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Jolt that rocked the Southern California coast Wednesday was not an earthquake but a sonic boom

By Andrea Swayne

A jolt that rattled windows and nerves across coastal Southern California Wednesday afternoon was most the result of the sonic boom of a Naval aircraft.

Lt. Reagan Lauritzen, of Naval Air Force U.S. Pacific Fleet, said a supersonic flight at 12:30 p.m. about 50 miles off the Southern California coast, as part of an operation with the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, was the cause of the shaking.

The event, felt along the coast from south Orange County to northern Los Angeles County shortly before 1 p.m. was commonly described as a loud boom and jolt followed by about three to five seconds of shaking. Many reported that despite a strong and steady rattling of windows and doors, the ground did not seem to move.

Witness accounts quickly circulated on social media, along with debates over whether the mysterious rumbling was caused by an temblor, a sonic boom or something else.

Caltech seismologist Kate Hutton said no earthquake activity was recorded in the area at the time, leading Caltech scientists to strong speculation the shaking was sonic rather than seismic.

Twitter posts questioned whether a sonic boom could have been created by aircraft or ammunition at the Camp Pendleton Marine base just south of San Clemente. Base officials said that was not the case.

“There was no training, no ordinance, no rounds fired, that would have made such an impact on the surrounding community today,” said Marine Sgt. Christopher Duncan.

The mysterious source of the rumbling was finally revealed late Wednesday afternoon with the Navy’s confirmation of the day’s supersonic flight and its comparison to a similar flight conducted in 2012 a bit further south, which was felt across nearly all of San Diego.

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comments (2)

  • google the navy ‘scram jet aurora’. it replaced the blackbird SR-71.

  • I have experienced in the neighborhood of three to four dozen sonic booms in my years working with and filming aeronautical and military groups all over the world, but I have never experienced a shock wave that carried as much “oomph” as this one did. Granted, I am usually standing on solid ground and expecting the boom; however, my second floor wooden frame apartment seemed to shake a bit more than I would have ever imagined possible. I would love to hear more details about this flight and the aircraft that caused it.

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