We all love the State Fair because of how Minnesotan, how uniquely close to home it is. Coincidentally, that’s also why we hate this map of the fair from a couple decades ago.
It was made by Friends for a Nonviolent World and Northern Sun Alliance in the early '80s – in the atomic age near the end of the Cold War, and on the heels of a terrifying nuclear accident at Three Mile Island.
Frankly, it gives us the willies. And that’s the point.
For many Americans, the notion that one day they’d go to bed and be pulverized by a nuclear bomb before the next morning was not that farfetched. They lived, worked, and yes, went to the fair under the shadow of atomic destruction.
Of course, one could argue that things are getting shadier by the minute in our own day and age. We’re in the midst of another nuclear arms race, North Korea has been testing missiles in spite of President Donald Trump’s confident gladhanding with Kim Jong Un, and Pakistan has issued a nuclear threat to India.
Days ago, Trump reportedly suggested nuking incoming hurricanes during a cabinet meeting. (He vehemently denies this.)
The point is, our level of atomic anxiety is on the rise. So in case things get out of hand, let’s review what our map says will happen if a 20 megaton bomb heads our way.
After the bomb hits the fairgrounds, the effects quickly radiate outward. Forty-nine miles away – where you’ll find, say, Monticello, Glencoe, or Northfield – victims suffer first-degree burns. Those looking directly at the blast go blind. If there happens to be any rayon lying around, it ignites like a match.
Thirty-five miles away – in cities like Elk River, Jordan, and River Falls -- crumpled pieces of paper combust. Victims suffer second-degree burns.
If you happen to be closer yet – 16 to 21 miles away – you see buildings and trees ignite and get pounded by winds howling up to 200 miles per hour. The very clothes on your body catch fire.
Fifteen to 16 miles away, house paint and car tires burst into flame. Buildings are blown apart. If you’re unfortunate enough to have your skin exposed, it’s charred instantly, and you are almost certainly dead.
But it gets worse further in. Ten miles away, every piece of glass is destroyed. The trees burn until a shockwave hurtles by and knocks them down. If buildings happen to be reinforced, they are barely standing. Perhaps you have taken cover in a basement under one of them. You will live… but only for 15 to 30 more minutes.
Five miles away: A 300 mile-per-hour shock wave flattens nearly everything in sight. Anything left standing explodes into balls of flame. Glass melts like sugar in a saucepan. People – no matter where they are – “die instantly.”
Then there’s ground zero. Here, there is a crater up to 300 feet deep and a half a mile wide. Earth, steel, buildings, people – they all “vaporize.” When the blast is over, there will be nothing but a charred void.
When this map surfaced on Reddit a few days ago, commenters tepidly thanked the poster for the nightmares.
“So this is what the cold war feels like,” one said.
Maybe it is. But the way things are going, we should probably get used to it.