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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Things that go BOOM in the night

On the night of Saturday, September 14 at approximately 9:58 PM I heard something go boom.

Things that go boom in the night are nothing new around here. A friend in another part of the country called it the game of "Thunder, fireworks, or gunshots?" Even in Nanticoke you can't be certain if that series of bangs you heard was someone setting off firecrackers in succession or someone firing off a few shots. This didn't sound like a gunshot, though. It sounded more like the cannon that used to be fired in better days during high school football games at the stadium down the street.

It's not the first time I've heard such a boom. I remember years ago sitting at this computer (well, its predecessor) and hearing several loud explosions from outside. Again, they sounded like the football cannon, but louder. I had the distinct impression they were coming from the area of the river. This wasn't a single boom, but several - three, I think - in succession. I didn't write about that incident, but someone else from Nanticoke who briefly had a blog did.

http://nanticoke.blogspot.com/2005/03/mysterious-expolsions.html
drinking tips and random thoughts

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Mysterious Expolsions

Mysterious explosions rocketed the West Side of Nanticoke, Pa. tonight. According to unnamed sources, three to four explosions rocketed the west side of Nanticoke. According to an unnamed source within the emergency response teams that responded to the scene of the complaint, numerous complaints were called into 911 in the same area and in the same time frame. "One explosion knocked me out of bed and I am could have hurt myself." Another individual who admitted to calling law enforcement people, but who refused to be identified was quoted as saying, "I was in the service. I know what fireworks and guns sound like. This sounded more like the big stuff. I would hate to see someone get hurt." The incident is under investigation by the appropiate officals.
 # posted by sdmbrandy2 @ 8:18 PM

After hearing the noises on that night in 2005, I figured maybe somebody was playing with dynamite down by the river - an incredibly stupid thing to do, but people are incredibly stupid.  And while this report talks about the West Side, I live on the other side of town, more than a mile away. I didn't hear or read any other reports of this incident anywhere else, and I can across this one completely by accident some time later while trying to see if the blog address was available.

Things were different Saturday night, though. I posted a report of this sound to Facebook within minutes, hoping someone else in town might have heard it.

Well, hooray for random explosions at 9:58 on a Saturday night.

And other people did hear it. Reports started to come back from around town - and beyond.

I heard it up here in the hill section ; Scranton. Maybe it well be on the news. Or maybe not. But something blew up.

and:

I did hear what your friend heard in the hill. It sounded like one firework that was lit a few miles out. Kind of like when they have 

fireworks downtown or at the stadium

The Hill Section of Scranton is some twenty-five miles northeast of Nanticoke. (I used to live there when I went to college.)

Ok so I also heard a loud boom over here in lake ariel but just thought maybe it was fireworks.

Lake Ariel is more than forty-five miles from Nanticoke, and twenty miles east of Scranton!

I'm in the green ridge section of Scranton, didn't hear anything. But ppl on my fb from south Scranton to Kingston said they heard a 

loud boom at the same time.

So. What the hell was it? I asked a friend who works for a local news channel, but she did not notice any uptick in scanner chatter or any reports of an explosion. Which would be consistent with something that most people assumed was just a firework of some sort.

Ever since the meteor explosion over Russia a few months ago, I've been thinking about that incident back in 2005. What if we heard wan't a series of explosions, but actually a series of sonic booms caused by a meteor slamming into the atmosphere above Nanticoke?


Granted, we'd be talking about a boom several orders of magnitude smaller than the one that shattered windows and set off car alarms in Russia. But smaller explosive meteors hit the atmosphere all the time. Usually they hit over oceans or over uninhabited parts of the world (which is most of the planet.) In more densely populated areas, the sight of the explosions might go unnoticed, and the sounds could be attributed to gunshots or fireworks or exploding transformers - the ordinary everyday noises of human society.

Even a century ago the world presented a much quieter soundscape in most areas. The constant thrum and roar of cars, trucks, airplanes, railroads - all that was much quieter than it is today. A hundred years before that, those sounds were unknown, and the world was so quiet that some people could hear the low hum of the wind blowing over mountains, or the rhythmic pulse of the ocean against the shore from miles away. Today those sounds are lost in the background noise. Unusual sounds would be much more noticeable in 1813 than in 2013.

So what did I, and all those others, hear last night? I don't know. It might have been a very loud firecracker, or numerous firecrackers set off independently. It might have been a late-night cannon shot announcing the victory of some high school football team over another (in an unusual Saturday night football game.) Or it might have been a sonic boom from a meteor entering the atmosphere over the Wyoming Valley.

If anyone hears anything else about this, I'd love to know!