (pretty much instant death). Knowing that a terrorist bomb would be smaller than I thought is helpful.

BTW, what is “PUFO?”

Zev Steinhardt

Yeah but you missed all the fun stuff in Frederick, MD, not too far from you. Things like Ft Detrick, which has a lot of communications, Camp David and the south mountain missle silo. Granted I don’t think many terrorists want such things.

To the OP I don’t really think you can plan for something like that, you really have to just make it up as you go. But how do you keep from looking at a blast, I mean if you’re looking that way there is no time not to look so your eyes are toast anyway.

Pack Up and Fuck Off (i.e. get out right away).

Nuclear irradiated NYC …or move to New Jersey…
That IS a tough decision, isn’t it?

Are these ideas correct:
a) 1 megaton+ requires fusion, or a hydrogen bomb: FAR beyond the abilities of a terrorist to produce, and unlikely to be stolen.
b) A 10 kiloton groundburst downtown would cause much less damage at a distance than an airburst at 10,000 feet. Buildings and ground would absorb much of the initial light/heat radiation

More likely is a dirty bomb. No nuclear explosion, just radioactive material exploded into the air. Fewer people are killed, couldn’t it essentially shut down a city for a very long time?


Yes to both of your assumptions.

A dirty bomb could most definitely shut down several blocks of a city for a very long time. Cleanup would be an absolute nightmare and cost an absolute fortune. Plutonium is one of the mroe toxic substances known to man so you’d have to get nearly all of it cleaned-up before you could declare an area habitable again.