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Mystery Boom

The mystery of the “loud boom” heard in parts of the region over the weekend may go unsolved as efforts to find the source of the boom proved a bust Monday.

Hundreds of people in at least four counties — Franklin, Hamilton, Saline and Williamson — flocked to social media to report hearing a windows-rattling, earth-shaking boom between 1 and 2 p.m. Saturday.

No damages or injuries were reported as a result of the boom.

“I have no way of knowing exactly what occurred but it was not likely an earthquake,” geophysicist Don Blakeman of the National Earthquake Information Center said. “There is nothing on our lists, only the last one on the 11th (near Benton).”

Some earthquakes are heard as well as felt, he said, but if it was so widespread as to be heard in four counties, “We would be able to locate it as an earthquake,” he said. “Typically, when loud booms are heard it turns out to be a sonic boom, although I’m not saying that’s what it was in this instance.”

However, if the boom was sonic in nature, it wasn’t caused by military action. Neither Scott Air Force Base nor the North American Aerospace Defense Command reported activity taking place in the region Saturday.

“We were not in that area with any of our assets,” a NORAD spokesman said.

A Scott Air Force spokeswoman confirmed no Scott or military-related activities or exercises took place in Southern Illinois over the weekend.

The boom was not weather-related, according to meteorologist Robin Smith of the National Weather Service in Paducah said.

Nor was it related to any coal mining activity, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Office of Mines and Minerals said.

The swarm of social media postings caused Franklin County Emergency Management Agency Director Ryan Buckingham to make his own post on the agency’s Facebook page.

“Residents in Franklin County are reporting what was described as a ‘ground-shaking loud boom’ during the day on Saturday 3/16/2013. USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) has not reported any earthquake activity in our area during that time, leaving the cause of these reports as somewhat of a mystery,” Buckingham wrote.

The mystery was not cleared up by Monday, he said.

“We picked it up first on social media. A lot of people heard it but didn’t have a source for it,” Buckingham said. “I put a feeler out on Facebook because if there is a threat to public safety, that’s something we need to know about it, but no one had any idea what caused it.”

While the source of the boom has yet to be traced, Buckingham said it should serve as a reminder for residents to have a plan in place in case of emergency.

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beckymalk@gmail.com . 618-927-5633

On Twitter: @beckymalkovich

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