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Invisible Cannons

What Is Causing Those Mystery Booms?

By James Donahue

I think we all have experienced them. They are loud "Booms" that happen unexpectedly. They are loud enough to shake the foundations of our homes and rattle the dishes in the cupboards. Then there is a strange silence, as if nothing extraordinary ever happened.

As a retired newspaper reporter with years spent following police vehicles and fire trucks to disaster scenes I instantly relate the sound to some kind of explosion. Did a construction crew somewhere nearby use some dynamite? Was it an isolated clap of thunder? Did prankster shoot off a left-over firework from the Fourth of July? I have sometimes gone to the window to look for flames, thinking a neighbor’s house has blown up, possibly from a natural gas leak. I listen for the sirens. But there is nothing. We look for news reports the following day and the incident is never mentioned.

Loud booms like that don’t happen often where we live. They may occur once or twice a year and they aren’t loud enough or frequent enough to alarm the community I suppose. But similar booms are getting lots of attention elsewhere across the land. And the cause of these thunderous blasts has people scratching their heads.

Where the stories appear the theories range from all of the above and include the possibility of an exploding meth lab, exploding pipe bomb, or perhaps a sonic boom. I grew up on a farm that was right under an Air Force flight path for big jet aircraft and heard my share of sonic booms over the years. Sometimes they can rattle the dishes. But we don’t live anywhere near a large airport now. Our local airport is just large enough to handle moderate commercial and private planes that never come close to breaking the sound barrier.

A deafening BOOM in Portland, Oregon, on the night of Sunday, March 28, 2010, shook windows and set off car alarms all over the city. The noise was heard as far north as Vancouver. The National Weather Service said the noise was not weather related. The Western Air Defense said it was not caused by aircraft.

Strangely enough a similar loud Boom rattled Portland on March 14, 2006. The source of that blast was never determined either.

Two days after the 2010 boom in Portland, the same thing happened over Highland Park, a suburb of Los Angeles, California.

San Diego, California, was hit by a deafening blast on December 21, 2009. Its source was never discovered.

This year residents of El Dorado County, California, are complaining about hearing these mystery booms several times a week and sometimes several in a row. The booms are so powerful people say they feel the floors shake under their feet. Some have blamed possible mining operations in the area. But Loring Brunius, owner of the Sierra Rock Diamond Quarry says his operation isn’t the source. "I always considered them to be sonic booms," he said. Nobody knows for sure what is causing the blasts.

Peter O’Grady, a resident of Pleasant Valley, California, says the blasts are so powerful he can feel it in the ground. He said between four to six booms occur usually between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays. The source of the explosive sounds remains a mystery.

The same phenomenon is occurring along the East Coast of the United States as well. On the morning of March 15, 2012, residents of Brantley, Camden, Charlton, Glynn and McIntosh Counties, in Southeast Georgia, experienced several massive blasts between 8:15 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. The U.S. Geological Survey said there were no earthquakes. The Naval Submarine Base and other military installations in the area said there were no operations going on that might have caused the booms.

That same week similar booms rattled the City of Clintonville, Wisconsin. The sound was so loud and it shook the ground. Some people evacuated their homes, thinking it was an earthquake. Small seismic activity was recorded in the area marking what may have been a small, less than 2.0 quake. But geologists say a quake that small would not have been noticed. Did the source of the boom cause the seismic reading?

In October, 2012, a mystery boom rattled homes in Manchester Township, New Jersey. Police said the blast was so loud people thought something blew up. The origin of the noise could not be learned.

One writer suggested that the new fracking technology used in oil and gas well exploratory well drilling might be causing the booms. Fracking involves cracking shale rock formations deep in the earth to extract natural gas and oil deposits. It does involve explosions. But when this kind of work is going on in an area, drilling companies say people will be very aware of it.