St. Petersburg Times article (cont.)

After the attack, a fight to survive begins

DOOMSDAY II ■ The unthinkable has happened and the United States and the Soviet Union have plunged the world into nuclear war. Doomsday is now a memory for those left to execute the post-nuclear war recovery. Much of the nation is a radioactive shambles. The President and other high ranking government officials were moved to a series of bunkers in the Appalachian Mountains called the Federal Relocation Arc before the attack. A Clearwater family, the Wecheks, survived both the Tampa and St. Petersburg strikes, but their house was destroyed. The Braggs of St. Petersburg also survived the blasts in the shelter of a downtown vault. Their home was burned to the ground. ■

Special to The St Petersburg Times
Feb 26, 1979 (Previous · Next)

Three days after the attacks, downtown Tampa and the area north of St. Petersburg, where the blast was centered, were virtually lifeless.

Many who had been injured had died in the intense radiation they had been unable to escape. Because of the continuing radiation danger, burials were nearly impossible, though there was a serious concern about disease among local officials.

Here and there, a few work parties in radiation-protection gear searched for any living and gathered up the dead. As soon as authorities could be sure that limited sorties into the blast area were safe, they hoped to assemble larger teams to try to control the spread of disease by burying the dead in mass graves.

FIRES continued to rage uncontrolled downwind of the blasts (Chart, 14-A). Those parts of the two cities where wood houses predominated—Palma Ceia in Tampa and the near northeast section of St. Petersburg—were reduced to smoldering ashes. Houses constructed of block and brick fared better but were often uninhabitable. Where houses could still be lived in, they were often overcrowded with survivors. Residents had to watch for wayward sparks and use some of their dwindling water supplies to control sudden flare-ups.

The food and water situation was becoming acute, even for those whose homes were barely affected by the blasts and severe fallout.

It was difficult to tell just where the fallout was. Winds shifted. Hot spots developed. Monitoring teams with the surviving radiological detection equipment could not cover all areas at once or rapidly inform people what places to avoid. Most families could get along for a couple of days on household canned goods and the water from their hot water tanks. But, slowly, food and water were running out.

St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 26, 1979 (page 1). Click to enlarge. DESPITE FREQUENT radio bulletins, many people did not know to avoid eating exposed food or drinking contaminated water. Surviving supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores and warehouses were rapidly looted.

The exodus grew. Joining those first refugees who had no homes or needed medical care, the uninjured fell into step, unable to support themselves in homes or apartments that had no food, electricity, water or sanitation facilities and fearful of fire or renewed attacks. A few, more concerned with their property, stayed on to protect it, often with shotguns or hunting rifles.

Emergency medical stations and refugee centers were set up in schools, churches, and public buildings in the outlying residential areas and towns some distance from the devastation. Few of these emergency buildings had their own electrical generating capacity, and the portable generators brought in could provide only limited service; this limited power-generating ability was constrained even more as gasoline and diesel stocks dwindled.

Although communities were generous with the refugees, food inventories diminished rapidly, as it had proved uneconomical to warehouse significant stocks of food in the United States, and many of the distributors' warehouses were in the blast and fire zone. Although some emergency food supplies were beginning to arrive from outside the damaged area, the number of those needing them was increasing faster. The residents of the surrounding areas—like Land O'Lakes north of Tampa and Tarpon Springs—watched with dismay and growing hostility the oncoming horde of survivors.

They began to hide what little of their food that remained.

St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 26, 1979 (page 13A). Click to enlarge.

The Wechek and Bragg families

The Wechek boy died a few hours after the family left its destroyed home. The family tried to bury him by the side of the road by covering his body with dirt. His father left his own driver's license, encased in plastic, in the boy's pocket, so that he could be identified when found. They shared the same name. Mrs. Wechek was dizzy and sick as they left their son's shallow grave.

The surviving Wecheks spent the first night on the beach and the next day were housed in a school in Tarpon Springs.

Mr. and Mrs. Bragg spent another night in the bank but it was clear they would have to move. There was no food or water; the toilets were clogged. Mrs. Bragg's heart medicine was nearly gone.

The President is briefed

Three days after the nuclear attack of 1985, the Joint Chiefs of Staff assembled in the President's bunker to give the commander-in-chief the first comprehensive wrap-up on the nature of the Soviet and American attacks and the devastation they created.

"The Soviet attack," the President was told, "had two components, hitting first key military targets and then nonmilitary, or primarily economic and population, targets.

"First, two 1-megaton warheads were delivered on each of our 1,054 land-based missile silos, many of which were fortunately empty by then, while a single 1-megaton weapon hit each of our 46 Strategic Air Command bases and our two missile submarine bases.

"Most of our bombers were already deployed in the air and at sea, however. Soviet missiles also hit each of our five large airlift bases at Dover Air Force Base, Del.; McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.; Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and McChord Air Force Base, Wash., as well as key command-and-control centers, such as MacDill Air Force Base and the North American Air Defense (NORAD) center in Colorado. We believe this was mainly to prevent any efforts on our part to airlift additional troops and their equipment to Europe. It seems that 1-megaton bombs were used in this portion of the attack, although the Soviet Union has larger warheads that may be used.

St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 26, 1979 (page 14A). Click to enlarge.

"THE SECOND phase of the attack came several hours later. It involved distributing about 500 1-megaton warheads on 70 or so major urban-industrial areas, plus about 250 warheads in the 100-kiloton range on selected vital industries, such as the iron and steel foundries, primary smelting and refining of nonferrous metals, petroleum refining, critical 'end-product' defense plants, engine and turbine plants and electrical equipment plants.

"This was a devastating attack, since the smallest 100-kiloton weapons were at least five times the size of the Hiroshima bomb and the 1-megaton weapons were 50 times as destructive as the Hiroshima explosion.

"However, this exchange required only about 2,960 Soviet weapons, out of a total arsenal we calculate at 8,300 strategic nuclear weapons. So there are plenty of weapons left on both sides, in the event that the present cease-fire breaks down.

"Our current evaluation is that the 11.S. strategic nuclear forces carried out their assigned missions in an exemplary way. Damage to the Soviet strategic rocket forces and long-range aviation has been quite severe and has probably reduced their offensive capability considerably, at least against the United States, if not China or Europe. Our own operational strategic nuclear forces have some 7,000 warheads and bombs available, not counting tactical nuclear weapons and stockpiled nuclear reserves.

"SOVIET tactical nuclear and conventional forces are also hard hit by the impact of the attack, but they continue to operate, especially along the Chinese border, where Chinese troops have made probing attacks deep into Soviet territory, and along the central front in Europe, where Soviet forces have adopted a defensive posture for the time being. The possibility that the Soviet Union will commit its strategic nuclear missiles to the Chinese theater is regarded as high, if conditions remain stable in Europe.

"Early indications are that Soviet casualties (dead and injured) are on the order of 85-million to 100-million and that industrial capacity has been reduced by at least 40 percent to 50 percent below pre-attack norms. Since the Soviet Gross National Product is about half that of the United States, this represents a severe loss.

St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 26, 1979 (page 15A). Click to enlarge.

"Estimates of U.S. casualties are above 80-million."

The President's briefing was concluded but his work had just begun.

Having suspended habeas corpus and placed the nation under martial law before he left Washington, the President now began to rule the nation by decree.

THE SUPERAGENCY set up just after the attack to coordinate disaster operations—the Office of Defense Mobilization—began to assess what its first tasks were.

Under the terms of a 1950 compact, the federal government was obligated to provide state and local governments with specialized equipment, such as:

  • Radiological monitoring gear.
  • Sirens and emergency vehicles.
  • Packaged disaster hospitals.

These items were provided gratis or on a matching fund basis.

Before the attack, the federal government provided financial or staff assistance to state and local authorities but only for national programs, such as the Community Shelter Program (the familiar fallout shelters) or the Crisis Relocation Program (an urban evacuation program revived from the 1950s).

Major relief efforts begin

Five days after the attacks, large-scale relief operations began. Authorities were forced to ignore the zones of heavy devastation— fallout was too heavy, the fires still too formidable, the rubble too impenetrable.

Instead, they concentrated on controlling the masses of refugees who threatened to overwhelm the surrounding countryside. Large refugee camps, based in state parks, schools and other large public and private complexes, were designated as distribution points for food, medical care, and other necessities, and, when possible, for shelter.

Even this simple relief plan was easier to outline than to operate. All usable vehicles—cars, tractors, tankers and earthmoving equipment—had been commandeered by surviving police, firemen, National Guardsmen and civil defense workers. But there was a shortage of fuel to power them. The federal government decreed that all gasoline and other petroleum products were under government control and would be rationed for relief work.

Armed guards stood watch on remaining gas and fuel supplies; police attempted to round up significant private stocks, offering hastily produced government promissory notes in exchange. Confiscation of this sort met with increasing resistance from frightened or angry citizens, who realized that it would be a long time, if ever, before the government could raise the tax revenues to redeem these notes.

ALL FUEL was supposedly allocated to essential emergency use—trucking in water and food—and rescuing those few survivors still on the edges of the devastation zones. Search and burial parties were able, using radiological monitoring equipment, to spend a few hours a day in the fringes of the stricken cities. Survivors depended on their feet to get around.

Of all the relief supplies brought in from the undamaged communities, clothing was the most abundant. Water sufficient for drinking (and minimum hygiene needs) was brought in by tank truck. But shelter remained a problem—most severely in the northern tier of the country, where many died of exposure, but to a lesser extent in the South as well. Most housing in the outlying, undamaged areas was jammed with refugees; often three or four families shared space adequate for one average household. Those who could not find even this crowded shelter used gasless cars and campers or set up tents and lean-tos in ragged circles around the distribution centers.

But there were pressing shortages of food and medical supplies. Much of the drug industry, located in the prime northeast corridor target area, had been wiped out by the attacks. Surgical equipment and operating rooms were totally inadequate, despite the distribution, years before, of packaged disaster hospitals in some parts of the country. Even with the slowly arriving help from untouched areas of the country, the shortage of doctors, nurses and paramedical help was acute.

MOST OF THE medical profession had been concentrated in the major urban areas and had therefore been killed or incapacitated in the attacks. In fact, as a group, medical personnel suffered more casualties than almost any other professional class.

Even the very primitive medical care was rationed to those who could most benefit from it. As on the battlefield, care was given only to those who had some hope of survival but could not survive without medical assistance. Those who would probably survive anyway were denied care, as were those who would die with or without care, in the opinion of the medical authorities. For the latter casualties, morphine was distributed as widely as the decimated transportation system would allow.

Those relatively unhurt by the blasts but suffering from some chronic condition or illness—diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.—were having difficulty getting medication.

At first, residents of the undamaged areas were generous with food stocks. They willingly donated cans of beans, tuna fish and soup to the collection trucks from the distribution centers. But, in a few days, it became obvious that replenishments would not be forthcoming soon. The food processing and distribution industries had been very hard hit.

People started to ransack stores and warehouses and to fight over cans of food discovered in abandoned dwellings or in the debris. Those who had food began to hide it. Because of the post-attack confusion and the destruction of rapid, large-scale communications, the inventorying of salvageable stocks in farm granaries, feedlots and grain elevators was delayed.

A disaster like no other

In the area surrounding St. Petersburg and Tampa, surviving local authorities realized that this was quite unlike any disaster they had faced before. After each hurricane or tornado, aid had poured in from sympathetic communities, federal agencies and private charities. Food, blankets, offers of temporary shelter and the like were plentiful and willingly given. But now, St. Petersburg and Tampa, or what was left of them, were largely on their own to feed and protect their citizens and to apportion whatever aid came from other regions to those who needed it most.

The dying continued. Many of those who had stumbled away from the blast area were now succumbing to their burns or lacerations. Some families were reunited only to witness the painful deaths of their loved ones.

The surviving Wecheks all had shown some symptoms of radiation sickness; Mrs. Wechek's were the most severe. Yet her dizziness and weakness had passed after that first night and she spent a comparatively comfortable week without symptoms. The refugee camp in Tarpon Springs was one of the best in the area, and local leadership kept most of the inhabitants of the camp as well cared for as the limited resources allowed.

The Braggs spent the first few weeks in a deserted building as far south on the mainland as they could walk. Clearly, though, this was not adequate shelter. Mrs. Bragg had run out of her heart medication, and her condition was worsening. Finally, Bragg and his wife, still lugging their family pictures and a few pieces of tattered clothing, walked to the side of the Sunshine Skyway causeway and waited.

They were rewarded by a lift in the back of a camper van that edged out of the darkness four days after the attack. The camper took them to a camp outside Bradenton.

The camp was poorly run and the elderly and children had a hard time getting their share of the food that was shipped through Sarasota from inland farms. Mrs. Bragg ate little and tried to avoid worrying about the lack of medication. The camp "doctor," actually a surgical scrub nurse, said there might be a shipment in a few days, but Mrs. Bragg's digitalis was on a lower priority than antibiotics and morphine. Though both Braggs had felt slight side effects from radiation, they had managed to avoid getting a severe dose, leaving their initial bank shelter only briefly during the period of heaviest radiation.

Life in the camps

By the end of two weeks, the fallout situation had improved to the point where workers could operate in the devastated areas for appreciable periods. Earthmoving equipment dug mass graves for the dead found in the debris and cleared the rubble to the point of allowing passage on major thoroughfares but only for official vehicles.

Private auto traffic had been banned, not only to conserve fuel (most of which was confiscated anyway) and operating vehicles, but also to facilitate relief traffic, to control refugees and to deter voyeurs, thrill seekers, looters and sightseers. Anyone caught driving without a special pass was arrested and the vehicle impounded for the rescue effort or to cannibalize for spare parts.

Preserving transportation resources was a key government goal, since it was evident that large-scale manufacture of cars, trucks, bulldozers, railroad cars and engines, and other wheeled equipment would not resume for a long time. Though quite a few vehicle assembly plants remained undamaged, it was clear that the component parts would not be available in quantity fur several years.

IN THE REFUGEE camps, life was both better and worse. A certain routine had been established in the better-managed camps. Many fell into it without question. Long, patient lines formed each day; refugees, as well as residents of the area, had to pick up rationed food and water supplies for the few functioning toilets. So far, no signs of serious epidemics or outbreaks of disease had been noticed. But the lack of medicine, poor sanitation and nutrition, the weakened state of the survivors, and the uncertain effect of radiation on micro-organisms meant that disease would spread like wildfire, if it once took hold.

The effects of the radiation were now taking a serious toll. Early deaths from the nuclear attack had been those who suffered wounds from the blast or from falling debris and, later, burns and very severe initial radiation. But the victims of moderate doses of radiation (200 to 800 RADs) went into a latent period for seven to 10 days before exhibiting renewed symptoms.

Without the extensive medical equipment necessary for treating radiation sickness, most families were forced to care for their own sick and dying. Camp residents were unsure of the prognosis for any family member; they could only watch helplessly as the victims vomited, hemorrhaged, lost their hair and lost strength. Many died of hemorrhages and infections two weeks or more after the exposure; others, slowly, started to recover. Watching these slow, painful deaths had a very depressing effect on morale in the refugee camps. But neither the victims nor their families would allow the authorities to segregate the radiation victims in separate camps or areas.

THE FOOD distribution system was still not running smoothly. Increasingly, trucks and trains were hijacked by roaming bands of refugees and robbed of their cargo. Some of it was simply skimmed off at various transshipment points. Camp dwellers ate less than half the amount of food necessary for a normal diet.

A barter system grew up in and around the camps; food was exchanged for medicine, clothing for water. Currency was worthless, precious stones and metals almost useless.

Everywhere, the emergency governmental operation showed severe stresses. Many of the officials in local governments had been killed outright or incapacitated. And it was on them that the principal responsibility for implementation of disaster programs depended.

Some experts in the untouched areas traveled to aid the stricken cities, but it was difficult to recruit volunteers to leave their own homes and families to face the perils of relief work. Although the President signed an executive order, one among thousands, conscripting all types of specialized personnel for relief and reconstruction duties, many refused to leave the undamaged areas to work in what they considered danger zones.

STORIES of tragedy and horror brought out of the ruined cities by work parties and rumors of dire government measures combined to create an atmosphere of fear and hostility both in the camps and the unaffected areas. Even in regions far from the devastated cities and military bases, the authorities began to put controls on the influx of refugees so as not to lose their own food supplies. Some farming areas stopped shipping their surpluses to the cities, fearing to stint themselves and knowing that new crops would not be in for months to come.

Outdoor fires, torches and makeshift candles replaced cookstoves and electric lights as the regional power grids remained largely unusable and often totally destroyed. Those few with electrical service near the zones of devastation were often reluctant to show lights at night for fear of attracting refugees. Hostility toward the displaced urban residents grew rapidly; people seemed to hold the refugees somehow responsible for the condition they found themselves in.

But still they came, as disaffection with camp life and restrictions caused refugee parties to roam abroad in search of food and medicine or a better dwelling place.

Some, seeing no hope of improvement in the camps, took off for the hinterlands. Two weeks after the attacks, a renewed exodus of the relatively stronger and more independent started from the camps, leaving the old, the dying, the sick and the young behind. The authorities found these spontaneous migrations almost impossible to control; they lacked the resources to round up refugees and send them back to their own camps and many lacked the will to enforce the new regulations governing the movement of citizens.

No time for individuals

Mrs. Wechek died of the effects of radiation, complicated by her former physical weakness and the psychological blow of her son's death, about two weeks after the nuclear attacks. Wechek was "recruited" to start building a food storage and distribution facility on the edge of the disaster area; his daughter followed him each day and watched silently. She was unable to let him out of her sight. She spoke to no one and barely ate. At night, she tried to curl up at the foot of her father's thin pallet, even though he was now in a makeshift men's dormitory and no women or girls were allowed there.

For a time, the authorities permitted the daughter and father to stick together, but eventually the girl was sent inland to a special camp for the elderly and children suffering from shock.

Wechek's predicament was not unlike that of millions who started showing effects of radiation.

They knew they were ill and wanted to spend what time was left re-establishing contact or caring for loved ones and friends. But the government needed a maximum labor force now. In the eyes of the government, many had work left in them before radiation ended their lives. So they were recruited.

Mrs. Bragg's medication did not arrive in the next shipment and she grew anxious. Without conviction, her husband tried to reassure her that the medicine would soon be plentiful.

There were still problems in the camp they had found; food was not rationed fairly, the living conditions remained unnecessarily crowded, and the leadership was weak and disorganized. As the fallout hazard in St. Petersburg and Tampa was reported diminishing, Mrs. Bragg talked increasingly of going back. She longed for familiar company and surroundings. Both she and her husband felt helpless and adrift. But without her medication, Mrs. Bragg remained too weak to travel, even if there were someplace to go.

NEXT: The rebuilding begins. >>

In case of nuclear disaster, Florida is better prepared than most areas

St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer

Locked away in a fireproof vault at the Pinellas County Courthouse are plates that could print ration coupons for food, gasoline or medicine if nuclear weapons ravaged the Suncoast.

Inch-thick alternate plans call for evacuating half of Pinellas County if there were enough warning before a blast, or for burrowing residents in 380 radioactive fallout shelters if there were not.

The county civil defense office keeps dozens of files on persons who have completed correspondence courses on how to manage shelters. It stockpiles hundreds of Geiger counters to measure radiation so shelter refugees would know when they could come out.

"The possibility of a major nuclear attack upon the United States is an ever-present contingency of the nuclear age and the current political environment," reads the first line of a county civil defense plan.

INDEED, SHOULD the superpowers start trading nuclear punches, Pinellas County and Florida are better prepared than many other areas in the country, including the rest of the Southeast.

Some of the state's preparations for hurricanes could also be applied to nuclear disasters, giving Florida a head start on surrounding states.

"Any time you want to go downhill in nuclear preparedness, all you have to do is cross the state line," said Herb Johnson, Florida's top civil defense officer.

But while Florida may be more prepared than its neighbors, neither it nor any other area is ready for a nuclear attack, state and national civil defense officials agree.

Explained Johnson, "If I were comparing a cancer victim who has two weeks to live with a heart attack victim who's getting open heart massage, I'd say the cancer patient (that's Florida) was in fairly good shape."

TAMPA BAY would be a prime target in any nuclear war, officials readily concede. Both its high population and, more importantly, MacDill Air Force Base in southern Tampa would draw nuclear bombs.

"If you've got a military base that's capable of heaping destruction on someone, you might assume that your enemy would want to hit it," said Harry Wiseman, division chief at the U.S. Defense Civil Preparedness Agency office in Thomasville, Ga.

In federal defense estimates, Tampa Bay is listed as one of only three "Category 1" sites in Florida. (The other two are the Orlando area and Homestead.)

All the projections and planning are based on the assumption that a single bomb would explode over MacDill, devastating Pinellas County as well as Tampa.

The blast of heat and air pressure would crumble all but the sturdiest buildings in the eastern half of St. Petersburg and set fire to wooden homes and trees. Tens of thousands would be killed.

BUT FROM THERE, the assumptions, the circumstances civil defense planners believe they can count on, become sparse. What kind of weapon would be used? Would it explode during the day or night? Which way would the wind blow deadly radioactive fallout?

And most important, would an attack come by surprise, or would the Suncoast he warned, either by U.S. intelligence services or by days of international tension?

The planners hope they have both alternatives covered.

If there was little or no warning before a blast, sirens would wail and radio and television bulletins would tell survivors to huddle deep in the bowels of tall, sturdy buildings.

The Don CeSar Hotel, Tyrone Square Mall, Florida Power headquarters and the Times Publishing Co. offices are but four of the shelters listed on the county register.

OFFICIALS ARE NOT sure that all the buildings, particularly those nearest Tampa Bay, would withstand the explosion. They could crumple, killing or maiming those who sought shelter inside them.

"But people would still have a better chance than if they'd stayed at home," said one planner.

And the mass of steel and concrete in the buildings left standing after the explosion would shield the persons hiding inside from radioactive fallout, officials say.

Civil defense officials hope they could install a trained manager or policeman at each shelter, but they have compiled special manuals in case an unprepared refugee would have to take charge.

"Those packets have all the information a person would need to run a shelter if he had any leadership ability at all," said James Johnson of the county civil defense office.

Refugees might have to spend as much as two weeks inside shelters until the cloud of radioactive dust either was blown away from Pinellas County or lost its potency.

Emergency rations, leftovers of the 1960s, have gone rancid and have been removed from shelters, so residents would be told to take their own food, and especially any medicine they need. There would, however, be enough noncontaminated water trapped inside any building to allow the refugees to survive, officials estimate.

MEANWHILE, local government officials would direct emergency services such as firefighting and medical treatment from special "operations centers," such as the one on the third floor of the St. Petersburg police station.

Authorities could order price freezes, rationing and power cutbacks. They could requisition food and other essential supplies. "Call it martial law if you want to," said the county's Johnson.

Even still, only 45 percent. less than one in two, of the population would survive the surprise attack, estimates Robert Williamson, a planner in the state's Division of Disaster Preparedness.

But a surprise attack might not be likely or even possible, some civil defense experts say. Before a "foreign power"—the euphemism used for the Soviet Union—launched missiles at the United States, two things would happen:

  • There would be days of "heightened international tension," with thinly veiled threats by both sides.
  • The Russians, who have well-advanced evacuation plans, would empty their own cities to protect their population from the inevitable retaliatory fury of the (United States. That evacuation would take at least a few days, experts say, and could not escape the notice of U.S. spies and spy satellites.

Those few days of warning could give the United States enough time to evacuate its own cities, saving three-quarters of the population instead of a mere half, Williamson said.

(Indeed, if the United States as well as the Russians could quickly move the bulk of their citizens out of the reach of nuclear missiles, there might be no attack at all, planners say, because neither side could wipe out the other. As one official said, "It lets the enemy know we have the same capability that they have.")

SO CIVIL DEFENSE officers all across the country are developing plans for moving the residents of high-risk areas, such as St. Petersburg, to low-risk ones.

"When you're in a high-risk area, the best place to he is someplace else," explained Wiseman.

And again, Tampa Bay is far ahead of other areas in planning for "crisis relocation," as officials call it.

The area already has one evacuation plan, the result of an 18.-month, $100,000 study by professors from Florida State University in Tallahassee.

On orders from the President, the governor would in turn order all persons out of areas east of 66th Street (or U.S. 19 in the middle and upper sections of the county) and south of take Tarpon.

Newspaper, television and radio bulletins would tell the residents to head for various shelters in the far west and north of the county, depending upon which neighborhood they were leaving.

Residents of south St. Petersburg, for instance, would he told to go to St. Petersburg Beach via 54th Avenue South and the Pinellas Bayway; northeast residents would be evacuated to Clearwater.

PERSONS WITHOUT cars would be taken to the evacuation areas by government agencies.

Besides 375,000 refugees from east Pinellas, another 66,000 Hillsborough County residents would be assigned to Pinellas "host areas." Many more Hillsborough residents would be evacuated north to Pasco and other counties.

Host area residents would be asked—but not ordered—to take in the refugees.

Because the crush of fleeing residents' cars could clog the county's highways, the evacuation probably would be spread over two days.

Authorities could order that only persons with cars bearing even-numbered license tags could use the highways during the first day, with the balance of the refugees following the next day.

Basically, the plan is sound, state civil defense officials say, although it needs some more work.

"We've finished the rudimentary `get people out of town' type thing," said Wiseman. "What we don't have now is the detailed plans of what you do with them when you get them there."

So state planners will soon begin scouting the Suncoast and consulting with local officials, although it will be at least two years before the evacuation plan is finished.

When they complete Tampa Bay's plan, civil defense officials will start on ones for the state's other "target" areas.

"WE CAN SAVE a hell of a lot of people's lives once we get our plan together," said Williamson.

But not yet.

Although their reasons vary, both the people who plan civil defense systems and the systems' critics concur that even the best planning is woefully inadequate.

The Gainesville-based American Civil Defense Association sponsored a conference at the University of Florida last month to decry U.S. preparations for a nuclear attack.

Leon Goure, a professor at the Advanced International Studies Institute in Washington, D.C., told the conferees that the United States needs to build blast shelters—structures that definitely would protect civilians from the actual nuclear explosion as well as the resulting fallout.

The Soviet Union has already built sophisticated blast shelters, which may make American preparations little more than a fig leaf, claimed Goure, a former University of Miami professor.

"Crisis relocation is only a planning exercise and it hasn't gone very far. As it stands now, we can kill a lot of Russians, but we can't save a single American," he said.

"That difference (between American and Soviet preparations) makes our deterrent less credible. Essentially it means that any resort to our nuclear defense systems spells national suicide.

"Defense dollars should be spent on civil defense."

Florida's civil defense officials disagree that blast shelters are necessary, although they allow that contractors could make new buildings stronger to withstand nuclear explosions.

BUT THEY CONCUR that the United States needs to spend more time and money planning against nuclear attack.

This year, for instance, Florida's total civil defense budget is about $3-million, and more than half that will go for hurricane and other natural disaster planning.

And nationally, the U.S. Defense Civil Preparedness Agency will spend $95-million on civil defense this year, compared with more than $200-million in 1962. In today's dollars, that $200-million would amount to nearly $500-million.

"I think Congress is dreaming about what they're getting for the money," said one state official.

Reports from Washington last week said that President Carter has authorized a doubling of the national civil defense budget to help close the gap between U.S. and Soviet preparations. But if politicians have put a low priority on civil defense spending, it must be at least partly because their constituents have taken little interest in it.

Local civil defense officials complain, for instance, that owners of buildings designated fallout shelters are often reluctant to display the black-and-yellow triangular sign.

AND COUNTY civil defense officer Johnson, part of whose job is educating the public, complains that he too often has an unresponsive audience.'

Ten years ago his office distributed hundreds of thousands of sheets listing the county fallout shelters, but he is convinced he has the only one left; everyone else has thrown theirs away.

"People are worried about tornadoes and they're worried about hurricanes," he sighed. "They're more aware of these things, and they just don't want to hear about a nuclear attack.

"They just don't want to face facts."