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“BOOM!!!” – Another Mystery Explosion – by Brian Whiddon, Managing Editor

“BOOM!!!” – Another Mystery Explosion – by Brian Whiddon, Managing Editor

Well, winter is here. And, like most of the rest of the U.S., it’s getting cold. We had our first freezing temps on Tuesday night.

Winter means no gardening and far fewer outdoor projects so Angela and I spend more time on our computers as BookLocker’s business keeps rolling on regardless of seasons.

It was on Tuesday afternoon, as we were sitting quietly, typing away at our respective BookLocker duties, when we heard it and felt it.

BOOOMMMmmmmmmm!

My immediate thought was thunder. It sounded exactly like a clap of thunder, even with the way it echoed through the mountains. But, a quick glance at the window revealed that it was a clear, sunny day, without a cloud in the sky.

An explosion?? Oh no – perhaps another forest fire?! But we stepped outside on the deck and saw no smoke anywhere in the valley or adjacent mountains. We looked out front, too. No smoke there.

Believe it or not, many of the topics we present for our quarterly “24 Hour Short Story Contest” actually come – albeit loosely – from things we genuinely experience in real life.

We have, on occasion, heard some unexplained “booms” since moving here to Northwest Georgia. And, one of our recent topics came from just such an experience. Sitting in bed one day, we heard a rather heavy set of “BaBoom …. BaBoom!”  Two explosions that we never found any explanation for.  On that day, we also spotted no smoke in the valley, and no fires.

A few days later, I happened to be driving to Chattanooga via a back road we usually take to avoid getting stuck on the major highways. That happens in Chattanooga at least two times a day (rush hour), and any time there is a car crash. Anyway, there is a gravel quarry on that road that is approximately five miles as the crow flies from our house. I wondered if this quarry might be the source of the sounds we’ve heard.

I slowed down along the section of road from which I could see the tall, sheer rock face of the quarry. And, sure enough, I noticed at the top were vertical striations all along the face of the rock. I’m pretty sure that’s where they have drilled into the rock, and dropped explosive charges down to blast layers off the rock face to process into gravel.

Mystery solved, as least as far as I was concerned.

But the “BOOM” this week was different. It shook our house. It echoed throughout the valley, and lasted for a good 10 seconds. What could it be?

We live on a mountain. There are mountains all around us. And, in addition, this area is riddled with coal mine shafts. Trenton, Georgia used to be a big coal producing area. Could it have been a seismic event? We started looking at local news before to find out that we’d had an earthquake. Angela has felt them. They aren’t “collapse your house” type earthquakes. They are very subtle. The ground (or the floor) just seems to shift a little under your feet. It’s almost unnoticeable, and easily blown off as “I just lost my balance for a second.”

After the boom, Angela’s phone started to ding non-stop. She is part of a group chat that all the wives and mothers in the neighborhood use to communicate about, well, everything. That’s one thing we really love about this place. We actually know all of our neighbors. Anyway, the other women on the mountain were asking, “Did y’all hear that? What was it?”

We opted not to call 9-1-1. Instead, Angela decided to check on the Facebook page for our local Emergency Management Center. These folks were great during the forest fires. They posted updates as they happened in real time. They even had the director come on live, and explain the progress of the firefighting efforts. So, we knew that, if they knew anything, we’d see it on their Facebook page. There was nothing. Angela even posted a question, asking if they knew anything. As usual, they responded right away. But, they knew nothing of it.

I jumped on another page set up for our area of the mountain. Yep, someone created the “New Home Community” page so all the folks from the “New Home” area of Sand Mountain can chatter away about things going on around here.  And, it was all over that page. “Hey, did anyone else hear that boom?” “That boom shook my house. What was it?” “Was that a meth lab?”

Angela jumped back on the Emergency Management page, as asked them to take a look at the New Home Community page to get the low-down. One guy on the New Home page gave his location, saying he heard it. The guy lives 10 miles from us!!

The Emergency Management team wrote Angela back and said they were passing the info to the 911 dispatchers for further follow-up. That was the last we heard. We did learn that, if any companies are doing blasting, they are required to publish a public notice about that. We could find no such notices.

So, what do you think made the big, mysterious “BOOM?” Was it an explosion without smoke or fire? One person on Facebook mentioned that it could have been a coal mine collapse. Others were sure it was a meth lab exploding. But, there is usually a fire accompanying a meth lab blast. Someone else thought it might be an aircraft breaking the sound barrier. But, I thought sonic booms came in pairs. Back in Florida, we always knew when the Space Shuttle was coming home, because of the big “BOOM-BOOM!!” that would announce its passing through the atmosphere.

It’s just odd that such a large and loud sound occurred without anyone being able to pinpoint the source or even a general direction that the sound came from. Any ideas???

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