Wed, 18 Nov 2009 15:09 UTC
Pascagoula - The boom that rattled windows in Pascagoula and Moss Point, swamped police phone lines and brought entire neighborhoods of people out of their homes to see what was happening was almost as much a mystery Wednesday as it was Tuesday night when it happened.
Keesler Air Force base told city police around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday the boom was caused by military jets on a training exercise in the Gulf, but that the jets were not from Keesler.
On Wednesday security at the base reconfirmed the jets had contacted the tower Tuesday night and were told there was a training exercise.
But what jets, and whose jets were flying at supersonic speeds over the Gulf at night?
Keesler didn't know. Pensacola Naval Air Station's Air Operations on the base said they weren't flying anything fast enough to cause a sonic boom at present and suggested only the Air Force would have the F-15 or fighter jets that could fit that bill.
They said Eglin AFB in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was the best bet.
As it turns out, Eglin is the base that controls military training ranges - airspace over the Gulf of Mexico used for military maneuvers in this part of the Gulf.
Sgt. Brian Jones with Eglin's public relations office looked at the schedule for Tuesday night and said, "In our air space at those times all we had in the area were A-10s, and they're not fast enough to break the sound barrier."
He said the A-10s were firing guns, but did not discharge any heavy explosives during the maneuver.
Jones said he had no way of knowing if there had been a jet outside Eglin's airspace.
There were four booms on Tuesday. One at 8 p.m. rattled the east side of Jackson County all the way up to the rural northern regions, according to reports.
Then there was a series of three booms about 9 p.m., felt and heard in parts of Ocean Springs and Gautier to the west and in central Jackson County, as well as Pascagoula and Moss Point in the east. Then on Wednesday evening at about 8 p.m. at least one boom was felt in Ocean Springs, Vancleave and Pascagoula.
Laurie Shields, who lives on Ocean Springs Road near Interstate 10 said the 9 p.m. event on Tuesday shook her walls and made her roof rattle.
"You could hear the walls rattle it was so loud," she said.
A Moss Point resident said it moved pictures on her wall and caused her dogs to bark; a student at Trent Lott Academy in Pascagoula said his whole neighborhood came out of their houses and looked toward the Chevron Refinery. Another said the boom set off a neighbor's home security alarm.
And Capt. Shannon Broom with Pascagoula police said so many calls came in to the department it overwhelmed the phone lines and caused them to temporarily shut down.
Broom said Wednesday if training exercises were planned in the Gulf with jets that might create sonic booms, he'd like to have been warned ahead of time.
"They're the federal government, I guess they don't have to notify us, but it would have been nice," Broom said.
The U.S. is at war, so could there have been a super-secret maneuver?
Jones at Eglin said, "I'd tell you if there was something, and then I'd tell you we couldn't talk about it."
So that would be a "no."
The Air National Guard in Gulfport wasn't flying.
All the industry in Jackson County, including the refinery, reported in to the state Department of Environmental Quality and the city of Pascagoula that they were all clear, no incidents.
Pascagoula police checked with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Stennis Space Center in Hancock County said sometimes, with the right atmospheric conditions, rocket testing can bounce off cloud cover and travel a great distance.
But there was no rocket testing Tuesday night. That's scheduled for Friday.
NASA at the Houston Center, which also controls airspace over the western part of the Gulf, said it had nothing going on.
And the U.S. Geological Survey said although there had been 750 earthquakes in the United States in the past week, none was in or around the Gulf.
Earthquake? Isn't that a little far-fetched?
Well, a spokesman for the National Earthquake Information Center in Denver said earthquakes can cause noise when they hit.
But after listening to a description of the noise as a boom, he said the earthquake noise usually comes from the rattling rather than before the shaking.