What was that mysterious rumbling Wednesday night? [Amended]

By John Brewer
Peninsula Daily News

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is amended with the addition of this letter to the editor:

Mystery noise
While visiting Port Angeles, I read the Aug. 23 Peninsula Daily News story with the headline, “Mystery surrounds low rumbling noise,” about the unexplained sounds heard by residents in Sequim, Blyn and eastern Port Angeles.

I thought you and your readers would be interested to know that we in parts of Victoria also hear this noise very clearly.

I have verified that the sound is indeed naval exercises from U.S. Naval Air Station Whidbey Island [about 45 miles east of Sequim].

I don't find the sound bothersome but am fascinated by how well the waters transmit the sound so well for such a distance.

I also take comfort in knowing your great Navy is always at the ready.

Cheers,
Keith MacLeod,
Victoria, B.C.

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SEQUIM — That low rumbling noise Wednesday night . . . a distant thunderstorm?

A military exercise? Ship traffic in the Strait? Or . . . ?

Social media sites and police agencies heard from residents in Sequim, Blyn and eastern Port Angeles anxious about a low rumbling noise from about 9 p.m. to about 11 p.m.

“It was nonstop!” said one person on Facebook. “Was so annoying!”

What was it?

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said he was unaware of anything that may have caused the noise.

A Navy exercise?

Mike Welding in the public affairs office at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island said Navy jets were training Wednesday night in the base's Oak Harbor area, about 60 miles east of Port Angeles.

Training by EA-6B Prowlers and EA-18G Growlers electronic warfare planes has been going nightly for the past week — touch-and-go landings mostly — but the exercises have stayed in the Oak Harbor area.

Could atmospheric conditions bounce the jets' noise west toward Clallam County?

Who knows? That would just be a guess, Welding said.

No one seems to have spotted any jets . . . or any helicopters, the cause of last month's sleep-rattling incident over Port Angeles and Sequim that prompted an apology from the Army.

The public affairs office at Joint Base Lewis-McChord said there was no Army or Air Force activity anywhere near the North Olympic Peninsula.

Central and East Clallam County has had a reputation as a “booming” place, with tales of mysterious explosions and shaking going back to the 1980s.

Wednesday night's incident may go down as simply one more mystery.

On Facebook, the comments were fast and furious Wednesday night and into Thursday.

Several people said the noise had been going on for more than a week.

“I heard it was Navy planes flying out over the Strait . . . it was not very loud, but it did shake my place every time it happened.”

“I don't think it's planes. It starts abruptly and ends the same way. Not like jets where the sound just fades away as they move out of range.”

“My husband insisted it was the neighbor's race car . . . not!”

“[The noise] went on for a long time, then just stopped around 11 p.m. It happens quite often, sometimes during the day.”

“I thought it was thunder over the Cascades . . . I need sleep tonight.”

In April 2012, residents near the Dungeness River were shaken by a series of booms that lasted nearly 24 hours.

This mystery was solved quickly: The booms came from a propane cannon set up to protect a newly planted field from marauding fowl.

Someone forgot to turn off the cannon at sunset, when the farm workers leave, said Patty McManus, co-owner of Nash's Organic Produce in Sequim.

She heard the noise Wednesday night and, while she was going to check, didn't think it was caused by someone using the cannon again.

“The cannon has a completely different sound,” McManus said.

She thought Wednesday night's rumbling sounded like it “was coming from a thunderstorm in the Bellingham area, or somewhere over the Cascades.”

She said large ships passing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca sometimes send out a “big, low rumbling” that she can hear in the Dungeness area.

Residents near the Strait have reported mysterious booms for decades.

Some have been attributed to U.S. and Canadian military exercises, others to gravel mining explosions on Vancouver Island and still others to sonic booms from jets hidden from view by cloud cover.

A series of booms around Port Angeles in 1982 was blamed on naval exercises in the Strait.

Unexplained booms were reported in Port Angeles in 2006, and in 2007, booms were heard in Dungeness, with houses shaken and a report of at least one broken window.

In 2009, Port Angeles was again shaken by unexplained booms.

In 2011, reported booms were determined to have been thunder.

Last modified: September 02. 2013 11:55AM
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