Frozen in time: A look at Clark County's Fallout shelter

Frozen in time: A look at Clark County's Fallout shelter. (KSNV)

Today, Americans watch a standoff with North Korea.

More than 50 years ago, Americans were waiting for the bomb to drop at the height of The Cold War.

A small wooden bunker was built in the middle of the desert.

Welcome to a place no one ever wanted to go.

Down a flight of stairs in the middle of the desert is a place stuck in time. A time of fear.

This is the Clark County Fallout Shelter.

Designated survivors were ready for the bomb to drop.

Before we venture into this archive of American fear and planning, let's remember why this exists.

It was the middle of the nuclear arms race.

World War II ended with two atomic bombs and in the decade after, Russia, China, and the U.S. grew their arsenals.

The desert just outside of where we live was a landscape of mushroom clouds and craters.

On one hand, nuclear blasts became a slice of Americana.

Listen to this story from historian Mark Hall Patton.

"Penny’s downtown on Fremont Street lent mannequins to the test site then they put the mannequins back in the window. You could get your photo taken," says Patton.

What a time to be alive.

But beyond the pop culture was a real threat, The Cold War. Kids learned to duck and cover.

And this was built.

"If the bombs go off, you’re not going back up on the surface," says Patton.

He also took us on a tour.

Life under ten feet of dirt in nuclear winter probably would’ve had whoever was in charge at the fire department, mayor, county commissioners, community leaders. But also people who knew what they were doing.

It was a tight squeeze. Three rooms of cots. One for the people in charge, one for 27 men and another for nine women.

Yes, they allowed 27 men and just nine women.

History can be ugly.

It was built for months of survival. A grim prospect judging by the leftover supplies.

Plans here outline messages to other shelters. There are manuals on how to operate military equipment or work the radio.

In the main room, maps would be used to track nuclear fallout.

An ominous green wall lists all of the fallout shelters in the area. That eerie feeling is because you know what would have been happening above.

Patton tells us we were close.

"It brings you back to present day. A world where nuclear deals in Iran and threats in North Korea have us once again worried about the bomb," he says.

Something lamented by both historian and current Hazmat coordinator Richard Brenner.

"Something like this, I wouldn't want to stay here. It’s a wonderful thing that it is here that they planned for it just in case," says Brenner. "I don’t mind doing history, I don’t want to do this as something that we've got to be in."

A history that now, like this fallout shelter, will soon be buried.

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