What would happen if the Hiroshima bomb hit York?


Thursday marks the 70th anniversary of the United States atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan at the end of World War II.

Though the bombing helped bring an end to six years of war on Aug. 15, 1945, the bombing, along with a second atomic blast at Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, it came at a heavy human price.

It is estimated about 105,000 lives were lost when U.S. warplanes dropped the atomic bombs, "Little Boy" on Hiroshima and "Fat Man" on Nagasaki. To put that into perspective, an estimated 550,000 Japanese civilians died in the entirety of the war. More than 60 million people, about 3 percent of the world's population at the time, were killed directly or indirectly by military action during the war.

To show the impact of a nuclear bomb detonation, Alex Wellerstein, a nuclear historian at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, created the "NukeMap". The map shows how a nuclear blast could devastate an area.

Bombs over York: The York Dispatch ran York City through the map system and found if the 15 kiloton "Little Boy" were dropped on the city, most of its buildings and human life would be wiped out.

If the blast occurred nearly 2,000 above Continental Square, the ensuing fireball would envelop an area from Philadelphia Street in the north to King Street in the south and from Duke Street in the east to Beaver Street in the west, according to the Wellerstein's map.

But the devastation extends beyond that.

Inside an "air blast radius," which includes the heart of downtown York, from Sixth Avenue in North York in the north to deep into Spring Garden Township in the south and from Tremont Street in the east to Belvidere Avenue in the west, buildings would be destroyed or, at a minimum, severely damaged.

Buildings within those areas that would be destroyed include Martin Library, Central Market, the county Judicial Center and Santander Bank Stadium.

If you were in those radii, the chance of survival would be next to nil. The "thermal radiation radius," in which people would suffer third-degree burns, encompasses almost the entire city.

Wellerstein's map estimates 26,840 would be dead and 32,850 would be injured.

A more modern 1.2 megaton B-83 nuclear bomb, the largest in the U.S. arsenal, would impact the whole of the metropolitan York City area, and devastation would stretch as far east as the Susquehanna River. Fatalities would be estimated to be 103,120, and 108,860 people would be injured.

To check out the map, go here.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.