While space scientists have calmly predicted Skylab with fall into the sea, Virginia officials apparently are taking no chances in case the splashdown turns into a crashdown somewhere in their backyard.
The state's emergency services office sent letters Thursday to 137 local disaster officials alerting them to the likelihood that the errant space station will fall sometime between July 10 and 14. The letter says that Virginia's emergency operations center in nearby Chesterfield County will open 12 hours before the landing and remain open until the Skylab crisis -- should one develop -- is over.
Attached to the letter are three forms for officials to report sightings, debris and damage to the staff if the spacecraft lands in Virginia. For the easily frightened, the letter notes that the chances of property damage or personal injury are said to be one in 150 and suggests that no special preparations be make.
State emergency operations officer Norman McTague said the letter is part of a nationwide effort, coordinated by the Federal Prepardness Agency and civil defense oficials, to get ready for Skylab's landing. He conceded the spacecraft's chances of landing in Virginia are, as he put it, "pretty slim."
"It's just a matter of telling people that we'll be here if it happens," he said."That's what the federal government said us to do."