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AN AMAZING FACT: How can a bustling U.S. city with more than 14,000 people turn into a deserted, apocalyptic ghost town? Located on the Kansas state line, Picher was Oklahoma’s most northeastern city. Newspapers reported in 1913 that the town was born overnight after lead and zinc ore were discovered in abundance. Picher, named in 1918 after O. S. Picher, owner of the Picher Lead Company, had a population of 9,726, which by 1926 exploded to 14,252. Between 1917 and 1947 Picher produced more than $20 billion in ore and was one of the most productive lead mining fields in the U.S. Over 50 percent of the lead and zinc metal consumed in World War I came from the Picher mines. During the boom years more than 14,000 men worked in its mines, and another 4,000 worked in approximately 1,500 related businesses.
But the relentless exploitation of the land’s resources could not hold out forever. As the mining decreased, the population also dwindled. By 1960 there were only 2,500 people living in Picher. Lead and zinc mining finally ceased in 1967, and water stopped being pumped from the mines. Soon the 1,400 mine shafts began to fill with water, contaminating local wells. Towering piles of mine waste covered 25,000 acres, and sinkholes developed everywhere. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency arrived and began a monumental task trying to clean up 70 million tons
of waste tailings, and 36 million tons of mill sand and sludge.
Then to top things off, on May 10, 2008, a one-mile-wide F4 tornado with 175 mph winds ripped through what was left of Picher. The tornado took the lives of eight people, injured at least 150, and leveled 114 homes. By September of 2009 Picher was officially closed as a city. Today Picher, Oklahoma, looks like a surreal ghost town hit by Armageddon. All that remains of the once bustling city with thousands of souls are the white mountains of toxic tailings, overgrown foundations, pits, and a few remaining buildings.
It sounds like the condition of the world during the millennium. Jeremiah describes the earth at this time. “I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void … and there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled. I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its cities were broken down at the presence of the Lord, By His fierce anger” (Jeremiah 4:23-26).
Where do you plan to be during the millennium?
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, and by his fierce anger.