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

Actually I guess I should say that a 10KT air burst at 10,000 feet would probably be less damaging than the same bomb on the ground. 10,000 feet is nearly two miles…that bomb would do relatively little damage.

Air bursts ARE more damaging than groundbursts but the altitude of air bursts is something like 500 feet or so (I think).

That far away, eh? I’d have the pleasure of being incinerated a nanosecond before you, depending on where at the former WTC they detonate. I’m a little farther away at home (but not much).

Oh well, I never liked Monday’s anyway.

You want to head west towards the blast to New Jersey? You are assuming any and all bridges connecting NYC and New Jersey are still standing. Not likely.

Your best bet is to follow the tornado escape plan - travel perpedicular from the fallout before heading west. Problem is, you are also assumming the roads will be clear and not full of debris and others just like wanting to get out.

Sorry, but in a metro area like New York, you have to get out days, if not weeks before the blast.

Yeah, it’s pretty bad. From what I recall, it’s nearly as deadly as caffeine.

And in some sense, radioactive cleanup is a lot easier than cleanup for other poisonous/hazardous materials. The key is that it’s a lot easier to detect radioctive materials, so you know where the problem spots are, and you can be sure you know when you’re done with the cleanup.

The point is, a dirty bomb would be bad, but it would do more damage via panicking people than it would directly.

A 20-kt device exploding in central Manhattan?

Should you manage to survive, consider your quickly withdrawing from your bank and brokerage firm every single penny to your name. (Also consider a quick jog over to your local Remax broker.) Think gold.

You folks are vastly underestimating the sociological/psychological fallout associated with a domestic nuclear blast. The second question, post-detonation, would be: Will another device be detonated–and when? If the baddies can construct/purchase one nuke, they can get another. And another. And another.

People who comfort themselves by billions of tons of protective bedrock have never seen a national financial panic.

Just a factor that hasn’t been considdered but if the nuke is detonated at ground level in NYC there’s an awful lot of structures containing the effects. That blast would have to go through a few hundred feet of concrete on it’s way to Zev’s house. Now obviously since New York City isn’t solid the overpressure is still going to do a lot of damage, but that site is considdering ideal conditions for the bomb and at ground level in such a densely built area would have a major effect on what the blast did.

I understand that plutonium, while very toxic if ingested, is pretty hard to get insideof you. It is chemically similar to lead, and so the particles (from a dirty bomb) are likely to settle in low places. Has anybody ever calculated how much plutonium would actually be dispersed from a “dirty” bomb? My guess is that most of it wouldjust wash into the sewers, and sink into cracks in the surface of the ground.
Not to make light of this, but would a dirty bomb really be all that effective in killing lots ofpeople? I would think anthrax would be a much more fearsome weapon that plutonium.

You might want to download the Hotspot program from
Choose nuclear explosion, then yield 1000kt and then promt effects table

As Chronos suggested a dirty bomb is mroe of a psychological weapon than a true weapon of mass destruction. Many people will be killed by the initial (conventional) explosion just liek any other bomb and then we get to watch people die over a matter of days and weeks from radiation poisoning. Rather than the event fading from the public eye it’ll bombard us day in and out for a long time in gruesome detail.

Granted the plutonium will generally fall to the ground and is somewhat easy to find with radiation detectors but you still need to get it all. Who would move back into an area like that till they were ensured it was squeaky clean? Wind can pick it up and blow it around, construction and maintenance crews can dig it up inadvertantly, you can get some on your hand unknowingly sitting in the grass and wipe your mouth without thinking…all sorts of ways to get it even after it has settled.

Either that or fence off a largish hunk of some of the most valuable real estate (Manhattan) in the world for…dunno how long but a LONG time.

One more factor that I haven’t heard anyone mention. Manhattan, as everyone knows, is an island. Granted it’s surrounded by rivers and not open seas, so maybe this isn’t an issue. However, what are the possibilities that the shockwave and/or seismic activities could kick up a mini-tidal wave. This wouldn’t be a problem where I live (I’m a good 4+ miles from any shoreline), but I’m curious if that might wipe out bridges/tunnels if the initial blast doesn’t.

Zev Steinhardt

god this topic makes me wanna poop with happiness!

A little gallows humor. Back in the good old sixties when we lived in the shadow of nuclear catastrophe some few offices at military installations had a mock official posted titled “nuclear attack procedure” posted in a discreet corner. The poster listed the several steps to follow when the big on went off.

Step 1, bend over. Step 2, grasp ankles. Step 3, pull hard. Step 4, kiss your butt goodbye.

The usual reaction was a short smile followed by a slow depression.

There will be nothing to withdraw. Banks don’t have money. They have electronic ledgers! They don’t have gold either!

I will venture any nuclear detontation in the first world will cause global economic chaos. Unless you have sufficient daily resources available to you now, along with an ability to use your hands, bartering will be the accepted currency.

Money will be a waste, except currency can be good kindling and coins might barter, but not at face value.

The Dirty bomb wouldnt have to destroy anything, the resulting fallout of nuclear fuel would force FEMA to shut down and isolate many times larger than what is actually contaminated. So, if a dirty bomb is exploded in manhattan, all those business in that area as well as the immediate surrounding area will be shut down and isolated for an indefinite period of time. Nothing goes out and nobody goes in. It would, in effect, have destroyed that area economically as if a real bomb had wiped that place out.

Hey, if we’re going to be so grim, why just talk about it? Let’s see what this might actually LOOK like:

Psychological and social effects aside, I suspect most posters are overestimating the physical damage from a successful terrorist detonation in Manhatten. The terrorising effects of any such attack would be so great that the organisers aren’t going to waste effort optimising the physical effects. Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be used as a baseline, because in both cases the bombs used the minimum amount of material, with a “safety” margin for error. (The critical holdup in both cases was producing the material, so the pressure was to use no more than needed.) Smaller weapons can be designed, but such techniques will be beyond terrorist beginners.
But the areas of damage in 1945 were smaller than photographs can suggest. Judging by the maps in Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb (p729 and p741), the serious physical damage was restricted to areas about a mile across. The damage for Nagasaki was particularly limited because of the sloppy aiming. Rhodes also has a plot of mortality against distance (p746) for Hiroshima. Even at 1 km, you had about a 30% chance of surviving. At 6 miles it was up to something like 99%.
There are then the two factors working in your favour: buildings in Manhatten are more substantial than in wartime Japan (but with frightening amounts of glass) and it won’t be an airblast. In 1945 the detonation height was optimised to maximise casualties. Terrorists probably don’t have that option.
If one’s interested in a crude period visualisation, Rhodes’ Dark Sun reproduces a 1950’s illustration (no. 75) of a Nagasaki sized bomb’s mushroom cloud against the New York skyline.

Dirty bombs are another matter, but personally I was struck by how low the estimates were in the recent BBC Horizon documentary. While intended to scare the bejesus of us, in their scenario (it goes off in Trafalger Square with the wind blowing to the east) even 6 miles downwind was only increasing your chances of contracting cancer from background radiation by about 1%. It gets nastier within a few hundred yards of course.
What they didn’t take into account is screw-ups by the designers. There’s a fair chance that, rather than dispersing the radioactive material, the conventional explosion merely sprays it across the facade of the National Gallery.

Finally, and to avoid sounding too sanguine about the whole thing, Robert Jay Lifton’s Death in Life (1967) is the classic sobering study of just how perminent the psychological effects are on the survivors.

Well, for God’s sake, Zev! Remember to back up our OOTP files.

Far beyond the public psychological effect would be the effect on the psychology of the government.

If we lost NYC to a nuke and an Islamic group claimed responsibility the government would be moments from turning the entirety of the middle easy into a parking lot. Mecca, Medina, Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran…all of them would vanish.

Betcha anything.

If Los Angeles were nuked, say downtown, would the local mini-mountain ranges offer any protection to denizens of the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys?

I wonder if the UN could still function. The emotional aftermath of a nuclear attack on New York would polarize the politics inside the UN even further (assuming the building is still usable). The USA would be in no mood to wait for consensus.


I work in a museum, and a while back we got a donation of civil defense manuals from the fifties and early sixties. They were the most unintentionally hillarious things I have ever read. Considering that the government knew what the Bomb was capable of, I can only assume that the purpose of these booklets was “Keeping the Screwed Calm.”

  1. If you’re more than two miles away, you should be fine. Keep your windows closed for a few hours, and if you’re caught outside when the Terrible Moment comes, cover with anything available, including newspaper. Go home and take a shower. No need to be concerned if you begin to vomit because most likely it’s just the after effects of the shock you’ve had, and you’ll be fine in a few days. Any hair loss should be temporary. If you’re healthy enough, go out and help fight fires. Make sure you vaccuum and dust the house thoroughly to rid it of any lingering radioactivity.

  2. Contructing your shelter is fun and easy. You can make a low-cost shelter in your backyard out of plywood, with a few sandbags around the base to withstand the force of the blast. (You’d be safer in your house!) No need for a door: build the entrance in a Z shape, with two sharp ninety degree angles, because * radiation can’t turn corners! * Pricier versions include underground bunkers, but be sure to include an air pipe to the outside, with an umbrella top so the radiation can’t get in.

  3. Stay in your shelter for at least a few days, or until it rains. The radio will tell you when it’s safe to come out, which shouldn’t be long at all. Be sure to bring magazines and card games into the shelter to deal with boredom.