Residents Sound off after Mystery Boom
By Joe Earle and Gary Hendricks, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 22, 2000
The ground shook. Buildings quivered. People stopped whatever they were doing and looked up in wonder. Scores called 911 centers to ask what was going on. Put simply, something in the skies over metro Atlanta boomed Friday. People heard the unexpected noise shortly before 1 p.m. They heard it all over the metro area, at least from Woodstock to Griffin. Perhaps 100 people dialed 911 in Spalding County to ask what the heck was going on. At least 50 called in DeKalb County. "Some of my folks thought it was an explosion," said DeKalb police Maj. Gene Moss. "We didn't know where to respond. We had no location. I don't know where we would have responded to." The National Weather Service office in Peachtree City thought the boom might be the sound of the space shuttle landing. But a National Aeronautics and Space Administration spokesman said the shuttle was sitting on the ground when the Georgia sky boomed. No satellites fell, either. "Everything we have is either in orbit or on the ground, nowhere in between," said NASA spokesman James Hartsfield.
Tim Long, a Georgia Tech professor of earth and atmospheric science, recorded the boom. The machinery he uses to measure seismic activity recorded that the earth shook around Georgia Tech about 12:50 p.m. A similar machine recorded activity in McDonough a few seconds later. The recordings convinced Long the noise probably belonged to an aircraft. It appears he was right. Maj. Gary Carruthers of Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta said the sound was the sonic boom of an F-15 from Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho flying to Warner Robins. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the boom was produced by an F-15 flying to Warner Robins. Tim Kurtz, spokesman for Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, in Middle Georgia, said an F-15 did land there about 1 p.m. Friday. He said base officials are investigating. Pentagon spokesman Maj. Rob Koon said military aircraft usually should not exceed the sound barrier without authorization or unless they are in a military air space on maneuvers. "In general, they should not exceed the speed of sound," he said. If they do, people notice.