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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NYPL vs. Snopes: Round One

I was looking for an interesting nugget to share yesterday afternoon and ran across a tasty tidbit in The New York Public Library Desk Reference, Third Edition. According to them, "The interstate highway system requires that 1 mile in every 5 must be straight. These sections can be used as airstrips in time of war or other emergencies" (752). I envisioned something like a scene out of Red Dawn, with lots of paratroopers and explosions, and I-20 as a runway. Armageddon type stuff, you know? I decided I needed to know exactly when this peculiar plan would be put into practice, so I started trying to scrounge up a few more bites.

One of the very first things that appeared in my Google search was this entry from Snopes. Turns out, Snopes didn't agree with the Desk Reference. Awkward! Which to believe?! I'm a firm believer in checking out my sources, and a few clicks later, I ran into this article. It was written by Richard F. Weingroff, an employee of the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Infrastructure. Mr. Weingroff, it seems, is tired of trying to explain to the general public that the United States has never planned to convert its highways into landing strips. Poor guy! Not only has this story circulated on the Internet, it's also being published!

How do these urban legends get started?! I'm a little disappointed that I'll never get to camp out with Lea Thompson or Patrick Swayze while fighting the Russians, but completely satisfied with the way my search ended. By the way, the Mississippi Library Commission has several books on urban legends and their origins. Why not check them out?

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, then how does Mr. Weingroff explain the little white airplanes that are painted onto the interstate highways? Seems like a landing strip for an airplane to me ...


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