By Tia Lynn Ivey
A mysterious boom rocked Morgan and Walton counties last Sunday evening, as officials received hundreds of reports alleging earthquake-like shaking rattling houses and windows. Morgan County 9-1-1 was flooded with 204 calls in just 10 minutes after the boom went off around 8:30 p.m.
While social media is abuzz with various theories as to what could have caused the alarming boom and subsequent shaking, officials are left scratching their heads in search of the answer.
“We are getting conflicting reports,” said Morgan County Fire and Rescue Chief Jeff Stone. “But I do know that reports of the shaking were countywide from Rutledge, to Bostwick , Buckhead and down towards Jasper County. Of course, south Walton felt it all over as well.”
Covington 9-1-1 reported that the boom was heard and felt in Newton and Oconee counties, too.
Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley is trying to find an explanation, but hasn’t confirmed any specific cause as of yet.
“Right around 8:33 p.m. the calls started pouring in,” said Markley. “There were no damages or injuries reported, but a lot of people were curious about what was happening.”
Officials are sifting through multiple reports and tips, alleging the boom was the result of an explosion, the sound of an earthquake, or caused by a military jet that went supersonic over the area.
Fox5 Atlanta reported Monday that the United State Geological Survey (USGS) has ruled out an earthquake.
“USGS says there were no earthquakes in Morgan, Newton, Oconee, and Walton counties. Possibly a sonic boom or quake too small for their senses.”
“It’s all rumors at this point,” said Stone.
According to Stone, some reports indicated that a group in the Good Hope Area was shooting off a large amount of Tannerite, a brand of binary explosive targets used for firearms practice.
“They apparently do this quite often,” said Stone, but officials could not confirm it. Markey noted that any explosion from Tannerite could not be heard and felt across multiple counties.
Walton County Fire and Rescue Assistant Fire Chief Craig League confirmed there were reports of “the boom” felt all over Walton and Morgan counties, from “Good Hope, Monroe, Social Circle, Bostwick and Madison.”
However, when Walton County emergency responders arrived to the area, there were no answers to be found.
“We responded out to the area where the complaint originated from on Knox Circle. Nothing was found,” said League in an interview with a Monroe publication. “No other calls or a fire was reported.”
Morgan County’s Emergency Management Agency is in contact with the National Weather Service and Georgia Emergency Management Agency to determine if the incident can be traced back to an earthquake.
“As of this afternoon, none of the stories could be confirmed,” said Stone.
Markley surmised that the sonic boom theory may have some merit after discovering a press release from the Robins Air Force Base earlier this week, announcing sonic boom warnings for this week.
“While there was nothing announced for Sunday, the Robins Air Force Base put out a press release that there could be training this week in which Georgia could feel the effects of a sonic boom,” said Markley. “I can’t confirm that’s definitely what happened here, but we’re looking into it.”
According to the Robins Air Force Base, located south of Macon, a sonic boom occurred on Monday, Jan. 27, also prompting Middle Georgians concerns. According to NASA, A sonic boom is the noise we hear when an aircraft or aerospace vehicle flies overhead at supersonic speed — or faster than the speed of sound. According to Robins Air Force Base, if an aircraft is flying at 50,000 feet, a sonic boom can be heard or felt with a 50 miles wide cone.
As of now local officials cannot say with any certainty the cause, but hundreds of Morgan County residents heard and felt the boom Sunday evening. Some described it as sounding like an explosion or loud thunder. Others report picture frames falling off walls and even some windows breaking.
“ I thought someone had set off a bomb here,” wrote Beryl Gilbert Dixon on Facebook.
It scared the bejesus out of us. The noise was terrible and our whole house shook,” wrote Debbie Parks Bridges on Facebook.
“Heard it last night. House shook, dogs went nuts,” wrote another local Facebook user, said Sandra Wilkerson. “It sounded like a canon.”
Pam Jones of Rutledge was convinced some sort of explosion occurred right outside her home.
“Sunday night we were home watching the Super Bowl. It was just after half time, somewhere between 8:30 to 8:50pm. I was on the phone with my mother while my husband was up tending the fire when we heard what can only be described as a very loud explosion,” said Jones. “lt sounded and felt like a bomb going off, right next to the outside wall of our house. It seemed to be coming from our front yard. It was a very loud BOOM! The entire house shook.”
Jones and her husband searched outside but could find no apparent cause for the boom, like the other hundreds of baffled Georgians across multiple counties.
“Folks from all over reported this,” said Markley. It was heard as far as Middle Georgia. But we cannot confirm the cause as of yet.”
The Morgan County Citizen will update this story should any more information come to light to the cause of the mysterious boom heard round the county.