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Sonic Boom Rattles N. Oregon Coast Residents

Published 02/24/2016 at 4:01 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Photo courtesy Oregon Air National Guard

(Rockaway Beach, Oregon) – About 6 p.m. on Tuesday, a massive boom rattled residents of the north Oregon coast in a fairly wide stretch of nearly 20 miles – from Garibaldi all the way up to Manzanita. It shook homes and windows, sending some out into the street to look for explosions, and it lit up social media. (Photo above courtesy Oregon Air National Guard).

It turned out to be just what many thought: a sonic boom from military aircraft doing exercises in the region. The incident echoed another similar situation earlier in the day at Ocean Shores, Washington, where residents there got spooked by a sonic boom around 3:30 p.m.

Sonic booms occur when a jet breaks the sound barrier, creating shockwaves in the air.

The answer to all of it lay in social media the whole time: Oregon Air National Guard’s (OANA) Facebook page had a post about operations going from February 16 to 25. The OANA's 142nd Fighter Wing have been conducting routine F-15 night training missions in the region, to help keep Citizen-Airmen pilots based in Portland and Vancouver to stay current with mandatory Air Force requirements.

“Flights will depart from and land at the Portland International Airport, and training will occur in approved airspace several miles off the Oregon coast,” the OANA page said.

Nothing about this was known by residents at the time, however, so the community Facebook page for Rockaway Beach went into high gear with a barrage of tales and worries. A few hours later, one member discovered the post from OANA and the big questions were resolved.

Some residents caught on quickly to the sonic boom idea, with one writing: “We did go outside right after the boom that rattled the house and windows, and we could hear jets in the sky. We guessed military drills. I really want to know what it was!”

A few darted outside their front doors half expecting to see smoke from an explosion.

The boom was heard and felt near Garibaldi, throughout the seven miles of Rockaway Beach, in Nehalem and in Manzanita – almost 20 miles of Oregon coastline. It's interesting to note Nehalem is a few miles inland from the beach. There don't appear to be reports of it at Cannon Beach, so it's possible Neahkahnie Mountain shielded the areas northward from the sound. More about Oregon coast science.

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