Although Hawaii is the closest state to North Korea, which enhanced the fear after a false alarm over the weekend, Hawaii is far less of a strategic target than Colorado Springs.
The moment the first rock was blasted out to create a home for NORAD in the 1960’s, Cheyenne Mountain and nearby Colorado Springs became a nuclear target.
50 years later, NORAD is still headquartered in the region, although it relocated to Peterson Air Force Base roughly 10 years ago.
Stephen Schwartz is an independent nuclear weapons policy analyst and consultant.
He is the author of Atomic Audit, a comprehensive look at nuclear weapons which includes a list of likely nuclear targets.
That list includes Colorado Springs.
Schwartz believes there are almost certanly Russian nuclear missiles aimed at Southern Colorado right this moment.
“The facilities near you are definitely on the Russian targeting list. I don’t think they have ever gone off,” he said.
Although nuclear missiles may not be in silos in Southern Colorado, both Peterson AFB and Schriever AFB are “command and control” centers that would play critical roles in America’s ability to respond.
“NORAD would definitely be on the target list,” he said, “as would be anything else around there that would allow us to gather information and disseminate information about the scope and scale of a nuclear attack.”
As for the impact, nuclear weapons have improved significantly since the attacks on Japan in the 1940’s, but the exact destructive power is unclear.
Not even the colonel of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station could tell KRDO last year if the mountain could stand up to a modern nuclear blast.
Nukemap is a website based on government data that projects things like the blast radius, the distance radioactive fallout would travel, and the number of casualties and injuries for a particular city following a nuclear attack.
The outcome here, even from a medium-sized nuke, would be catastrophic.
“It would not be a very good day for people out there,” he said, “but we’ve lived under this threat for decades. We’re still here. That’s not an excuse to say ‘let’s not do anything about it’, but I don’t think it’s a reason to panic either.”
Schwartz added that he does not think Kim Jong Un will start a nuclear war.
He instead believes Kim is very rational, and only desires nuclear weapons to deter other countries from attacking North Korea.
Following the false alarm in Hawaii, people ran into gymnasiums, bomb shelters, and manholes for shelter.
Schwartz says getting underground or moving farther away from the anticipated ground zero are things that could reduce the risk of injury or death.
However, trying to escape in a car is not advised, due to the traffic jams that almost certainly exist.