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Mysterious booms rock Cape Fear region

North Carolina, USA
Mysterious booms rocked the Cape Fear region - Loud booms rocked Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties starting about 6:40 p.m. Callers from Oak Island, Leland and Supply heard the booms and felt strong vibrations. One man said he thought his beach-front home was collapsing. Another said it shook her whole house. A meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Wilmington said reports of the booms or vibrations were widespread, coming from Rocky Point in Pender County to Leland in Brunswick County. The Brunswick County 911 center's switchboard lit up with calls from people reporting explosions or loud booms. A dispatcher said the center had not confirmed the source of the loud noises. Mysterious booms known as "Seneca Guns" have been reported in the region for centuries. The name comes from a similar phenomenon in New York and Connecticut. Legend has it that the Seneca Indians are getting their revenge with the guns that Europeans used to displace them. More scientific explanations say the boom of the guns comes from earthquakes, material falling off the continental shelf, or pockets of hot air exploding like balloons. "We have no idea what it was," said the meteorologist at the weather service in Wilmington. "We felt the building kind of shake for just a split second." Staff at the NWS office was keeping tabs on the National Earthquake Center to see if there was a report of an earthquake in the region, but none was reported. They weren't aware of any military maneuvers off the coast.

2/5/08 - Residents rattled, but by what? The earth moved Tuesday night for many Denton-area residents, but what caused it remains a mystery. “I was laying in bed, reading a book when it happened. It seemed like a loud noise and the whole house shook for a second or two." They felt another bump a few minutes later. A couple looked around their house and found no damage, but they did find their neighbors outside doing the same thing. Their neighbors thought a tree had fallen on their roof. Denton County sheriff’s dispatchers received nine calls from residents between 11:45 and 11:51 p.m. asking whether the shaking was an earthquake, a sonic boom, an explosion or something else altogether. A University of Texas professor, an expert on Texas earthquakes, said that he, too, received calls from Denton-area residents curious whether what they felt was an earthquake. There were no reports from the National Earthquake Information Center, but that seismic data is limited to quakes that register magnitude 3 or more on the Richter scale. A seismograph in Hockley, north of Houston, showed no activity either, but a small tremor, measuring 2 or less on the Richter scale, would be felt only locally. Such a quake could be measured only if there were instruments in the area. The most recent measurable earthquake in North Texas shook Commerce on May 13, 1997, with a 2.9 magnitude temblor. The kinds of reports people have made about Monday night’s shake are consistent with a temblor of 2 or less. “People report a loud noise or a jolt. They hear them more than they feel them.” But the reports are also consistent with other earth-shaking events, such as storms and sonic booms. The southwestern corner of the county is in a flight path where pilots are allowed to fly their craft at supersonic speeds. If an airplane does pass the speed-of-sound barrier, the boom could be felt anywhere in the county, depending on the wind, but emergency management officials aren’t typically told when such a flight has come through.
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