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    Saturday, July 20, 2024

    ‘Connecticut-sized:’ State is go-to gauge for searches, areas of destruction, and damage

    Along with the football field and the island of Manhattan, news reporters, government officials, and anyone who wants to evoke the area of a search or breadth of destruction will often use a handy benchmark — the state of Connecticut.

    The latest illustrative use of the state's 5,543 square miles came in news stories recently about a "Connecticut-sized" dead zone for marine life expected this summer in the Gulf of Mexico. The area of oxygen-depleted water was expected to be 5,827 square miles, not as big as Massachusetts (10,554 square miles), but definitely larger than Rhode Island (1,545 square miles).

    Rhode Island, along with the borough of Manhattan and all of New York City, has been used to evoke the size of icebergs, which do not reach Connecticut's girth with any regularity, and Texas ranches. Delaware, the second smallest state, also has been used for the iceberg comparison.

    For those calling to mind a wider tract, however, the nation's third smallest state, about 100 miles wide and 50 miles deep, is the go-to gauge. Last year, during a search for a missing submersible that imploded in the North Atlantic during an attempt to reach the Titanic wreck, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson described the search perimeter as "an area the size of Connecticut."

    Other uses of the Connecticut ruler in the past few years include:

    — In a story about black bears damaging crops, the Grand Rapids Press described the Baldwin Bear Management Unit as "a 10-county hunting area roughly the size of Connecticut."

    — About 2 billion parking spots cover the U.S., CNN reported last year, "enough to pave over the entire state of Connecticut."

    — Illustrating a story about orca sightings, the Mercury News in California described Monterey Bay as roughly the size of the Nutmeg state.

    — Several stories about wildfire damage have employed the Connecticut benchmark. The Daily Mail in July 2022, for instance, reported "an area the size of Connecticut is now ablaze in Alaska." USA Today added Massachusetts to Connecticut to evoke wildfire destruction of 10 million acres across the nation in 2015. Connecticut's area is about 3.5 million acres and Massachusetts covers about 6.7 million acres. Total acreage in the U.S. is about 2.43 billion, or approximately 3.8 million square miles.

    — Evocations of Western U.S. expanses frequently employ the Connecticut standard, such as a story about a proposed sell-off of 3.3 million acres of public land in 10 states. Connecticut was added for context in a 2021 report about damaging hail storms that fell over 6,441 square miles in Texas and Oklahoma, and a story about Area 51, long rumored to be a center for alien research, equated the unknown perimeter of the federal property to somewhere around the size of Connecticut.

    — The state's area also is used as a comparison to small nations, including Qatar (4,416 square miles) and Jamaica (4,411 square miles).

    — USA Today reported earlier this year that real estate mogul Stan Kroenke, owner of the Los Angeles Rams, also owns 1.7 million acres in the U.S., "about half the size of Connecticut."

    — Reporting on damage from heavy rains in 2023, the National Park Service used the Connecticut ruler to describe the expanse of 3.4 million-acre Death Valley National Park.

    Connecticut's land mass is 4,842 square miles, while water covers 701 square miles, according to the U.S. Census. The western boundary was once described as stretching to the Pacific Ocean, according to the charter of 1662, which also allowed Connecticut to claim most of Rhode Island and eastern Long Island.

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