Special Report

Worst Places to Be If There’s a Nuclear Attack on America


To find the worst cities to be in the event of a nuclear attack on America, 24/7 Wall St. constructed an index consisting of several measures. The first important measure was the likelihood a city would be bombed. Dr. Irwin Redlener, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, identified six economic centers most likely to be attacked. In addition, Business Insider mapped the 15 strategic military targets Stephen Schwartz identified in his books as most likely to be attacked first to neutralize the U.S. nuclear capabilities. These targets include command centers, ICBM bases, and air force and submarine bases, many of which are within close proximity to large urban centers. 

Four strategic targets are too far from large urban centers to be included: Minot AFB in North Dakota, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Cutler in Maine, Whiteman AFB in Missouri, and Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia. 

We have ranked all the likely targets based on city population density, within the city proper and the larger metropolitan area (from the U.S. Census Bureau 2020 American Community Survey); city preparedness for emergency (from city or state websites), economic significance based on 2021 gross domestic product (half weight) from the Bureau of Economic Analysis; air distance in miles to the strategic military target using Google Maps; and ease of evacuation. This last measure uses commute time given by the ACS as a proxy to congestion and the percentage of a city area that is water.

We also added projected fatalities and injuries assuming center city detonation or detonation over the strategic location using Nukemap. We used a 1 megaton bomb, which has a light blast damage radius (1 psi) of 19.8 km or 12.3 miles for a total of 1,230 km squared, or 475 miles squared.

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