What was that noise? No explanation found for booming sounds heard from Port Angeles to Joyce

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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EDITOR'S NOTE — See related story today, "Rumbles and mystery booms are surprisingly common, and there's more than one possible explanation" — http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20150226/NEWS/302269977

PORT ANGELES — The source of home-rattling booms heard from Joyce to Deer Park Road on Wednesday remained a mystery Thursday.

“We're not finding anything,” said Ron Cameron, chief criminal deputy for the Clallam County Sheriff's Office.

Several who reported hearing the booms on Facebook said the sounds seemed to be coming from the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Spokesmen from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy each said Thursday their units have not taken part in any activity that could produce loud booms in the Strait on Wednesday.

They said they had no knowledge of any event on the Strait that could explain the explosions.

The first report appears to have been placed at 2:40 p.m. to Clallam County emergency dispatchers from a resident on Strait View Drive, east of Port Angeles, who reported several loud booms.

At the same time, Michelle Kaake heard two booms while in her home on O Street in west Port Angeles.

“It vibrated the floor and rattled windows,” Kaake said of the first boom.

The second boom came about five minutes later, she said.

Facebook postings told of people hearing the booms from Deer Park to Joyce.

The 129th EOD Company from Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, which on Feb. 12 destroyed several pieces of naval ordnance that had washed ashore on the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge — which was suspected to be from Canada — was not in the area and has received no calls for similar services in the Port Angeles area, said Joe Kubistek, base spokesman.

Events on the Canadian side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca have been heard in the past in Clallam County.

But not this time, it appears.

“Our demo range was not active yesterday,” said Sara Helmeczi, spokeswoman for Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, which operates a demolition range on Bentinck Island, northwest of Port Angeles on the Canadian side of the Strait.

Could the booming sounds be coming from the earth?

Shallow earthquakes can cause loud booms, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website at www.tinyurl.com/PDN-booms.

“No one knows for sure, but scientists speculate that these 'booms' are probably small shallow earthquakes that are too small to be recorded,” the USGS website said.

A USGS spokesperson was not available for comment Thursday.

No earthquakes were recorded in the Clallam County area Wednesday, according to USGS seismic data.

The only Washington state seismic events recorded at about 3 p.m. were in the area of Mount Rainier. In British Columbia, the only event was east of Vancouver.

The National Weather Service equipment didn't detect any lightning in the area Wednesday — and therefore no thunder — said forecaster Johnny Burg.

However, it was raining at the time, and the equipment detects only cloud-to-ground lightning, Burg said.

If there was cloud-to-cloud lightning, it wouldn't have been detected, and he said it may not have been visible from the ground.

“I can't rule it out,” he said.

Mysterious rumblings and booms have been reported in the past in Clallam County.

A series of booms around Port Angeles in 1982 was blamed on Navy exercises in the Strait.

Unexplained booms were reported in Port Angeles in 2006, and in 2007, booms were heard in the Dungeness Valley, with houses shaken and a report of at least one broken window.

Port Angeles residents were again shaken by unexplained, loud booms in 2009.

In 2011, a series of reported booms was identified by the Weather Service as thunder.

A series of after-dark booms in 2012 was found to have been caused by an air cannon set up by farmers in the Sequim area to scare away opportunistic birds from freshly planted fields.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 26. 2015 8:38PM
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