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The 12 Safest US States From Nuclear Attacks

Artist's representation of a nuclear blast at a distance

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 state would you want to go to to be the safest from the bombs and the radioactive fallout that comes after?

1. Maine

It is a bit of a surprise, but Maine is going to be one of the safest states for you to be in if there is ever a nuclear attack on the United States. Most of the East Coast isn’t safe because it has many large cities and military bases that are the ideal targets for nuclear bombs.

However, in Maine, you aren’t going to have to worry about that, as all of the cities are relatively small and its neighboring states, New Hampshire and Vermont, don’t have many potential targets. This means that you won’t even have to worry about radioactive fallout coming from any bombs if you are in Maine.

Even if New York is hit by a bomb, fallout maps show that the explosions and fallout will only barely touch the southernmost tip of Maine while still being dangerous. So, if you are in northern Maine, you will be safe in every way from explosions and radioactivity. Because of all these reasons, Maine is going to be the safest place in the US to live if there is ever a nuclear attack.

Maine Map With US Flag Overlay

2. Oregon

Oregon is another state that might surprise you when it comes to how safe it will be to live in should a nuclear bomb go off. Oregon is safe because it doesn’t have any major cities compared to the rest of the West Coast, and while it does have a few military bases, they tend to be smaller and spread out.

Even if Oregon is targeted by a nuclear attack, if you live in Eastern Oregon, you will be separated from the sea by the Rocky Mountains. The mountains will help create a rain shadow from any of the radioactive fallout that would happen if Oregon was ever targeted, making that side of the state extremely safe.

The whole of Oregon is safe, though, as Washington, Hawaii, and California all are much larger and more important potential targets when compared to Oregon. The wind also helps protect you in Oregon as it blows to the northeast, so if a nuclear bomb were to go off in Oregon, the radioactive fallout would go toward Washington.

Related The 16 Most Likely Russian Nuclear Targets in the US.

3. Northern California

Northern California is going to be in the same boat as Oregon because there isn’t a whole lot that someone is going to want to target in Northern California when they can go after other targets like Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Fransisco. The largest city in Northern California is Sacramento, but it doesn’t have a very high population or much of a military presence, making it an unlikely target.

This lack of targets is what makes Northern California very safe from both bombs and radioactive fallout during a nuclear war. Since the wind still pushes the radioactive materials a bit east, this will prevent this material from coming up into Northern California, as it will go into Nevada instead.

If you want to be extra safe in the Northern California area, you will likely want to live to the north of Redding, as there are a number of national forests, meaning low populations, and there are also a number of lakes and streams that will give you access to water if water services ever stop or become contaminated.

4. Western Texas

One of the last places that I will talk about that isn’t a whole state is Western Texas. While East Texas might be a prime target because of its military bases and large cities like Dallas and Houston, Western Texas doesn’t have any of those, with Lubbock being the largest city with a population of just 226,000 residents.

Because of this, there just isn’t much of a reason for a nuclear attack in Western Texas, as if it is targeted, they mostly will be attacking empty space, which will have little effect on military operations, major cities, or areas of major economic importance.

Also, if any of the nearby states were hit by a nuclear attack, you won’t have to worry about any of the radioactive fallout blowing into Western Texas, as the wind will carry all of those particles northeast toward Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

And even if Mexico was attacked, the major target wouldn’t have the radioactive particles blowing up into Texas. it would mostly go into the Gulf of Mexico or San Antonio, leaving the western part of Texas nearly untouched.

Texas flag design on state of texas on parchment

5. South Dakota

Almost the entirety of South Dakota is going to be a very safe place to be if there is ever a nuclear war. This is because while South Dakota does have some larger cities, they aren’t too large, and they don’t serve too vital of a role in the US economy. Along with that, they are surrounded by states in similar situations, making South Dakota very safe.

The only city that is relatively close to South Dakota that could be a target would be Denver, and while the radioactive materials do travel northeast, they would have already settled before reaching the state. If you want to be extra safe from the possibility of radioactivity reaching you, you will want to move to the eastern side of the state. In fact, the capital of Sioux Falls is a fairly safe place for you to be if there ever is a nuclear attack on the United States.

Related The 11 Least Safe US States From Nuclear Attack.

6. Minnesota

Minnesota is another very safe option, as it doesn’t have any potential targets within it, and nearby states don’t have any potential targets either. This means that the state is safe from direct attacks and the radioactive materials that would blow in from other states.

While it isn’t likely to be a target, Minneapolis is the most likely place to be targeted if there ever was an attack. So, to be extra safe, if you do choose to be in Minnesota, you will want to be farther north. Cities like Fargo, Grand Rapids, and Warroad are all good options when it comes to small cities that aren’t potential targets and are safe from the radioactive materials that are released by nuclear bombs.

You could also potentially live in one of the many nearby national or state forests or by the lake reservations, as they are secluded and will give you easy access to vital resources.

7. West Virginia & Appalachia

A surprising option for a safe state is West Virginia, or at least the main section of the state, as the part of the state nearest Washington D.C. won’t be very safe should a nuclear attack occur. However, besides that small bit of the state, it is fairly safe.

West Virginia manages to act as a small safe zone that won’t likely be in the blast zone of any of the nearby states partially because of the nearby Appalachian Mountains.

With no major cities in the state and no other major cities to the southwest, West Virginia is a great place for those on the East Coast to go if there is ever a nuclear attack. The only nearby target that would potentially cause radioactive materials to get close to West Virginia is Nashville. However, the wind blows it just west of the state.

Sunrise view from Grandview in the New River Gorge West Virginia
The New River Gorge, West Virginia.

8. Idaho

The state most famous for its potatoes is going to be a great place to live if there ever is a nuclear war, as there isn’t that much in the state. It is primarily made up of farms and smaller towns, which isn’t great if you currently live there and enjoy living in larger cities. However, this is a massive plus for the state, as it means there is no reason for anyone to target it during a nuclear war.

Along with this, the area to the southwest of Idaho doesn’t have any major cities, with the nearest one being Sacramento, which is two states away.

While all of Idaho is going to be fairly safe, some of the best areas to be in if there is a nuclear blast will go toward central Idaho. This will include places like the National forests and small towns like Stanley or Clayton.

9. Hawaii (Except Honolulu)

Hawaii, despite having a major target on it, will actually be a fairly safe place to be if there is ever a nuclear war, as long as you aren’t living in Honolulu. Because of the major base there, it will likely be hit by an attack, but the blast will be contained to the island, and the radiation will go northeast, away from all of the other islands.

So, if you are living on one of the other islands, you are going to go through a crazy experience because you will be relatively close to a blast. However, you will be safe on the other islands because they don’t serve as military bases and likely won’t be targeted.

The largest island of Hawaii will actually be the safest, as it is the farthest south of Honolulu and is also the farthest island from Oahu, which is the island that Honolulu is on.

10. Northern Nevada

Northern Nevada can be best described as desolate, as it doesn’t have many cities, and there is a lot of empty desert in the area. However, this means that you are going to be fairly safe from just about everything, as it is unlikely that anyone will send a nuclear bomb to the area.

While you are going to have to struggle with the heat of the Northern Nevada desert, you will at least be safe from the blasts of a nuclear attack. You will still have to be careful, as there are a number of targets to the southwest that could lead to radioactive materials being blown into Northern Nevada. The safest area to be in would be Northeast Nevada, close to Idaho and Utah.

Related Top 10 US Cities Most Likely To Be Targeted In A Nuclear War.

11. Wisconsin

Just like Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Penisula of Michigan are very safe places to be if there is ever a nuclear attack. These areas are in almost the exact same situation as Minnesota.

The only main difference is that there are a few larger cities that you are going to have to worry about. Minneapolis, Chicago, and Milwaukee are all larger cities in or around Wisconsin. However, most of Wisconsin is very safe, with just Milwaukee and Northwest Wisconsin being in danger from either a direct attack or radioactive fallout.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan will likely be safer than Wisconsin as well, being close to fresh water and not having any major nearby cities. It also has 4 state or national forests that take up the majority of the peninsula, making it a very unlikely target, as there are no large cities.

Closeup Selective Focus Of Wisconsin State On A Geographical Map

12. Alaska

The largest city in Alaska has a population of just 291,000 people, which, when compared to the rest of the United States, is fairly small. While Alaska does provide a lot of resources for the rest of the States, there aren’t many areas within the state that will likely be targeted by nuclear attack.

Alaska is also the largest state in the country, so there are many passive areas where one could be that would never be affected by a nuclear blast, even if Anchorage was targeted. The main problem you likely are going to have to deal with when living in Alaska is going to be how cold it is.

If a nuclear bomb were to be detonated in Alaska, it would only be able to target one major city at a time, as many of the large cities are so spread out that even the radioactive fallout wouldn’t be able to go from one city to another.

Final Thoughts

To help visualize the safest and least safe areas of the US, I created this relief map. Read more about it in this article.

United States Nuclear Target and Safe Zone Relief Map
United States Nuclear Target and Safe Zone Relief Map.

Additionally, be sure to check out How Much Does a Survival Bunker Cost? Build vs. Buy.


Wednesday 19th of April 2023

Geography, Jim, and meteorology. Start with Oregon geography. Where are the Rocky Mountains, east or west of Eastern Oregon? Now where is the nearest sea/ocean? Maine. It will only be safe if the normal dip in the Jet Stream is somehow interrupted. If it is not, then a sh** ton of fallout will be headed directly at that beautiful state. I gave up on your poorly researched article after Oregon. You need to consider fallout as well as secondary targets. While local fallout can be blocked by high enough mountains, tropospheric and stratospheric fallout will travel over most mountains potentially around the globe. Sorry to be picky but lives will depend on such information.

John StJohn

Saturday 11th of February 2023

looking at southern cal:The winds all come from Greater Asia > hawaii >Wcoast, SanDiego to LA and in my area will blow further into the desert than you show, I fear. In the winter,the rains will carry it further. Its effect will certainly decrease as it heads NW into the deserts, but I woulndnt count on it. Id head to the Colorado River and hang near the border,if the locals will let us.At some point they will stop us. Staying near the border,might be another problem with cartel etc. Maybe theyll stay in Mexico till things blow over in the us

Jim James

Sunday 12th of February 2023

Very good observations, thanks for the input!