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UFOs in the daily Press:

Mysterious sky booms in the USA, 2003:

This article was published in the daily newspaper Bradenton Herald, Florida, on June 20, 2003.

Theories abound days after mysterious boom

By Duane Marsteller

MANATEE - The mysterious booming noise that shook portions of Manatee County continues to defy easy explanation, adding the local area to a growing list where the unexplained phenomenon has occurred.

The thunderous blast, which rattled windows and residents' psyches from Anna Maria Island to East Manatee shortly before noon Monday, remained a hot topic ofconversation days later. Theories as to the source abounded, but the answercontinued to elude residents, officials and scientists alike.

"It sounds like you have a good mystery down there," said Michelle Barret, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va.

Manatee isn't alone. Similar inexplicable events have been reported in Pensacola; Cape Fear, N.C.; Dover, Del., and more than 20 other U.S. cities and towns in recent years.

In all those places, the source of the startling booms has never been determined. And like those places, officials could only say what they thought the Manatee mystery wasn't.

U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy officials dismissed a sonic boom from one of their jets as the source of the noise, saying none of their aircraft were in the skies above Manatee at the time.

But that doesn't fly with some area residents, who said they heard two concussions - a loud clap, followed by a fainter one almost immediately afterward - that make it consistent with a sonic boom.

"While I'm not surprised that the Air Force didn't admit to it, I'm quite sure that it was a military plane breaking the sound barrier," said Eric Seibert of Bradenton. "As a kid I used to hear B-58 bombers breaking the sound barrier as they flew out of an Indiana Air Force base. This was the same sound and effect."

It might have been a military plane hundreds of miles away, said Dick Cutshall, who manages the airspace above Avon Park bombing range. Sonic booms can travel more than 100 miles under certain atmospheric conditions, bouncing off clouds and zones where cold and warm air meet, he said.

No residents reported seeing military planes in the sky at the time of the boom, prompting some to speculate that it was a top-secret military flight of some sort. The Air Force has been rumored to be working on a hypersonic jet, which conspiracy theorists and UFO enthusiasts believe is behind several mysterious booms heard across the country.

Air Force officials declined to comment.

Others think Monday's burst was an explosion of some sort, but emergency officials said they would have known about it if there was one. Officials also discounted a reported transformer explosion at Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg as a possible cause, saying it actually was a small electrical panel box that blew at 11:24 a.m. - more than 20 minutes before the booms heard in Manatee.

"I would find it hard to believe that caused it because it was such a minor incident," said Lt. Rick Feinberg of St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue, which responded to the incident. "I really doubt it was this."

Although Manatee residents also reported feeling the ground tremble along with the boom, it wasn't an earthquake, geologists said. Their sensitive seismic sensors, which have recorded sonic booms caused by space shuttles returning to Earth, detected nothing out of the ordinary anywhere in Florida on Monday.

Nor was it weather-related, the National Weather Service in Ruskin said its equipment recorded no unusual weather conditions that could have caused the burst.

That has left some Manatee residents to wonder if something more other-worldly is responsible.

"If there is no explanation concerning meteorological events, planes or other possible solutions, could it be extraterrestrial?" asked resident Lori Fullerton-Melton. "Just a thought."

Bland Pugh of Gulf Breeze, the Florida state director for the Mutual UFO Network, said he has not received any recent reports of UFO sightings in this part of the state.

Residents elsewhere also are grappling with similar mysteries. The unexplained booms, also called sky booms and sky quakes, have occurred from Rhode Island to California in recent years.

Residents in the Pensacola area have heard mysterious booms four times since 1989, most recently on Jan. 13 of this year, the Pensacola News Journal reported. Chattanooga, Tenn., citizens heard sky quakes on two successive Sundays earlier this month. Similar cases have been reported in Denver, Narragansett Bay, R.I., Los Angeles and several other cities since 1997, according to the Web site About.com.

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This page was last updated on June 26, 2003.