When a power station suddenly lit up the night sky turning night into day, commuters heading South from St. Petersburg were stunned, slowing their cars to a stop as the corona of the bright flash lit up the sky like a nuclear bomb had just gone off. Luckily, the flash was not quite as devastating as it looked in this terrifying video from one driver’s dash camera.
The bright light of the flash could be seen through the fog illuminating the distance and overpowering the bright city lights. As night turned to day for a brief moment, suddenly power went out in several areas nearby. The spectacle was exactly what many civil defense institutions have threatened for decades to expect when it comes to a nuclear explosion. First the bright flash travels out at the speed of light and then shortly afterward power is lost. Several seconds may pass, and then the shockwave reaches out to where witnesses are. While it’s not a foolproof demonstration of what goes on in a nuclear detonation, the power loss and bright flash are usually warning signs that something has happened.
And witnesses on the highway who could see the event were clearly apprehensive, slowing down significantly. In the video uploaded to Youtube you can clearly see the line of cars ahead quickly braking just as the flash is seen and John Lennon’s “Imagine” plays in the background. The scene was like one straight out of Hollywood; but it was real, and luckily had a happier ending. The only disaster unfolding involved a nearby power box which had exploded – though the reasons for this are unknown. Footage from another angle shows smoke billowing up from the affected power station just after the flash of light.
Of course if it had been a nuclear blast, it would have appeared very much like what residents in the area saw with a flash of light immediately preceding a series of power failures all throughout the area. But if it had been a nuclear blast, the flash of light would have been considerably brighter. Even a five kiloton blast brings with it enough light to blind most people looking at it in a short period of time.
Over the past few decades there have been multiple incidents where high up groups of interest in the military of several world nations have thought the end of the world was about to happen due to nuclear devastation. The Soviet Union in particular went through one of the closest calls in world history after a computer malfunction in 1983 made Russia’s top officers committed to following through the grim Mutually Assured Destruction protocol as they witnessed a number of incoming nuclear missile signals on their system. The officers, poised to retaliate, were told to stand down by order of Stanislav Petrov who may have single-handedly prevented the gravest nuclear mistake in the history of the world. The signals were the result of a computer error.
And while tensions surrounding the nuclear end of the world have been relieved somewhat, there is still understandably tension in parts of the former Soviet Union. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the group overseeing the “Doomsday Clock” recently moved the minute hand to “five minutes ’till midnight” indicating that while the world was not at its worst, there was significantly growing tension around the use of nuclear weapons in the world. The reaction of this event seems in keeping with that tension.