By Echo Menges
Edina, Missouri - We had a bit of excitement earlier this month in the form of a team of documentary filmmakers, Steve Jarvis and Kate Fosselman, and an accomplished author, Richard L. Miller, making their way through Knox and Lewis counties. The trio made a brief stop in Edina, which delivered a mind-blowing message to the few who were fortunate enough to have made their acquaintance.
Their mission in Knox County was to physically come to one of the hottest spots in the nation where nuclear fallout occurred at various times beginning in the 1950s. This nuclear fallout, they say, was carried from the Nevada Test Site and rained down right here on Knox and Lewis counties, on the soil, on the livestock, on the watersheds and, of course, on the inhabitants.
During their visit to The Edina Sentinel office, the team found an obscure article in an edition published on June 5, 1952. The article was about a heavy rainfall that occurred from about June 2 through at least June 5, which was so heavy floodwater overtook Highway 6 at Knox City covering the highway with a whopping six inches of water.
This reporter has never documented that heavy of a rainfall at Knox City, which is saying something - because we’ve had an exceptional share of flooding over the last several years throughout our region.
Why is that storm important? The documentarians say it delivered a large amount of nuclear fallout right here - to Knox County.
Specifically, the documentary team was following a particular nuclear test called “George”. The documentarians say the fallout from George was carefully tracked and shown to have been delivered to this county effectively exposing everyone and everything to the radioactive fallout.
The team also made stops, talked with locals and filmed segments at the Knox County Nutrition Site, the Knox County Rotary Club’s lunchtime meeting, and stopped to film on Main Street on the west side of the Edina Town Square intriguing and horrifying just about everyone they met along the way.
Before leaving Knox County and heading on to Lewis County, the documentary team agreed to make a stop at the Knox County Rotary Club’s lunchtime meeting for an impromptu presentation as part of the club’s ongoing literacy project. Author Richard L. Miller described his work and their reason for visiting Knox County to the club. His entire presentation to the club has been transcribed. The video is included below. Scroll down for the transcription.
Author Richard L. Miller’s Impromptu Presentation to the Knox County Rotary Club on November 14
I wrote a book on nuclear testing. This was back in 1986 when it was published by Macmillen. And then the National Cancer Institute did this huge study about radioactive iodine 131 from nuclear testing and they published a document. It was a report showing where all the hottest counties were in the United States. Then, it was actually published in USA Today. (They) had an article on it in
October of 1997 and low-and-behold Knox County was one of the hottest places in the whole United States from nuclear testing.
I said, how could this be. I’m from Paris, Missouri, which is not very far from here in Monroe County. Monroe County kind of avoided some of the radioactive material, but Knox County, Lewis County, a couple of counties north of here, some Iowa counties got hammered pretty hard from nuclear testing.
So, I dug into it a little more and absorbed all the data they had on the internet. They published it, but it was in a fashion that it was almost impossible to read. It was kind of an obscure statistical thing. And so I downloaded all that and then crunched it and figured out, through some of my associates, how to turn it into usable data.
And, Knox County came up.
It turned out that this was the hottest county for one particular nuclear test. There (were) others that came through, but one test in particular gave Knox County its elevated number on all of the nuclear tests, and that test was code named George. The series was called Tumbler Snapper.
This was fired in June of 1952 and it went up into the air. They go up about 45,000 feet - these nuclear test debris clouds - and then it traveled across the northern part of the United States and it curled down through South Dakota and Iowa and headed right for Iowa and Missouri.
The reason it did that is because it ran into a thunderstorm. The thunderstorm is known to the AEC (to) scavenge and remove about 90 to 99 percent of the radioactive materials in an atomic bomb cloud.
So, what made Knox County so hot? We know that it was a thunderstorm. We know it. The reason we know it is we went over to the Sentinel and started digging through the newspaper and sure enough - between June second and June fifth or sixth there was a rainstorm that dropped three or four inches of rain here. So much rain that it actually flooded Highway 6.
There was a gentleman who was driving a 1937 Chevy and he flooded out on Highway 6. That’s in the newspaper over here. So we know the fallout came down on those days. If you back up and take a look at what the government had to say and sure enough - it follows everything.
That one event - a rainstorm between June second and fifth in 1952 made Knox County one of the hottest counties in the entire United States for the entire nuclear test series. That’s why your county showed up in USA Today. In that article, it’s right on up close to the top. It’s in the same neighborhood as Nye County, Nevada, where the nuclear test site is located. So, there was a lot of radiation here.
What it means - we don’t know - because the government has never really come in and examined this. (They’ve) never really come in to look at Knox County or any other place that has a lot of fallout. There are a lot of places - Boston, upper New York, a place in Maine, a place in Louisiana, Marshall Town, Iowa, I think, and there are two counties in northern Iowa that really got hammered pretty bad.
As far as I know, the government, CDC, no one has really come in to examine any of this. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for a long long time is to convince them it would be a good idea to do that because there may be some cancer clusters, a particular type of cancer that would show up and may be related to the fallout because we know that radiation causes cancer. That’s well known.
The question becomes did the radiation from these nuclear tests cause cancer in populations around? We don’t know that for absolutely sure but the government doesn’t know it either.
There was a shot called Sudan in 1962, on July 6, 1962, and the cloud crossed over about five to eight-miles west of LaPlata, Missouri. This was in 1962. In 1979 and 1980 there were three students in LaPlata High School, in a class of 54 students, came down with a particular rare type of cancer. Two had the same type of cancer, it was called Soft Tissue Sarcoma, and the third one had what they thought was that type of cancer. It was something different. But, these two students for sure - possibly a third student - came down with this type of cancer.
The CDC looked at it for one day and decided that there was nothing to see here - that it was just a spike.
I called up the guy that looked at the LaPlata cluster and (said) you only took one day to find it to make your decision - why? He said, well, there’s no radiation source.
So, at that time they didn’t know it crossed over. They didn’t know.
So, that’s the kind of thing that I do in my spare time. I’m working with the filmmaker here to do something on the cancer cluster over in LaPlata and we all thought it would be a great idea to come here where, again, Knox County stands out and so does Lewis County. We’re going to head over there pretty soon too.
Does anybody have any questions?
Books by Richard L. Miller
“The US Atlas of Nuclear Fallout” Five Part Series
Documentary by Steve Jarvis and Kate Fosselman