Did you hear that sound?

Did you hear that sound?

PAXTON — Was it a meteorite? An earthquake? A jet flying fast and low?

The source of Saturday night's loud boom that rattled windows in Paxton and was said to be heard as far as towns 30 miles away remained a mystery a day later, leading to speculation of all sorts at coffee shops and churches Sunday.

Paxton Mayor Bill Ingold heard what he said sounded like a sonic boom. But, he was quick to add, "none of our emergency personnel had anything to report, and nobody that I have talked to have any definitive answers."

"Several people think it might have been a meteorite that crashed," Ingold said. "Others think it was some kind of creaking noise."

Ford County Board member Tom McQuinn heard what he could have sworn was "the loudest-hitting thunderbolt I ever heard — or so I thought. I went outside, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I have never heard lightning or thunder that was that loud. And the noise lasted for quite a while, possibly longer than a second.

"I've looked around, and I haven't found anything that looked like something hit the ground. As far as I know, nobody has reported any kinds of burned spots or fires or explosions."

Elliott Village President Russell Ehlers said the noise could have been a plane "if it reached a high speed and created a sonic boom.

"Last year, there were a series of booms west of here, and they never figured out what caused those. Maybe it was aliens coming to Ford County."

David Leake, the director of Parkland College's Staerkel Planetarium, checked with the American Meteor Society and found no incidents close to Ford County in its pending file.

There is, however, an ongoing meteor shower, Leake noted.

"We are in the midst of the Geminid meteor shower, which peaked early Friday morning," he said. "The Geminids are known for their fireballs, but it would have to be pretty large for sound. If the object exploded, there would be a shock wave produced.

"The one in Russia a few years ago broke windows. So it is entirely possible, but no one has called anything in to us."

It was at 9:15 p.m. Saturday when the big boom could be heard in a swath of East Central Illinois spanning from as far south as Rantoul, Gifford and Ludlow to as far north as Cullom, Gilman and Thawville to as far west as Gibson City to as far east as Milford and Hoopeston.

The Ford County Sheriff's Office's dispatch center in Paxton received several calls about the noise, but no fires or damage of any kind had been reported in Ford County.

Some people said they heard several smaller explosion-like noises — similar to the sound of gunshots — just before the big one.

"There were several smaller booms first, then a pause before the big one that rattled our windows on Meridian Terrace (in) Paxton," Brenda Cockburn wrote on the Ford County Record's Facebook page.

"I was on a conference call with work colleagues at the time, and it was extremely loud as though there had been an explosion in a two-block radius of my house," said Paxton resident Tyger McClure. "It made the dogs bark, and I had to get off the call because I needed to go figure out what it was."

Paxton Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Ed Hanson said he could hear what he thought were gunshots east of Paxton earlier in the night. With that in mind, Hanson said he thought the big boom could have been people shooting Tannerite for firearms practice.

Others, though, said Tannerite exploding would not have been heard over such a large area.

There were also reports of strange sights accompanying the loud noise.

"A friend said he seen a big green streak in the sky first," said Ivan Young of Cissna Park.

"I saw something fall from the sky last night in Watseka, but I did not hear anything," said Leatha Rogers-Romine.

Daryl Onton, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Lincoln, all but ruled out the sound being caused by an earthquake, noting that the U.S. Geological Survey had not reported any Saturday night.

Onton also said he doubts the noise was caused by a cryoseism, also known as an ice quake or a frost quake, which may be caused by a sudden cracking action in frozen soil or rock saturated with water or ice.

"It's pretty far-fetched for that to have been it," Onton said. "Cryoseisms are usually related to freezing of the top few feet of soil, whereas we only have the top few inches, at the most, frozen at this point in that area."

Paxton resident Larry Haile offered another theory: "It was the sound of everyone slamming their car doors at the same time, moving out of state due to high taxes."

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