Newspaper: The Evening Sentinel
Date: April 2, 1979
Title: Evacuation Plan is Set; Six Counties are Alerted
Author: George Lobsenz, United Press International
HARRISBURG-State civil defense authorities have put six counties on “advanced alert” to evacuate-if Gov. Dick Thornburgh so orders-more than half a million central Pennsylvanians because of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident
The evacuation plan on the books that county civil defense authorities are poised to put into effect could eventually remove 636,000 people from within 20 miles of the stricken nuclear facility. Included in the stages of the plan are Dauphin, York, Lancaster, Perry, Cumberland and Lebanon counties.
Authorities said an evacuation would proceed according to the atmospheric conditions and wind velocities, determining which way and how fast radioactive emissions from the plant traveled.
John Comey, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Office of Emergency Management, said a plan has long been on the books to evacuate every single person from the State of Pennsylvania-about 12 million residents-if a catastrophe loomed.
Roland Page, deputy press secretary to Thornburgh, said there is a contingency plan-and the governor has not decided whether he will follow it-for high state officials to occupy the radiation-proof state civil defense command post beneath a state office building if an evacuation was called for.
There is also an existing civil defense plan for Thornburgh to set up headquarters at the Office of Emergency Management’s central Pennsylvania station in Selinsgrove, Pa., 40 miles north of Harrisburg.
PAGE WOULD not comment when asked what Thornburgh might do if the danger zone included Selinsgrove.
Comey said the state will coordinate the effort and provide housing, specialized care and food for those forced to flee.
Comey said the procedure would go by the following steps:
-Thornburgh or state Civil Defense Director Oran Henderson would broadcast the evacuation order-which is not mandatory for citizens-over the Emergency Broadcast System. Sirens, sound trucks and door-to-door warnings may also be used.
-County authorities would advise residents to leave by car and tell those with no means of transportation how to leave. “Some counties will ask people to stand on street corners and pick them up, others have set up staging areas where there will be school buses or whatever,” Comey said. The state Transportation Department will control traffic on designated evacuation routes.
-Evacuees will either stay in shelters in unaffected areas within their county or go to designated centers further away, depending on conditions.
COMEY SAID hospitals, prisons and nursing care centers were required to have their own evacuation plans. Mike Kaufher, of the Susquehanna Valley Health Care Consortium, an association of hospitals north of the endangered area, said the consortium would provide beds and transportation to Harrisburg and Hershey hospitals.
Thousands of central Pennsylvania residents have left the area on their own accord, although state officials had no figures on how many had fled.
The civil defense evacuation plan is also set up in geographic stages.
Within the five-mile radius, it would involve 24,522 residents of Dauphin, York, and Lancaster counties. Officials said they expected to be able to evacuate all residents within the five-mile radius within three or four hours.
People living in critical areas would either be sent outside the five-mile radius or to areas within the radius but upwind from the plant. Shelters were being readied in north and northeastern Pennsylvania.
Then, if the situation warranted additional evacuations, residents within a 10-mile radius and then a 20-mile radius would be asked to leave. A 10-mile radius evacuation would involve 133,672 persons and a 20-mile radius would involve 636,000.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said that it might be prudent to evacuation up to 200,000 persons living near the site before engineers take action to resolve a crisis at the nuclear plant caused by a hydrogen bubble in the reactor that poses the “remote” possibility of a core meltdown.
A core meltdown is the worst kind of nuclear catastrophe and could kill people and contaminate miles of land.