MYSTERY MONDAY: Bombs in Our Backyard - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

It's a Cold War reminder still marking Lamar County: the only nuclear weapons test East of the Mississippi River.

MYSTERY MONDAY: Bombs in Our Backyard

Posted: Updated:
"Mr. Patterson was teaching our history class and I was sitting next to the wall. And all of a sudden the wall started vibrating and the floor, it was almost like an optical illusion, it was like you saw a wave on the floor," Stevens said. "Mr. Patterson was teaching our history class and I was sitting next to the wall. And all of a sudden the wall started vibrating and the floor, it was almost like an optical illusion, it was like you saw a wave on the floor," Stevens said.
The Atomic Energy Commission actually picked the Tatum Salt Dome (now known as the Salmon Testing Site) out of more than 200 other potential salt domes. The Atomic Energy Commission actually picked the Tatum Salt Dome (now known as the Salmon Testing Site) out of more than 200 other potential salt domes.
10 a.m. on October 22, 1964: Betty Stevens, owner of the Purvis Antique Mall, was attending nearby Purvis High School. 10 a.m. on October 22, 1964: Betty Stevens, owner of the Purvis Antique Mall, was attending nearby Purvis High School.
That location, that time: the nuclear detonation drew crowds - all for a 5.3 kiloton yield test exploding 2,700 feet below ground surface. That location, that time: the nuclear detonation drew crowds - all for a 5.3 kiloton yield test exploding 2,700 feet below ground surface.
Jim Craig with the MS State Dept. of Health adds that state scientists still perform quarterly tests at the site of aquifers, groundwater, and public water systems. Jim Craig with the MS State Dept. of Health adds that state scientists still perform quarterly tests at the site of aquifers, groundwater, and public water systems.
It's a Cold War reminder still marking Lamar County: the only nuclear weapons test East of the Mississippi River.

It happened nearby and below the tiny town of baxterville.

And this test wasn't exactly confidential. Jacob Kittilstad feels those tremors of memories this MYSTERY MONDAY.

Click here to watch last week's story MYSTERY MONDAY: Skeleton of the Jackson Volcano

The Tatum Salt Dome - 10 a.m. on October 22, 1964.

That location, that time: the nuclear detonation drew crowds - all for a 5.3 kiloton yield test exploding 2,700 feet below ground surface.

10 a.m. on October 22, 1964: Betty Stevens, owner of the Purvis Antique Mall, was attending nearby Purvis High School.

"Mr. Patterson was teaching our history class and I was sitting next to the wall. And all of a sudden the wall started vibrating and the floor, it was almost like an optical illusion, it was like you saw a wave on the floor," Stevens said.

"And in several places in town the windows were blown out," Stevens said.

The Hattiesburg American newspaper ran a picture of a man named Horace Burge. It showed his home ransacked by the blast.

Another photo - now a part of the Moncrief Collection in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History - showed an official seismograph toppled by the tremors.

"We didn't hear, or, I do not recall a 'boom' sound. I just remember my arm was on the wall. I remember the windows, the sounds they made were just rattling really bad. And this is a new school," Stevens said.

The Atomic Energy Commission actually picked the Tatum Salt Dome (now known as the Salmon Testing Site) out of more than 200 other potential salt domes.

"They wanted to measure if they could detect it and I think that's gone a long way in some of the capabilities to detect earthquakes to detonations underground," Jim Craig, Director of Heath Protection and the Mississippi State Department of Health, said.

He adds that state scientists still perform quarterly tests at the site of aquifers, groundwater, and public water systems.

Rumors circulate even today of health issues caused by tritium - the isotope of concern.

"There were a lot of cows that miscarried not to long afterwards," Stevens recalls.

"It's one thing for the scientists to say no that's not true, but it's a whole other thing for them to be able to provide the test data," Craig said.

"We tested vegetables and we tested meat. We tested milk. And we tested everything a human would consume and again we didn't find anything," Craig said.

Three more explosions would happen at the salt dome, according to information from the Department of Energy.

But none were as large as the first on 10 a.m. on October 22, 1964 - the day Mississippi nuked itself.

"Mr. Patterson was very great he just said, 'They're having a testing out at tatum salt dome today'," Stevens said.

If you have an idea for a Mystery Monday segment contact Jacob Kittilstad at jkittilstad@wjtv.com or 601-664-8839.


Powered by WorldNow

5912 Hwy. 49, Ste. A
Hattiesburg, MS 39401

Telephone: 601.545.2077
Fax: 601.545.3589
Email: newsroom@whlt.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.