Cities Most At Risk During Nuclear War, One In North Carolina

Nuclear war presents a terrifying prospect, with potentially catastrophic consequences for both humanity and the planet. While the exact course of a nuclear conflict is unpredictable, experts have attempted to assess the likely targets and casualties of such an event. In this blog post, we delve into data and factors influencing the vulnerability of various cities to a nuclear attack, highlighting an unexpectedly at-risk city in North Carolina.

Measuring the Risk of a Nuclear Attack

Numerous variables contribute to a city’s susceptibility to a nuclear attack, including its size, location, population, strategic importance, and the characteristics of the nuclear weapons used. Common metrics for assessing this risk include:

Blast Range: The area directly destroyed by a nuclear explosion, determined by the weapon’s yield and altitude. For instance, a 100-kiloton (kt) weapon at ground level creates a blast radius of approximately 5.5 miles, while an 800 kt weapon extends to about 11.5 miles.

Casualties: The number of deaths and injuries resulting from a nuclear attack, influenced by blast range, population density, and the availability of shelters and medical care.

Fallout: Radioactive dust and debris dispersed by the wind post-explosion, causing radiation sickness, cancer, and genetic mutations. Fallout extent depends on the yield, altitude, and weather conditions.

Cities Most at Risk During a Nuclear War

According to a study by 24/7 Wall St., which utilized data from NUKEMAP and the U.S. Census Bureau, the 25 most populous U.S. metropolitan areas were ranked based on their risk of a nuclear attack. Notable findings include:

  1. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: The most populous metro area, facing significant risks due to its size, density, and strategic importance.
  2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA: The second most populous area, also a key economic, entertainment, and military hub.
  3. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI: The third most populous area, featuring substantial financial, industrial, and transportation significance.

Other high-risk cities include Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX; Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX; Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV; Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD; and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL.

A Surprising Risk: Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

Despite the prevailing risk on the east and west coasts, Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC emerges as unexpectedly vulnerable. As the 22nd most populous metro area, with 2.6 million people, it holds economic, energy, and transportation significance, making it a potential target. A 100 kt weapon would result in approximately 68,000 deaths and 108,000 injuries, while an 800 kt weapon would escalate casualties to 147,000 deaths and 279,000 injuries.

Adding to the concern is the presence of nuclear power plants in North Carolina, including Catawba in Charlotte. In the event of a nuclear incident, such facilities could become targets or sources of radioactive contamination, expanding the fallout’s reach to about 1,000 square miles and affecting approximately 1.4 million people.


While the nightmare scenario of nuclear war is one we fervently hope to avoid, awareness of the risks and preparedness for consequences are crucial. Certain U.S. cities face higher vulnerability based on factors such as size, location, population, and strategic importance. Charlotte, North Carolina, stands out as unexpectedly at risk, emphasizing the need for vigilance and preparation to prevent such a catastrophe. Understanding potential targets and effects allows us to take proactive steps to safeguard ourselves and our communities.

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