In a timeline where the USSR didn't collapse and the Cold War escalated into a full-blown nuclear conflict sometime around the year 2100, the world is left utterly devastated.

Both the Soviet Union (and its satellites) and the NATO nations are wiped off the face of the earth, leaving only pockets of survivors scattered around the world.

It's basically your run-of-the-mill post-apocalyptic scenario, except it just so happens that one place, in particular, was spared (the specifics as of why are too long to discuss, let's say it just happened).

Civilization still remains in a small state in the US, where life goes on. It's nothing like pre-war life, but there's still a somewhat functioning government presiding over various scattered communities, all working together as the state that once was...

Now, with all the backstory out of the way, I'll get to the meat of the question:

Assuming there had been preparations for the eventuality of nuclear war (and that by sheer luck no hits were taken in its territory), could such a state have survived in isolation? If so, which US state would realistically be the most qualified for post-apocalyptic self-sufficiency?

EDIT: Just for clarification, this isn't about the conditions necessary for the scenario (there's plot armor for that don't worry), but rather about the possibility for such state to still survive (even if barely) after being cut off the rest of the world, and which state could be a good candidate for that.

Also, I should have pointed out that in this future scenario most of the world is heavily relying on renewable energy sources, so the absence of fossil fuels isn't a real issue anymore, as solar panels and wind farms are the norm.

Still, thanks for all the feedback!

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Oct 9 '19 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ What constitutes surviving? I remember reading something that suggested if the entire nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia were launched and hit targets on land, so much dust would be thrown into the atmosphere that it would blot out the sun worldwide to a degree sufficient to kill virtually all plant life. And would remain that way for several years. $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Oct 11 '19 at 6:47

15 Answers 15


I once read an article called "You Will Survive the Doomsday" which argued that you will, well, survive the Doomsday. How realistic their assessment is I hope to never learn, but the main line was that nobody is going to carpet-bomb every square inch of American soil over and over and over again. The enemy will send everything they can to the top priority targets: nuclear missiles installations, nuclear submarine bases, military command centers & government bunkers. Those will be nuked over and over again. Because the enemies' goal is not genocide, but weakening the retaliation strikes as much as possible, and destroying your Texas ranch won't help that in the slightest. So, unless you live next to a major military base, you won't hear the explosions, won't see the mushroom clouds. The threats you will be facing would be more like chaos & anarchy & shortage of everything. Then, some days later, nuclear fallout from those destroyed military installations will reach your area, and that will be your real long-term problem. No more nukes, though - there's no one left to launch them...

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    $\begingroup$ The fact that the SS-27 CEP contains the difference between "my windows break" and "fireball gets me" is something I occasionally contemplate. $\endgroup$ – chrylis -on strike- Oct 8 '19 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ So you're saying my buying a house in Washington DC was a bad choice? $\endgroup$ – Andrew Brēza Oct 9 '19 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ @chrylis what is SS-27 CEP? $\endgroup$ – Jontia Oct 9 '19 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ Well, the Soviet Union would have rained some 30k nuclear bombs on the US. That's a long way down the list of cities; you probably end up with every city with a population of at least 10k nuked. Read the book by Ellsberg on that topic. $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica - M. Schröder Oct 9 '19 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Jontia SS-27 is an ICBM; CEP is "circular error probable" -- essentially "how accurate is this?" $\endgroup$ – Roger Lipscombe Oct 9 '19 at 16:31


Here is a good essay on the strategic implications of nuclear weapons. (I'm not an expert myself, but it strikes me as plausible enough that it seems legit). It's long, but worth reading.

A couple of salient points:

1) A warhead doesn't destroy a whole city. There is a zone of guaranteed total destruction, but it's much smaller than most think it is. (Smaller than I thought it was before I read this.) What does that mean? That if you want to guarantee something is destroyed, you drop a warhead directly on top of it. Where are a lot of the things an enemy is going to want destroyed? In population centers.

2) This means that much of the infrastructure is going to be targeted, but not necessarily all. It depends how much of their strike capability survives our attempt to knock it out, and what their plan for that strike was to begin with.

3) "[A] counter-political strike [is] aimed at erasing the target country's political leadership - note this is MUCH more difficult than it seems and is very dangerous. Killing the only people who can surrender is not terribly bright."

TL;DR there is probably going to be something left. But, because there are targets of military significance in every state, the odds that any one state takes no hits at all are slim to none. An attack bad enough to literally wipe all the rest of the states out will not overlook them.

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    $\begingroup$ Just an aside regarding first point. Some time ago I've read a paper by a group of Russian scientists regarding nuclear strike on a modern city. Their simulation have shown that, for a certain range of nuclear explosions, a single bomb can trigger a runaway concrete fire, with narrowly packed high concrete buildings acting as a sort of furnace, funnelling surrounding air to fan the flames. If their modelling is correct, a single warhead can destroy a whole NYC or Beijing, when fired just right. $\endgroup$ – Alice Oct 9 '19 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ Targeting political leadership is the wrong idea. You actually want to target the military structures. You don't want them to strike back at you. The first target would be the American nuclear missile facilities. Then other strategic points, e.g. power plants. In wars you don't usually plan for total destruction but for military destruction and invasion. $\endgroup$ – Sulthan Oct 9 '19 at 8:15


By 2100, assuming we're using the arsenal gathering rate that took place during the Cold War (40,000 Nuclear Warheads produced between 1950-1990 is 1,000 Nukes per year) that adds an extra 110,000 Nuclear Warheads for 150,000 total. (I'm using this because it's somewhat realistic and smaller than other methods that you could use to calculate it.) Given the area of a nuclear blast can destroy most civilians buildings within 350 square miles (according to this, assuming 20 Mt, airburst at 5.4 klicks above ground), that means the Russians could destroy 52.5 million miles of American soil. America only has 3.8 million miles, by the way, meaning every square inch in America could get nuked 14 times. (The calculation may be a bit off, given that you'd be working in circles, so you'd be looking at overlap to get every square inch. But it's still overkill. Literally.)

This is a nuclear hailstorm. And this is impossible for an entire state to survive. The only way to survive this is an apocalypse bunker. And not your run-of-the-mill one, no, one that can survive this sort of shelling which means probably a few hundred feet deeps, complete with barriers of between the light of day and the sun, and housed with enough food, water, equipment, and power to keep the survivors alive until the radiation above runs out. (Because we can safely assume Russia is using dirty nukes. Why wouldn't they?) That could survive in isolation. But a state? It has, almost literally, a snowflake's chance in a blazing inferno.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer is already accepted, but still... It does not really adress the case where one state is spared by plot armor. $\endgroup$ – Guran Oct 8 '19 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Guran Humorous plot armor could be that a particular US state is so insignificant and unnoteworthy that the USSR simply... forgot about them. $\endgroup$ – Onyz Oct 8 '19 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ A strong argument for Puerto Rico to not wanting to become a state... $\endgroup$ – BruceWayne Oct 8 '19 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ @BruceWayne Actually, Puerto Rico is a pretty good candidate for survival. Separate from the mainland and not too valuable strategically, so less likely to be targeted, in a warm climate less likely to be paralyzed by nuclear winter, has both farmland and ample fishing nearby, generates its own power since it's too far to be on the national grid, large relatively poor population used to living lean... I mean it wouldn't be a picnic, but we're just talking about survival here, not thriving in prosperity. $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Oct 8 '19 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ "assuming we're using the arsenal gathering rate that took place during the Cold War (40,000 Nuclear Warheads produced between 1950-1990 is 1,000 Nukes per year) that adds an extra 110,000 Nuclear Warheads for 150,000 total." It's obvious that you didn't look at the "number of warheads" graph in that Wikipedia article, because it says the exact opposite of what you wrote. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 8 '19 at 20:16

Certainly not at anything like the standard of living currently existing.

Everything I have read about nuclear war says one-up-all-up. The most likely scenario is that on detecting a definite indication of a nuclear attack, everybody who has nuclear weapons launches most of their own. This is because if they don't there is too much chance their own weapons will be disabled or destroyed before launch. So the first weapon launched pretty much automatically produces everybody going all-in. With only a small fraction, say 10 percent, held in reserve.

But put that aside.

Even supposing no hits on the state in question. And even supposing no nuclear winter. And even supposing they somehow escaped a huge amount of radioactive fallout sterilizing the surface. All of those being really big suppositions. Somehow the radioactive maelstrom has bypassed one substantial area.

Suppose it's the US mid west, for example. Nebraska or Wyoming or one of those. They have agriculture and little more. They won't be able to produce the parts to keep their tractors and harvester running. They won't be able to produce the parts to keep their electrical grid operating. They won't have petroleum to fuel vehicles. They won't be able to produce a lot of things that they currently trade for with other places, both inside and outside the USA. No orange juice for you.

So they will quickly be back at tech levels round about 1900. But most of the ability to do that has been lost, relegated to museums and "pioneer village" type displays. They won't have nearly enough horses to replace the tractors on the farm. And the horses they do have will tend to be race horses and tourist "buggy ride" horses. The number of people, outside of certain religious sect colonies, who know how to plow a field with a horse is very small. The number of people who could produce a plow that a horse could pull is very small.

So there will be some major drastic dislocations within the surviving area. I should think there would be a few cities getting pretty desperate for a while. Without the transportation network it looks ugly. Fuel for trucks comes from out of state. Parts come from another place. So the food supplies that were previously brought to the cities every day will be no longer. And the electricity pretty soon stops, so the freezers pretty soon thaw out. So the cities get majorly drastically bad very quickly.

I should think there would be between 90% and 95% die off due to loss of infrastructure. After a few years of raising horses and re-learning to farm using horses, they could start to recover. It would look very much like the USA round about 1900. They would have to re-learn how to do blacksmith work, carpentry, hand sewing, etc.

And quite possibly the centers of recovery will be those religious sects. If there is a Mennonite or Amish colony around, they might well be the new dominant culture.

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    $\begingroup$ Nebraska: Strategic Air Command Prime target. $\endgroup$ – JRE Oct 8 '19 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ Nebraska is 50/50 farming to ranching while Wyoming is overwhelmingly ranching. Nebraska could be considered part of the Midwest but certainly not Wyoming. The parts of Nebraska that will survive a SAC and Offutt attack are the ranching parts: they don't need tractors or harvesters. We have lots of old parts and equipment from even the Dust Bowl period; we won't be completely lost. Besides, the largest private irrigation manufacturer is in Nebraska - it's not as if there is no manufacturing here. Our neighbor, Kansas, produces petroleum. $\endgroup$ – gormadoc Oct 8 '19 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ I am sure that Wyoming won't see much devastation, but neither state would need to produce as much as they currently do to feed just themselves anyway. We export almost all of it. I have the feeling that you are underestimating how many horses there actually are in rural areas here, and they definitely aren't race horses or buggy horses. $\endgroup$ – gormadoc Oct 8 '19 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ @gormadoc - I don't know...cattle ranching (at least the way my grandfather did it) requires feeding the livestock on stored up hay during winter months. That requires a harvester of some kind, and in more arid places (like Montana?) probably even requires it be imported from somewhere wetter that can grow enough grasses. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Oct 10 '19 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ …of course if there's no market to transport that meat out to, you probably wouldn't need to keep as many cattle either. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Oct 10 '19 at 18:19

The most likely state (or at least partial state) to survive would be Montana. The Cascade Mountain range would help, but not necessarily stop, the radiation from any nukes hitting the West coast of the US, while itself and none of the surrounding states have many high priority targets to hit. No major cities on the scale of New York, San Francisco, etc. No major military bases that could quickly deploy a counter-attack, such as Pearl Harbor or San Diego. No real federal government points of interest.

These states would lose population, livestock and farmland, and national/state parks, which would hurt the US, but are less likely targets than many other ares of the country.

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    $\begingroup$ > itself and none of the surrounding states have many high priority targets to hit The US has nuclear missile silos scattered across MT, ND, WY, NE, and CO. These would be targeted in any first wave attack. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGM-30_Minuteman#/media/… $\endgroup$ – Neal Oct 10 '19 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Neal Good catch. I forgot to look into the nuclear missile silos. There is a small (minuscule) chance that these would not be attacked, since those nukes would be launched as soon as we noticed another country had launched theirs (long before they reached us), but that is unlikely, and would still be targeted. $\endgroup$ – DrB Oct 10 '19 at 16:46

Multiple US states will likely survive.

Consider that, even with the USSR no longer a threat, our current missile defense systems are pretty darn decent. I mean, they're not perfect, but they're out there and they're getting better.

If the USSR was still a very real and tangible threat, our research into ballistic missile defense would be much better funded and prioritized. You are positing a nuclear war 80 more years into the future--that's 80 more years for us to further perfect anti missile defenses. I think it would be very pessimistic to assume 80-90% effectiveness at blocking incoming nuclear missiles. It could well approach 95% by the year 2100.

I'm sure there would be enough redundancy in missile launches to make sure that major military command centers and major cities are levelled, but Montana? Aside from some of the military bases, a low population western state would be fine. Granted, the federal government would be a total mess, especially if, under more than a century of Cold War, the government has devolved into a semi-feudal military dictatorship.

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    $\begingroup$ Israels Davids Arrow system has a 90% effectiveness rate. Their strategy is to launch sets of three interceptors, to bring the combined effectiveness to 99.9%. $\endgroup$ – user4574 Oct 8 '19 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ @user4574, David's Sling and the Arrow system are separate but related systems. Iron Dome is their most heavily used anti-missile system and it's the accuracy from that system that you're quoting. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 10 '19 at 10:11
  • $\begingroup$ > USSR no longer a threat Err... why? Missiles did not dissolve with USSR. Also in eternal competition of missile vs. armor (i.e. offense vs. defense) missile is ahead most of the time. So the only real nuclear defense today (and, presumable 100 years later) is good ol' MAD. $\endgroup$ – Oleg V. Volkov Oct 10 '19 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ @OlegV.Volkov the USSR is no longer a threat because, well, it doesn't exist anymore. There are countries that could develop into a threat in the same way--Russia and PRC are probably the most prominent examples--but there hasn't really been a country since who holds up ballistic nuclear missiles as a threat to the US the way the USSR did. Even so, technology has been advancing on anti ballistic missile technology, and my point was that it would be advancing even faster if the USSR was still around and ready to press the red button. $\endgroup$ – Adam Miller Oct 11 '19 at 13:29


Other answers have pointed out the unlikeliness of a place not getting nuked, and have maybe glossed over the impracticality of surviving nuclear winter... but I'll assume you storycraft your way around those.

Hawaii seems to be the most likely. It has only a handful of military bases (11 according to google), but none appear to be ICBM style missile installations. It might not have as many nukes assigned to it, meaning fewer things would have to happen (launch failure, targeting error, human intervention, etc) for it to be spared. Also, one of the 11 bases is used for missile and anti-missile testing. Perhaps an experimental system actually succeeded in intercepting the nukes? And since Hawaii is far away from everything else, the side effects of neighboring states getting blasted are less. The state has some history with self-sufficientness and the volcanism could potentially be hand-waved into helping with the nuclear winter.

As other answers mention, it's highly implausible, but that'd be my bet.

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    $\begingroup$ Hawaii's Naval Station Pearl Harbor is home to Submarine Force Pacific. That's a considerable ICBM force, some of which may be in harbor, with it's missles usable at a short distance from the dock. That weight of possible counter-attack makes Pearl Harbor a prime nuclear target. MIRV missiles complicate matters: for a isolated state like Hawai'i all of the MIRV's warheads must target the state, as there is no other possible target within the warheads' radius. Thus minor targets on Hawaii which may be neglected in other states may well receive an 'excess' MIRV warhead. $\endgroup$ – vk5tu Oct 9 '19 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ They would be more likely throw a missile at Hawaii than, say, the middle of Montana. Plus, it would be hard to live off the land on an island. $\endgroup$ – Savage47 Oct 11 '19 at 7:51

It is not possible, no matter how good your plot armour, for a whole state to survive. Consider Montana which someone suggested might not be hit too hard. At least 55 separate nuclear detonations would be required to the west of Great Falls just to prevent the 10th Missile Squadron from retaliating. It would be sensible to double that number to account for duds and misses. So we are now about surviving 110 multi-megaton explosions in Western Montana.

There are three other Missile squadron associated with the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, each with the same number of hardened sites. Each requiring the same overwhelming force to eliminate.

Mutually Assured Destruction was not a joke or an aspiration, it was a cold hard fact.


I strongly suggest you read this book:

enter image description here

In the book there's an EMP (or, whatever, I don't remember - it's not that interesting). Afterwards, everyone has to survive in a "survivalist" situation just as you describe - only a small pocket or pocket of reasonably-functioning society.

What's the outcome?

The outcome is this:

Survivalism is just utterly, utterly, utterly stupid. Total fail. No.

the book carefully explores this.

"Survivalist" thinking has ideas like you can "live off the land".

Ask an actual keen hunter if a small town could "live off the land" ("because there's a forest over there"!) and he or she will just laugh.

You can "live off the land" if there's like

  • a massive combine harvester industry over in New Jersey

  • a more massive combine harvester robot-making robot industry over in Sweden and Korea

  • an incredibly massive and sophisticated transport and logistics industry linking those things

and so on, we haven't even started on eg. "you need seeds" or "you need nitrates" etc etc.

The small example surviving state would be completely, totally fucked unfortunately!

They would have zero food, less water, and not even a glimmer of electricity, fuel etc. Everyone would be dead within a few days. (If it was "cold" that night, 99% would be dead by 1am.)

Modern systems are incredibly complex and inter-dependent.

That is the key thought here.

They're screwed.

Check out that novel - it examines it perfectly!

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    $\begingroup$ No robot factories, no electricity, no sophisticated transport... isn't that how most of our ancestors were living just about one century ago? (spoiler: they survived) $\endgroup$ – Headcrab Oct 10 '19 at 7:08
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, they survived but they ware way less of them and they dependet on 18/19th century infrastructure. What they WILL have is a disfunctional 21th infrastructure, which is largely useless or will fail soon. A band of vikings / hunther gatherers could survive, but modern people do not have those skills. Some modern people will survive thorugh luck and fast learning, but it will be a few percent at most. Simply because with agriculture there is nothing which can sustain a lot of people $\endgroup$ – Christian Sauer Oct 10 '19 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ Survivalism and living off the land is about the individual and everyone else can go hang. It has nothing to do with keeping the whole town alive. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 10 '19 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ It is unclear what does OP mean by "still survive (even if barely)". Keep functioning as if nothing happened? Definitely not, even if that state's energy needs were 100% covered by solar panels and wind farms - those will need to be replaces, eventually, and that means complex technologies and rare resources (plastics, rare metal, electronics etc.), and that means logistic chains that no longer exist. Most probably, that state won't even be able to maintain its pre-war population - with agriculture efficiency falling to medieval level (probably even lower in the first year or two). $\endgroup$ – Headcrab Oct 10 '19 at 11:12
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    $\begingroup$ Not if they are amish. $\endgroup$ – elPolloLoco Oct 10 '19 at 14:25

The one with the most amish people in it.

It is protected by your armor, so I don't care to make anything up on how that state would be spared from the nuclear fire.

Amish live in rather small communities but are still able to create pretty much everything they need by themselves. They still know how to survive without modern tech, how to make butter with a buttermaker they made themselves.

  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting! I wonder if they would bother to make a state, though? Are they politically active at all? The only thing I know about their interactions with laws are their exemptions from certain ones. $\endgroup$ – msouth Oct 10 '19 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ @msouth I don't know if they would bother to make a state. I guess with others coming to join them (because they are hungry) they would naturally grow bigger. It is also unknown if they would be able to withstand raiders. As far as I know, they are very peaceful / pacifistic. $\endgroup$ – elPolloLoco Oct 11 '19 at 10:41

Most of the answers are addressing the survivability, but one thing you are referring to that isn't addressed much is which states would continue to think of themselves as a state.


I have lived in several, and the only state that I really know of that takes significant pride in itself as a state is Texas. I would be surprised to learn that any other state in the US has as many (per-capita) state flags on display on people's houses/trucks/branded onto cattle (not really)(well, not as far as I know)(but it wouldn't surprise me at all).

It's a striking difference, you notice it as soon as you move here. National chains will have Texas-themed advertising, for example. That kind of shared identity as Texans would probably go a long way toward creating the cohesiveness you would need to put a government back together. They would actually care about making their state be a thing, and maybe even re-declare it the Independent Republic of Texas (actually I would consider this very likely).


I don't know how well you would be able to write this if you aren't familiar with Mormon history and culture, but the fact that Utah is concentrated with Mormons ("members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", if you want the official name that they are trying hard to get people to use now :D ) would make it another candidate. The church hierarchy already has the entire state split into geographic regions called "wards" that roll up into "stakes". They are super organized and would work...religiously...at getting things put back together. You could read Building the City of God by Arrington, Fox, and May to get an idea of how they worked cooperatively to build places up from nothing (e.g. to irrigate the Salt Lake valley, for example).

Again, they might change the name of the state, to Deseret, which is what they petitioned to be brought into the union as.


There is a (small) secessionist movement (right-leaning population areas that feel underrepresented in the very left-leaning state) in a group of northern counties in California that could band together to make a state.


Climate is good year round even if tech has taken a hit; you can grow food; all of it is pretty close to ocean as food source. The distinct identity thing is kind of a thing there, too--I think Floridians think of themselves pretty distinctly from Georgia or Alabama that they share borders with. The capital might move to a more densely populated area--or maybe the fact that Tallahassee is kind of out of the way meant that its government survived.

  • $\begingroup$ Texas and Florida sound pretty good! Just one thing, are there any major military installations there? $\endgroup$ – Noltras Oct 10 '19 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Noltras- Fort Hood. "Fort Hood is the most populous U.S. military installation in the world." (wiki) $\endgroup$ – Savage47 Oct 11 '19 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Noltras yes. But I think you can nuke the (multiple) military bases without destroying the whole state--but maybe this doesn't fit (the nature of your plot armor is unspecified in your question--if it has to be devoid of military installations, it will significantly reduce the number of possibilities). Military strikes would also hit Texas' oil refineries, I would think. $\endgroup$ – msouth Oct 11 '19 at 17:31
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    $\begingroup$ @msouth I see... Also no it doesn't have to be devoid of them, I was just curious. Thanks for your reply! $\endgroup$ – Noltras Oct 13 '19 at 3:07

Which state is most likely to survive, assuming all of the special conditions listed by puppetsock? My vote is for Alaska.

AFAIK, there are no important military installations there, at least none that would pose a threat after the rest of the US military infrastructure was nuked. Because of its location, it is a long way from all of the other possible targets (the Bremerton Naval Base & Pearl Harbor would be the closest), so it is as safe from secondary damage as anywhere in North America. And it a sizable share of its population has the skills & experience in living off the land: hunting, fishing, & even some farmland in the Matanuska valley north of Anchhorage. (That region is known for its enormous vegetables.)

On the other hand, Alaska does have cold winters. And no real industrial infrastructure. I would expect that within a few generations the survivors there would be living at a 19th-century technology level. Maybe steampunks of the Yukon.


Rhode Island

(I like my other answer better, but the questioner really wants a state, so I'm going to give this answer assuming a string of very fortunate events)

Let's say America strikes first in this scenario. Using a combination of nukes, hydrogen bombs, kinetic orbital bombardments etc., the US of A reduces Russia from a barren frozen tundra to an even more barren tundra, and now everything is on fire and is also radioactive. Russia, in response, fires it's own weapons back via a deadman's switch from Russia's strategic command. A wave of counter fire now scorches America to nothing but ash and dust.

Except there's one problem. You see, right before America struck, Russia decided to update their guidance system and missed one small bug. How and why the bug happened isn't important, and anyone who can access those system to determine it will be dead at this point. But it's what the bug does which is important. It mistakenly set America 48 miles higher than it normally is. This minor bug got through testing, obviously a bug that targeted the nukes somewhere else would be caught, but this small bug has a chance of creeping through the testing, got into the software, and was fired before anyone noticed.

48 miles isn't that much. But it's enough to save a lot of cities on the south border, like San Diego, El Paso, New Orleans, and most of Florida. San Francisco may just be spared at the west end, and Manhattan fares a lot better on the east. Washington D.C. is still ash. But, most importantly, Rhode Island, a state only 48 miles long, is spared the carnage.

And it can survive on it's own. Rhode Island's main export is iron or steel scraps, and they have a lot of natural farmland. So they'd be capable of self-sufficiency.


The more spread out a state is, I would think the less likely it would be that a majority of the people would be killed. Texas has quite a few counties that are bigger than Rhode Island and many of those have fewer than 1000 people. Is it an efficient use of resources to send out a nuke just to kill a handful of people in the middle of nowhere? If you took out Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin metro areas (and that alone would take a lot of nukes) you would still only have killed a little more than half the population of the state. .

In a nuclear war, the first targets are going to be military. After that, the major population centers (new york, la, etc). Likely mid size cities will never get hit because the first goal of each side will be to knock out the nuclear capability of the other side. The US has strategically positioned nukes all over the world so Soviet/Russian nuclear capability would be eliminated in a matter of minutes. They would get one shot and that's about it.

Also, the US government would almost certainly survive. The bunkers from the 1960s were pretty solid. I can't imagine what they have today. There are underground bases all over the southwest that are pretty much nuke-proof. There would be enough of the government surviving that it would stay intact.


Its possible. The reason why one state would be spared, is because it has better missile defense sites.

U.S. missile defense technology is still in development. Rather than rolling-out the prototype systems across the whole country at once, the existing U.S. missile defense sites (midcourse system) are only installed in a couple of locations (Alaska and California).

Suppose that a 100% effective missile defense was invented some time in the next hundred years. And the first complete defense system was just installed in one state just before the war. Then the area immediately surrounding that state would be the only place that didn't take any direct hits.

Israel also has pretty good missile defense systems, so they might survive also.

  • $\begingroup$ Upvoted to counter the comment-less downvote. Downvoting without explaining is lame. $\endgroup$ – msouth Oct 9 '19 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ @msouth I didn't downvote but it's obvious why. It doesn't attempt answer the question, at all. $\endgroup$ – user64742 Oct 10 '19 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck Question: "Could an American state survive nuclear war?" Answer: It's possible. OP's clarification: "[the question is] about the possibility for such state to still survive (even if barely) after being cut off the rest of the world, and which state could be a good candidate for that".: Answer: [addressing the possibility first] Alaska and California $\endgroup$ – msouth Oct 10 '19 at 13:50

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