October 28, 2012

Niagara County, 'Mystery Explosion' attributed to minor Earthquake

A loud, unexplained noise set off dozens of calls to the Niagara County Sheriff's Office Friday morning after residents reported hearing an explosion so loud it shook their homes.

It was the mystery boom heard ’round the world – or at least Niagara County that caused the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office to field dozens of calls similar to this exchange from concerned residents: 

Dispatch: “Niagara County 911 what’s your emergency?”  
Caller: …I heard an explosion and my windows all shook.
Dispatch: “You don’t see any fire or anything?  
Caller: “No. No, I don’t. 

No fire and no damage but after several reports just after midnight Friday, Niagara County Undersheriff Michael J. Filicetti said deputies went to investigate.  

“We actually had several units respond down to the, mostly it was the Newfane area, Town of Somerset, Barker area,” he explained. “They checked around and couldn’t find anything.”  

But they were offered plenty of suggestions, everything ranging from a sonic boom to a meteor.  

“As of early this morning, we still hadn’t figured out what caused it,” Filicetti said.  

According to officials at Columbia University, it’s not out of the question for tremors like Friday’s to be caused by landslides, sonic booms or even a meteor. In this case, however, the source turned out to be a 2.5 magnitude earthquake centered in the Town of Barker.  

So how do you explain that mystery boom?  

“They likely experienced a jolt, and that jolt would likely set one’s house in motion and I suspect that’s the noise they heard,” Andrew Whittaker explained.  

Whittaker, a structural engineering professor from the University at Buffalo, said it’s a common occurrence with minor earthquakes so close to the surface. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the area sits on a fault line and experiences several very minor quakes every few years, though none of any apocalyptic proportions.  

“We have no evidence whatsoever that a large magnitude event is around the corner,” Whittaker said. 

by: Meg Rossman


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