A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

17 January 2018 — 0426 mst

Anchorage is closer to North Korea than Honolulu is

And Kalispell is only 600 miles farther from North Korea than Honolulu is, a ballistic missile time difference of perhaps ten minutes. Of course, Pearl Harbor is a more militarily significant target than the yacht club at Somers. Honolulu residents probably do have more reason than Kalispellians to fear being vaporized by an atomic bomb from North Korea.


Larger image. An old-fashioned school globe and a length of string is a good way to measure great circle distances, especially for children old enough to know the Earth is a spheroid.

That fear no doubt accounts for Hawaii’s determination to have an early warning system that gives Hawaiians an extra half-hour to hide their children in city sewers after roaring down the freeway at 120 mph looking for a manhole they can open. We know that’s what will happen because that’s what happened on Saturday, when the doofuses in Hawaii’s disaster preparedness office sent to cell phones in the state a false warning that a ballistic missile was inbound, scaring the bejesus out of thousands.

Apparently, no one will be fired for the fiasco. Gov. David Ige is protecting his state’s employees. Some improvements to Hawaii’s warning system have been made. Two people must agree before an alert is loosed on the public, and now there’s a way to cancel an alert quickly. That’s progress — and an indictment of intellectual capability of Hawaii’s disaster preparedness personal.

I suspect many states have disaster preparedness operations that are equally dimwitted. First responders generally are very good at responding to disasters, but most are not trained systems analysts or experts. State and local agencies administering and/or designing early warning systems would do well to draw on the knowledge of human factors experts at universities, and at private firms such as Apple, Google, and Boeing.

Would Kalispell be a target for North Korea? Probably not. But radioactive fallout from a bomb detonated in Seattle or Spokane would reach the Flathead in a few hours — remember the day Mount St. Helens erupted? If missiles were inbound to Seattle, would cell phones in the Flathead receive an alert?

Anchorage, Alaska, is a thousand miles closer to North Korea than Honolulu is. But thus far, Alaskans and their political leaders seem better able to keep their atomic cool than their counterparts in Hawaii.