Mystery boom still confounding officials

A tremendous boom that shattered the quiet of a Friday night in rural west Georgia continues to defy explanation.

Residents of Carroll, Douglas and Haralson counties heard it, and officials in all three counties tried to find what caused it.

They're still trying.

Douglas County Communication Director Wes Tallon said "911 calls lit up" the switchboard after the 9:45 p.m. noise rattled windows across a large area of west Georgia.

"There was no catastrophe, we know that," Tallon told the AJC Saturday morning.

Tallon, who lives in East Douglas, did not hear the blast. But plenty of people in the western area of the county, and in Carroll and Haralson counties farther to the west, did hear it.

Villa Rica authorities dispatched several police and fire units to the Mirror Lake subdivision when the sound was first reported, but they found no damage or even smoke.

"People all over the city heard the boom, but we couldn't find anything," a police department receptionist said late Friday.

The National Weather Service in Peachtree City had no natural explanation for it. And there were no obvious signs of damage on the ground.

An amateur astronomer who has published several books about sky-watching said one could probably rule out a natural phenomenon such as a meteorite.

"A really big meteor can make a sonic boom, but if it did it would make a big flash of light," said the author, Michael Covington, who helps run a computer research program at the University of Georgia when he's not star-gazing.

So far, no one has reported seeing a flash in the sky, and the National Weather Service says that the clouds that were moving over Villa Rica Friday evening were mostly gone by the time of the unexplained sound.

Tallon said no one who called 911 reported fires or explosions. And he said no utility companies reported trouble either.

"We’ve called everyone under the sun trying to figure this one out," said Tallon. "We used the process of elimination and the only thing we can think of is that it was a sonic boom of some kind. To be able to be heard and felt 30 miles away in Haralson County it had to be something like that."

But there is a problem with that theory, too.

A sonic boom is a large shock wave created by an aircraft that exceeds the speed of sound, about 761 mph. Since the retirement of the supersonic Concord, no civilian aircraft has been capable of reaching that speed, said Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

"Only military planes make sonic booms," she told the AJC Saturday afternoon.

Bergen checked with radar installations in the area at the request of the AJC and confirmed that there were no logs of military flights around the time of the boom Friday night. And there shouldn't have been, anyway.

Military planes are only supposed to fly fast in designated zones, Bergen said, and there are none in that part of Georgia.