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Hawaii's nuclear attack test is first since Cold War

By
Allen Cone

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- For the first time since the Cold War, Hawaii tested its nuclear warning sirens amid rising fears of a North Korean missile strike.

At 11:45 a.m. Friday, emergency officials sounded about 180 sirens on Oahu and 385 statewide for one minute to assess the functionality of warning equipment and drill the public.

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They plan to add the signal as part of its monthly siren test, which warns people of an incoming tsunami or hurricane.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency executive officer Toby Clairmont said the last time Hawaiians heard the nuclear attack warning tone was in 1980.

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On Tuesday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the test will be "the new normal." Officials think Hawaii residents would have 12-15 minutes of notice after hearing a warning to respond to a missile launched from North Korea.

On Tuesday, North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile. Analysts believe this missile was capable of reaching the entire U.S. mainland.

Vern Miyagi, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency administrator, said his state's proximity to North Korea makes the tests necessary.

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"Hawaii is a likely target, cause we're in the Pacific, we're closer in to North Korea than most of the continental United States," Miyagi said. "So it's something we need to prepare for. As we track the news and we see the tests, both missile launches and nuclear tests, it's the elephant in the room. We can't ignore it."

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The U.S. Pacific Command, the military's headquarters for the Asia-Pacific region, is based in Hawaii.

The alarm was heard at the USS Arizona Memorial, which next week will commemorate the 76th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan.

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"I got goose bumps," Bruce Teasley, 63, visiting from Oregon with his wife, Jody, told the Star Advertiser outside the memorial visitor center.

He added that it "took me a second, and then I remembered that we had seen the article in the paper about it and so then I remembered what it was about and what it actually was.

"Then I just started imagining the guys who were sitting here on duty that day [in 1941] when the attack happened and what must have been going through their minds."

With tourism the No. 1 economic revenue source in the state, the Hawaii Tourism Authority sought to "reassure visitors to Hawaii" that a missile strike is unlikely.

"Leisure and business travelers planning a trip to Hawaii should not be alarmed by the testing of this new attack warning signal," said George Szigeti, president and CEO of the authority. "Its implementation is consistent with the state's long-standing policy to be prepared and informing the public well in advance of any potential threat to Hawaii's well-being."

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Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum in Honolulu, a think tank affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said there's less than a 1 percent chance that North Korea would fire a missile at Hawaii.

The state thinks a 150-kiloton-yield bomb detonated over Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, would cause nearly 18,000 deaths and 50,000 to 120,000 trauma and burn casualties. That's the same size atomic bomb that went off over Hiroshima and killed 90,000-166,000 people on Aug. 6, 1945, according to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.

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