WHITE MOUNTAINS — What was that noise? Was it an explosion? Gas line rupture? Sonic boom? Another meteor impacting the White Mountains?

Those were just some of the questions people started asking Tuesday, Dec. 27, from Snowflake to Show Low and beyond.

Though people now are saying they heard the same loud “boom” sound on Monday, Dec. 26, they did not really start talking about it or asking real questions until it happened again early the next day.

People on social media started talking about hearing the sound in Taylor, but when people from Linden, White Mountain Lakes and Show Low chimed in saying they heard and/or felt it, too, the speculation and desire to find out its origin was exacerbated.

Navajo County Chief Deputy Jim Molesa said he talked to several deputies who received calls about the sound and they indicted it was a sonic boom. Molesa said the deputies with whom he spoke have been in the military and know the difference between gunshots and a sonic boom.

“Having heard gunshots for more than 40 years, there is a big difference,” Molesa said.

The Independent contacted Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, a pilot training facility for F-35s that are capable of easily breaking the sound barrier, and Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M. Officials at Luke did not return a call seeking comment by press time.

Kirtkland’s Public Affairs Office said in an email that the facility “does not operate aircraft capable of the speeds necessary to create a sonic boom. “

The United States currently prohibits overland supersonic flights, except for the restricted airspace above White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

A sonic boom, by definition, is “a loud sound, kind of like an explosion. It’s caused by shock waves created by any object that travels through the air faster than the speed of sound. Sonic booms create huge amounts of sound energy. When an object moves through the air, it makes pressure waves in front of and behind it.”

One post on Facebook, made by A.J. Taylor, states, “Sonic booms sound like a series of thunderclaps in the Alps due to reverberation. They will shake the house, even more violently the closer the jump to the speed of sound is to you. Unless you folks are infested with space aliens, again, there really is no call for aircraft of that capability to be flying in the mountains like that. Unless your also having short spells of tremors, but no explosions, aka, precursor to volcanic eruptions, I’d go with exploding windmills.”

The Independent also learned about an ADOT project which began on Dec.12 and includes the blasting of hazardous rocks on State Route 77 south of Globe between mileposts 154-161, The Independent contacted ADOT’s assistant communication director for public information, Steve Elliott, who said: “ADOT had no project active this week that could have resulted in the kind of noise you’re asking about. That includes the SR 77 Winkelman-area project, which is on hiatus until Jan. 3. ”

Comments on social media included people saying they thought a family member slammed a door or a propane tank exploded. One person said they saw smoke coming from the wind turbines. Many even said their home shook, like Show Low resident Charles Tupper, who wrote on Facebook, “Shook my house halfway back to Show Low. No idea what it was.”

At about 8 a.m. Tuesday, Taylor-Snowflake Fire and Medical Assistant Chief Willie Nelson said they had several calls about the noise, and the Snowflake-Taylor Police Department was looking into it, but had not found out anything. The Snowflake-Taylor Police Department said they did not know what the sound was.

People continue to speculate, with some saying it was likely fracking, is a controversial process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas. Others dispelled this for the area.

Lt. Bobby Martin, of the Snowflake-Taylor Police Department, said Wednesday that he believed it was either a sonic boom or someone shooting Tannerite. 

Tannerite is the brand name of exploding rifle targets used for firearms practice.

Asked if it really could be Tannerite, in light of the fact that it was heard in so many areas beyond Taylor, Martin replied in an email, “Depends on how much was used. People are saying they heard shots either before or after the boom. It’s become more popular, so I’m sure several people got some for Christmas. In all reality, we will probably never know for sure until someone can actually say where the noise even came from. I’m not convinced it was Tannerite, but it’s a guess.”

On June 2, a loud roaring noise and light awakened many throughout Arizona. It was later validated by Arizona State University Meteorite Studies Group to be a meteor.

For the question of what that noise was heard from Snowflake to Show Low on Dec. 26-27, and the jolt felt by some, at this point it is still just speculation.

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(1) comment


The suggestion that the booms bight be from Tannerite is a wild guess. I don't know why the detective even brought it up. So people are going to different towns, at different times and blowing up enough Tannerite to sound like a sonic boom and shake houses? Tannerite explosions that big would leave a small mushroom cloud and cause damage that someone would notice. I heard one in Taylor last evening about 5-6 pm, (new years eve) that shook the house. We all ran outside to scan for something and saw nothing in any direction.

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