PAXTON — It remained unknown Sunday morning what caused a mysterious, explosion-like noise that rattled the windows of homes in Paxton on Saturday night and could be heard in towns as far as 30 miles away.
Speculation over what may have happened continued well into Saturday night on social media and into Sunday morning at local cafes and coffee shops. Some wondered if it was a jet that broke the sound barrier during a test run or perhaps a meteor that entered the earth’s atmosphere at supersonic speeds.
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, including one person saying they could hear it in Thawville, but no fires or damage of any kind had been reported in Ford County.
Meanwhile, Paxton Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Ed Hanson and Paxton Fire Chief Denny Kingren both said they had received no reports of anything related to what may have caused the sound.
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 said 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."
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.
A number of people said they thought it was likely either a meteor or jet that produced a sonic boom.
"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, said he believed a meteor shower was going on recently, but he was unable to say whether a meteor may have caused the noise.
Meanwhile, Onton said he doubts the noise could have been caused by an earthquake, noting that the U.S. Geological Survey had not reported any earthquakes 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."
Larry Haile of Paxton seemed pretty sure that he knew what it was: "It was the sound of everyone slamming their car doors at the same time, moving out of state due to high taxes."