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Unexplained Boom Main

Fox Valley, Wisconsin Resident Perplexed by Widespread Booms

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QUESTION: What was the source of the loud booms in Neenah and Menasha last week?

ANSWER: Your question is one that has perplexed residents and authorities alike.

Starting at about 8:45 p.m. Jan. 26, residents began posting to Facebook about hearing loud noises or booms in Neenah. Some also reported seeing flashes in the air.

The initial reports came from the neighborhoods around Neenah’s Recreation and Doty parks. Soon, though, people said they heard the booms in other parts of Neenah and in Menasha, Fox Crossing, Grand Chute, Greenville, Hortonville and on the south, east, north and west sides of Appleton.

It didn’t stop there.

“I heard it in Little Chute,” one post said.

“Heard it here in Kimberly, too.”

“Heard it in Combined Locks, too.”

“Heard it in Kaukauna!”

The situation repeated itself a week later, though not to the same extent.

People surmised that the noises came from fireworks, gunshots, railcars coupling together or an electrical transformer that blew. Others attributed the noises to sonic booms from jets, a meteor shower, ice cracking on Lake Winnebago or thunder.

Nothing was showing on radar, however.

Menasha Police Chief Tim Styka said his officers never settled on a cause of the noises. He said none of the city’s industrial facilities indicated that anything was amiss.

“It’s the strangest thing,” Styka said. “We have no confirmation as to what the booms were.”

Neenah police investigated more than 10 reports about the noises. Their conclusion was that someone shot off illegal fireworks near Rec Park.

“I believe that the sound travels a lot farther in the wintertime than it does in the summertime,” when there’s more foliage to absorb the sound, said Stuart Zuehls, Neenah’s community liaison officer.

It seems unlikely, though, that fireworks in Neenah would have been heard as far away as Hortonville and Kaukauna.

Roy Eckberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Green Bay, said the noises could have come from frostquakes, which can occur when saturated ground freezes and expands. The stress of the expansion can cause the ground to crack or fracture in spectacular fashion.

“I’ve heard of that happening in this part of the country,” Eckberg said. “It does make some noise. That would be one explanation.”

Duke Behnke
Post Crescent


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Earth is the only planet that is not named after a god.
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