Ever since the United States dropped the first nuclear bombs on Japan during World War 2, the possibility of nuclear war has always been a threat. This threat was much more significant during the Cold War. However, even today, the possibility of a nuclear war starting is possible.
But if nuclear bombs were fired at the United States, which states would you want to avoid being in because of how unsafe they would be? I have listed the 11 cities that would be the least safe should the United States be attacked by nuclear weapons.
1. Southern California
One of the most dangerous areas to be if there were ever a nuclear attack is going to be Southern California. While all of California is going to be a dangerous place to be, Southern California has most of the major cities, and more importantly, it has many military bases, which makes Southern California one of the most likely targets of any state in the United States.
Some of the largest cities in the United States are located in Southern California, and these cities include Los Angeles, San Diego, San Fransisco, and San Jose. All of these cities have at least 1 million residents and are either a shipping city, have multiple military bases, or are both. These things are what an attacker would look for while determining where they should attack.
Even if you live away from the coast in California, you are going to be in trouble because of the radioactive fallout that will occur after the bomb. The wind always blows these particles northeast, meaning that if the major cities are targeted, the radioactive fallout will go throughout the rest of the state.
2. New York
New York is going to be a dangerous state because of New York City. New York City is the largest city in the United States, and because of this, it has become a prime target for all sorts of attacks and would continue to be one if there ever was a nuclear attack.
Along with having a major target like New York City, New York is also northeast of many other potential target cities like Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. These are just two other cities that are major targets and, as mentioned earlier, the radioactive fallout from a nuclear attack is often blown northeast when you are in the United States, so all of the radioactive particles will be blown up into New York, making surviving there even more difficult.
3. Western Washington
Western Washington is going to be a dangerous place to be for two main reasons. The first of those reasons is the fact that Seattle acts as a very important port for many goods coming in from Asia. Targeting Western Washington and all of its ports would greatly hurt the number of resources coming into the United States and cause supply issues across the nation, further crippling the country.
The second and more important reason that Western Washington would be a target is because of the number of military bases that are throughout the state. Dozens of naval bases are scattered around the western part of the state, and many of those bases help service different ships. So, by attacking many of these bases, it wouldn’t just remove the bases, but also destroy a number of ships from the Pacific Fleet. By doing this, the fleet would be greatly limited, and many of the bases needed in order to make essential repairs to equipment would be greatly damaged or destroyed.
Fortunately, Oregon does not have many potential targets, so you will likely only have to worry about the radioactive fallout that will come after the explosions. And because the fallout blows northeast, most of Eastern Washington will also be safe, as the Rocky Mountains will help block much of the spread.
4. Eastern Texas
Eastern Texas also is a prime target for two different reasons.
The first reason that Eastern Texas would be a prime target for a nuclear attack is the fact that it has a lot of major cities with high populations. These cities include Dallas, Houston, San Antonia, and Austin. Just like with California, all of these large cities have over 1 million residents, meaning just one bomb can easily kill hundreds of thousands of people.
The second reason that Eastern Texas is going to be a prime target for a nuclear attack is the fact that it has a large military presence. Ranging from Air Force bases to naval bases in Houston, each of the 4 military cores has at least a base located in Texas, meaning that if you were to hit a city with a nuclear bomb, you could easily take out a base and spread radioactive material across much of the state at the same time.
A bomb detonating in San Antonio would end up not only affecting San Antonio, but the radioactive material would also hit Austin. Some radioactive material would even reach Dallas.
Pennsylvania is another prime target for a nuclear attack, as it has two large cities that act as targets and act as important centers for economic support. The two cities that would likely be targeted in Pennsylvania are Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. While Philidelphia is the larger target due to its history and the fact that the radioactive fallout will go into other large cities, Pittsburgh also has a high population and is an important city in the United States.
While there are other large cities in Pennsylvania, only these two would act as larger targets for an attack. However, you aren’t going to want to be in Pennsylvania during a nuclear attack, as the radioactive fallout from these two cities will hit a large portion of the state. So, even if you weren’t near the blast, you could still easily get sick.
It really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the state that contains the capital of the country is going to be a prime target for a nuclear attack. A nuclear bomb going off in Washington, D.C., would have much more devastating effects on our country’s leadership than any other city would.
Still, over 400,000 would perish in the blast and from the fallout, as the wind would blow radioactive materials throughout the city and then into massive cities such as Baltimore and Philadelphia. The blast would take out many important people and buildings, including the Pentagon, the Capital building, the White House, and many monuments.
While not as large of a target as Washington D.C., an attack on Baltimore, Maryland, would still spread lots of radioactive material to other large cities like Philadelphia and New York City while still taking out 250,000 people and injuring another 253,000 people. These two cities combined make Maryland one of the most dangerous states to live in during a nuclear attack on the United States.
Virginia is very similar to Washington in that it would be attacked because it has many large and important military bases. It also has a port that a lot of ships that are crossing the Atlantic Ocean stop at. It should be mentioned that just like with Washington, there is a dangerous side of the state and a safer side. Because all of the ports and most of the bases are on the east coast of Virginia, you will want to live on the western edge of the state in order to be in the safest situation.
There are 4 very important cities on the east coast of Virginia that act as the most important ports in the state, and each of these cities also contains military bases. These cities are Chesapeake, Newport News, Virginia Beach, and Norfolk. An attack here would wipe out most, if not all, of the infrastructure and severely damage several military bases while also damaging or destroying ships from the Atlantic Fleet.
Hawaii is an interesting case because it has one island that will be extremely dangerous to live on should a nuclear attack on the United States occur, while the others will be much safer.
The largest target in Hawaii is going to be Honolulu due to all of its military bases. If Honolulu were to be hit by a nuclear bomb, the whole city would be destroyed, and over 200,000 residents would die. However, Honolulu would be attacked for the same reason that Pearl Harbor was attacked in World War 2. The Pacific Fleet has a very large presence in the city, and by destroying it, it would take out many ships, but more importantly, it would take out a vital port for the US Navy.
But, if you are living on one of the other islands, you are going to go through a crazy experience, as you will be decently close to the blast, but you will be safe on the other islands because they don’t serve as military bases, so they won’t be likely targets. You will likely be affected by nuclear fallout, but you likely won’t be directly affected by the blast.
The largest island of Hawaii will actually be the safest place to be, as it is the farthest island from Honolulu.
For more, check out The 12 Safest US States From Nuclear Attacks.
Florida is very similar to both Washington and Virginia, but Florida has 3 reasons for it to be a target of a nuclear attack. While it does act as a port city, harboring ships from both across the Atlantic Ocean and other ships from Central and South America, Florida also has a large number of military bases. This state also has a lot of cities with high populations.
The unfortunate part is that while Florida has many large cities, these cities are spread throughout the state, so there really isn’t going to be a good area for those who want to stay in Florida to be, as the radioactive material will spread throughout the state and reach most of it.
You definitely aren’t going to want to be on the coast near Miami during a nuclear attack, as the city will likely be the first city that will be targeted in Florida. Cities like Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, and Boca Raton are all going to be either caught up in the blast or quickly hit by the radioactive fallout.
Arizona would only be targeted for one reason, but because of the location of the target, it is going to make the whole state fairly unsafe to live in due to the aftermath. The main reason that Arizona would be targeted is that there are a large number of military bases in the state.
A number of bases are located throughout the state for both the Air Force and the Army. Should a nuclear attack occur in a large city like Pheonix, the nuclear fallout would spread throughout the rest of the state and weaken part of the United States military, making them more susceptible to another nuclear attack.
Because Chicago is in Illinois, the state would be very unsafe to be in during a nuclear attack. Chicago is a massive economic center and is an important city in the United States. The city has approximately 2.7 million residents, but along with that, there are 4 nuclear power plants surrounding the city.
If a nuclear bomb were to be detonated, it would likely destroy at least one of these power plants, making the situation even worse.
Along with this, O’Hare International Airport is one of the largest airports, and destroying it would cripple travel throughout the northern part of the US for a long period of time.
Overall, there are many states in the United States that you will want to avoid being in during a nuclear attack on the country. There are many reasons why each state will be a dangerous place to be, but luckily, some cities in each of these states will be safer than others. Keep this in mind when you are deciding where to be during a nuclear attack.
To help visualize the safest and least safe areas of the US, I created this relief map. Read more about it in this article.
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!