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A U.S. military craft breaks the sound barrier and causes a sonic boom

A U.S. military craft breaks the sound barrier and causes a sonic boom


Mystery Jolts Rattle Central Coast

UPDATE: Air Force Confirms Sonic Booms Caused by Test Flight


Originally published 12:00 p.m., December 20, 2012
Updated 1:30 p.m., December 20, 2012

[UPDATE, 1:30 p.m.]: Edwards Air Force Base, located on the border of Kern and San Bernardino counties, just issued a statement confirming the sonic boom theory. It was read to The Santa Barbara Independent by Vandenberg Air Force Base spokesperson Jan Kays. “We can confirm [the sonic booms were caused by] an F-22 jet flying in the Western Pacific test range on an authorized test flight 50 miles west of the Vandenberg coastline. Edwards conducts these types of operations year-round, but today’s atmospheric conditions allowed the boom to be heard and felt along the Central Coast.” During a follow-up phone call, Edwards’s chief of media relations, John Haire, clarified that the cold, moist air along the coast Thursday morning raised the intensity of the sonic booms’ sound waves.

[ORIGINAL REPORT]: A series of quick jolts and “booms” peppered the Central Coast this morning, startling residents, triggering car alarms, and scaring cats. While the noise and vibrations were at first tentatively attributed to earthquakes, law enforcement and U.S. Geological Survey officials are now saying that aircraft breaking the sound barrier and causing sonic booms are the most likely explanations.

The first concussion came at approximately 9:30 a.m. with a series of other blasts felt over the next hour. Calls flooded newspaper, police, and USGS hotlines from as far south as Thousand Oaks and as far north as San Luis Obispo, and the SLO Sheriff’s Department issued a statement not long ago that reads: “The Sheriff’s Office has confirmed through various state and federal agencies that there has been no seismic activity in our area. It’s believed the activity was caused by sonic booms from military aircraft flying over this region of California.”

A USGS spokesperson in Anchorage, Alaska — so many calls have hit their California offices that questions were being kicked up to the Alaska location — confirmed there was no seismic activity in the Tri Counties on Thursday morning, and she concurred that the bangs were likely sonic booms.

A Vandenberg Air Force Base media official said the base has no knowledge of military aircraft testing in the area, explaining Vandenberg doesn’t have any fixed-wing craft. The base only launches rockets, she said. Base buildings were evacuated at around 9:45 a.m. because of an earthquake in Los Angeles, she went on, explaining the move was a precaution and that personnel went back to work shortly after.

Calls to other military bases throughout California — including Lemoore Naval Air Station in Kings County and Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, which both use Central Coast airspace for military testing — have not been immediately returned.

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